This won’t be my favorite blog post.
It seems there’s a good chance I won’t even like it when it’s done.
But I can’t let that stop me from writing it.
I’ve been in Los Angeles for the last 8 months. Yes, Los Angeles is my hometown, but in order to retain my sanity upon departing Bali, I had to first get clear that I wasn’t “going back home”. This had to be a new chapter.
First mental reframe done, okay so far.
Reintegrating wasn’t easy. Readjusting to the pace of urban American life wasn’t easy. Experiencing the return of my own unforgiving ambition wasn’t easy. And sadly, though I watched it happen, and feebily battled against it, I stopped writing.
There’s something about this city for me – and I think only more life experience in other places will tell if it’s a big-city thing, or an America thing, or an impending sense of ‘normal life” creeping in, or some part of my personality that I travel to outrun…. I don’t know. What it is though, is a shutting off of my wondering observation, as I become consumed by some combination of what “has to get done” each day, and the relentless internal push for self-improvement and life optimization. That’s a whole lot of words to basically say I stop witnessing life, and start assuming all responsibility for it.
Yes, future planning and organization and responsibility are important, and can be totally exciting and fun. I actually kind of get a kick out of doing my taxes. I like taking on a big goal and figuring out the steps to get there, and am loving the terrifying journey of reconditioning my singing in hopes of someday landing a cruise ship contract. It’s been amazing to buckle down and pay off thousands of dollars of student loan debt over this last half a year. Productivity on somewhat conventional lines of accomplishment can be totally addicting.
And it’s not that I don’t take time for self care and enjoying life and creativity in Los Angeles. Here, I’ve rediscovered the meditative joy of strumming away at an acoustic guitar. I’ve dug out the old acrylic paint box and put big feelings down on canvas. I’ve delved deeply into love and intimacy, and been challenged, and been hurt, and been shown appreciation and affection more than I could possibly imagine.
LA is home to my closest ties with beloved friends and family. LA is home to many a great Korean spa – as close to budget friendly self-care paradise as we mere mortals can experience in the west. Life here hasn’t been all work and no play. To imagine that it’s just a black-or-white switch is an oversimplification. But somehow I’m internally pushed out of balance on that ambition vs reflection spectrum, when I spend extended time here.
I strongly suspect the overall pace and energy of big city life may play a contributing factor. As a good friend said once, it’s like LA has a “psychic anxiety” that can wreack havoc on the softer, more empathetic creatures among us. I find myself here frequently fantasizing of running off to volunteer on a wide array of farms, wandering from place to place… and someday I’m sure I will, though my heart doesn’t say that’s my next step.
I struggle to be fascinated by this city. I don’t find myself pulled to explore her untrodden paths and hidden gems. Maybe because theres so darn much going on here that no paths feel untrodden… maybe because I’ve spent so many decades in this general area that it’s hard to imagine a sense of newness…. Maybe because I just hold on to location specific bad habits that I’ve let keep me from appreciating the wonder of the city in front of my face.
I don’t know exactly why I find it so difficult to write, here.
I’m not sure if I’ll find the remedy lies in finding a way to open my own damn mind, or if it’ll just be time to move on soon. There seem to be little seedlings of plans forming in my heart, for both.
For now, at least I’m able to write a bit about the problem of writing.
And that seems like it must be a start.
I wanted to write this though, not just as a slumpbuster…. Not just as a form of personal catharsis, but to also hilight this dynamic… in case someone else out there is plagued by it. Notice the accomplishment vs. appreciation spectrum, and where you currently are in the ever-shifting swing for balance.
It appears to me that we’re encouraged to spend much of the early part of our lives focused on accomplishment, and in later years, look back with appreciation at all we’ve done. I’ve seen some of my early role models move that way in this spectrum in a big way, including massively achievement minded folks like Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss. In interviews with them I’ve heard lately, they both seem to define success much more by the conscious enjoyment of life, than by their earlier, more external benchmarks.
Lifecationing is about not waiting. It’s about breaking up that linear timeline, and having the experiences we want, throughout our lives. It’s about not putting off reflection and savoring for decades down the road. It’s about not waiting until required IRA disbursments kick in, in order to experience retired life (at least for a little bit, or little bits at a time). It’s about kicking off the shackles of whichever extreme might pull you, to be free to dance about the spectrum in the way that suits YOU. How’s it going for you?
Are you feeling the stir-crazy urgings of too much unused energy, and would benefit from a big, exciting goal to focus on? Or are you in shoes a bit more like mine right now, being pushed by the familiar foot of ambitious drive, and needing to work up a little inner push back to make sure slowing down and breathing and cherishing are happening, as well?
Yes, we all have physical reality limitations. Bills are real. Most people won’t ever have the obscene privelege of being able to trot around the globe. This is not ment to shame you if you aren’t feeling particularly free. But maybe, you can pause and feel a little grass under your feet today. Or maybe, you can do one bit of research toward that project you’ve always wanted to take on. Or maybe, you can take a freaking nap. I’m just saying it’s your own spectrum. Nudge yourself in either direction you want.
I’ll see you a little farther down there on the slow side.
(photo credit: Richard Cawood)