Monday, January 17, 2011

On the unfolding conundrum of life

I have been woefully inattentive to my blog of late - but not for lack of having things to write about, but rather the opposite...too much! Too many adventures! Too many ideas! I've had the hardest time sleeping lately, because my mind has been overactive since the start of the new year.

I love new years. Metaphorical or not, new beginnings are powerful places from which to draw out change, to make new commitments, to drop old ones that aren't working anymore. December 31 is always a catalyst for me, and this year was no different.

As I sat down a couple weeks ago to write my annual epic New Years journal entry (a tradition I have kept steadily for one full decade now), I reflected on 2010 - its triumphs, its ground-breaking or otherwise memorable moments, its times of transition, and the unfortunate few things that persistently stressed me out a lot! As is my tradition, I try to turn as much of my rambling year-end commentary into productive insight and fodder for a better year ahead. My overarching conclusions for this time around?

I'm proud and invigorated by many aspects of 2010:
- holding down several jobs that have both given me great pleasure and taught me infinitely about myself, the way I relate to others, and the business of life
- traveling to do what I love: meeting new people, taking photographs, and writing stories
- taking on a new level of commitment to long distance running that carried me to many beautiful mountains, trails, and islands in pursuit of the runner's high
- taking the time and energy not only to go back to school but also to figure out what continuing education program would truly stir my soul (and then going for it!)
- making the most of this beautiful city and state I live in, and not taking this landscape for granted
- focusing new energy and investing in my personal health and wellness
- cutting down on the turnover in my life that practically defined it during my college years...i.e. thoroughly enjoying the fact that I am still living in the same apartment, with the same wonderful person, enjoying the same amazing friends, working for the same great people, and waking up each morning to the same mountain range on the horizon, that I was last year. Three cheers for the first full year in nearly a decade that I haven't MOVED.

...but for all the good, there have been things at which I can do better, too. My number one priority for 2011 is to stress less. It's really been spectacular, reflecting now, how quick I've been to develop huge amounts of anxiety over the most mundane things. I didn't always used to be this way. If I trace it back, I think it generally goes back to senior year of college, the first year I tried to balance school, work, AND single-handedly organizing a community 5K race in Oberlin. While the school/work balance would have been okay, the race-directing thing pushed me over the brink of acceptable stress levels, because for the first time in my life, I felt that there could be no relaxing; if I had a moment to relax, it needed to be devoted to something productive. And I haven't really managed to get off the Efficiency Train since, which, though sometimes useful, generally moves too fast for its own good...

What stressing less looks like:
Excuses to share a few photos from recent months with my non-Facebook friends:

At my good friends Cam and Avey's wedding in October

80s-themed holiday work party.

First foray into winter hiking, Washington-style

Snowboarding for the first time in Washington! Mt. Baker

Snowshoeing on Christmas

Me and the parrot, hanging out at home.

So, not only for my sake, but for the sake of friends and loved ones around me who have occasionally suffered, too, at the hand of my stress levels, I am committing to stop that nonsense in 2011. This will mean: less perfectionism, less procrastinating, and less pressure on myself. (Out with the P's!) So far, so good.

With that said, I will NOT let go of the urgency I feel in my daily life - the urgency to get to work on the things that matter in this world - so that when I leave this Earth, expectedly or unexpectedly, 70 years from now or tomorrow, I can leave in peace with the confidence and knowledge that I did everything in my power to leave this place better than I found it. It is on that note that I will bring in the holiday, and take this moment in the blogosphere to reflect on the man we remember, honor, and celebrate today.

I am borrowing the following quote from Seth Godin's blogpost today - and Seth Godin, of course, borrowed these words from Martin Luther King, Jr. How powerful words are when their relevance transcends the boundaries of era or generation. The urgency King speaks of is what makes great leaders, and it is what I will continually strive for in my own life as well.

"We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood -- it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, "Too late." - MLK

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