The arrival of the New Year has us making lists with new pens and dreaming over hot cups of tea about the people we want to become.
But let’s take a note as we travel down the road of self-improvement that we always stay accountable to our past selves.
“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.” – Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem
They don’t deserve our contempt or neglect either. Even if beautifully flawed, they did get us here, after all. What do you think future you will think of present you? Would you tip your hat? Invite yourself in for tea? Call the cops?
I decided on this photo from San Francisco in honour of January being Hot Tea Month in Canada! Keep an eye on the blog for more special tea posts throughout the month.
One last Wednesday Wisdom Wallpaper before the end of the year. I had this one in mind for this time of year, when we’re all designing our New Year’s Resolutions and thinking about what our 2016 is going to look like.
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. – Annie Dillard
We are a culmination of our habits. If you want to be a musician and think about how you would practice all the time, but only actually practice once a month, then really you’re a person who thinks about being a musician.
It can be hard to get real with yourself and say, “Okay, I’ve got all these dreams and ambitions, but is what I’m doing actually leading to those things?”
The good part is that when you tear the Band-Aid off and realize, “Yikes. I really want to be a yoga teacher, but I spend all my days on the couch eating chips and watching Netflix.” Then it’s easier to start doing the daily things that this ideal version of yourself does.
You should still imagine who you want to be. That’s hugely important! But don’t only imagine.
Walt Disney or Hayao Miyazaki are great storytellers, but if they never took the time to move their stories from their heads and write scripts or painstakingly draw out storyboard after storyboard we’d never get to experience their stories.
You might have something awesome to give to the world, but it’s not doing anyone good just sitting in your head. Ideas are cheap. All you mean to other people is your actions. Your actions make you.
When I left my full-time law firm job and headed off to journalism school I’d decided it’s better to be at the bottom of a ladder I wanted to climb that the middle or top of one you don’t.
There’s only so much time in a day. And we’re only alive for so long. You may feel like you’re not making progress because you’re trying to do too many things or trying to climb two ladders at the same time.
You might say to yourself: I want to become a yoga teacher/bestselling author/blogger/award-winning vegan pastry chef.
Wow. In the course of a day, do you have time to contribute meaningfully to all of those things? Probably not. Unless you’re superhuman, in which case this human congratulates you.
When we’re sitting on our couches or beds not doing anything, it’s easy to imagine us being all those things in some superhero way. When we start getting out there and doing them – we realize it’s really hard!
Give yourself time and figure out if there are things you can dial down or drop. Maybe instead of being a pastry chef and teaching yoga, you can learn to just appreciate good pastry. Or, become a pastry chef and instead of being a yoga teacher just do a daily 20 minute yoga routine.
Decide what’s most important to you and then find space to fit the other stuff around that.
Also, give yourself time. I’ve seen a lot of people give up on a goal because they were trying to do multiple things at once, so they run to a different ladder instead.
Don’t give yourself a year to master something. Give yourself five or ten or twenty. Changing your day changes your life. Examine what you do every day and try changing small things to make big changes in your life. Be on a slow incline, your daily habits pushing you ever upward towards the top of your ladder of choice.
Happy 2016! And may your days be merry and bright.
If you can be down with yourself and comfortable with your surroundings anywhere, anytime, you have basically won the game of life.
As I get older, I notice even I start craving routine comforts. The thing is, the more you seek routine, the more you will feel anxious when things aren’t routine.
We inevitably seek routine and comfort as we age and start disbelieving our ability to cope. That being said, if you teach your routine to include spontaneity, you leave yourself open for a lot more delight.
Sometimes things happen fast and you need to be able to react on a moment’s notice.
For example, I got an email Thursday night for a photography gig, called back Friday morning, went in Friday night for a consult and was shooting Saturday.
By 2:30am Sunday (okay, Monday) morning, I had worked through the night to turn all the photos in on a tight deadline. Today, I’m sending the invoice. And to boot, it was a really great gig!
If I wasn’t comfortable jumping into the fray like that, I would have missed out on an opportunity to work with a great client.
I love it when stuff like that happens. I love being in new or strange places and situations but in control. So, how do we make ourselves comfortable in situations like that?
For me, it’s knowing myself and knowing my gear. I trust myself to be incredibly resourceful, and I can find all the buttons on my camera in the dark.
This is the opening to Joan Didion’s 1979 book of essays, The White Album.
Not only do we tell ourselves stories, but we shape our own narratives. What does this cup of coffee mean to me? What is the significance of this conversation in the story of my life? What semantics will I use?
Give yourself some credit and tell a good story. Your narrative is yours. Things are as important as the importance you ascribe to them.
Here’s Didion’s oft-cited quote in context:
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live. The princess is caged in the consulate. The man with the candy will lead the children into the sea. The naked woman on the ledge outside the window on the sixteenth floor is a victim of accidie, or the naked woman is an exhibitionist, and it would be ‘interesting’ to know which. We tell ourselves that it makes some difference whether the naked woman is about to commit a mortal sin or is about to register a political protest or is about to be, the Aristophanic view, snatched back to the human condition by the fireman in priest’s clothing just visible in the window behind her, the one smiling at the telephoto lens. We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely… by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the ‘ideas’ with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria — which is our actual experience.”
-Joan Didion, The White Album, 1979.
This photo is from our hike to the Whitehorn Campground on Mt. Robson this summer.