“We can never know what we want, because living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in the lives to come. There is no means of testing which decision is better because there is no basis for comparison.”—The first sentence from The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
This is the thing: When you hit 28 or 30, everything begins to divide. You can see very clearly two kinds of people. On one side, people who have used their 20s to learn and grow, to find … themselves and their dreams, people who know what works and what doesn’t, who have pushed through to become real live adults. Then there’s the other kind, who are hanging onto college, or high school even, with all their might. They’ve stayed in jobs they hate, because they’re too scared to get another one. They’ve stayed with men or women who are good but not great, because they don’t want to be lonely. … they mean to develop intimate friendships, they mean to stop drinking like life is one big frat party. But they don’t do those things, so they live in an extended adolescence, no closer to adulthood than when they graduated.
Don’t be like that. Don’t get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Don’t lose yourself at happy hour, but don’t lose yourself on the corporate ladder either. Stop every once in a while and go out to coffee or climb in bed with your journal.
Ask yourself some good questions like: “Am I proud of the life I’m living? What have I tried this month? … Do the people I’m spending time with give me life, or make me feel small? Is there any brokenness in my life that’s keeping me from moving forward?”
Now is your time. Walk closely with people you love, and with people who believe … life is a grand adventure. Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast-forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned. Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep traveling honestly along life’s path.
I have met older couples so happy they give me the vague impression that I’ll never be able to live up to what they’ve found. I have always been given such wonderful, lasting advice about love, and I want to collect it all and take it around with me, everywhere I go, letting it color my decisions and remind me that life is short, and that I need to be patient. We always need to be patient.
You have your own love, your heady, young infatuation, and it becomes your whole world. And then you see the couple walking down the street, laughing together, who have made it through so much and are still exactly where you are today — just so many shades deeper, richer. And you ask yourself, “How do I get from here to there? What are the tricks I need to know?” Maybe there is no secret formula. Maybe some people are just lucky enough to find the right one, to beat the odds. But I hope to make my own luck, and I hope to do it laughing.
Here is a list of 15 things which, if you give up on them, will make your life a lot easier and much, much happier. We hold on to so many things that cause us a great deal of pain, stress and suffering – and instead of letting them all go, instead of allowing ourselves to be stress free and happy – we cling on to them. Not anymore. Starting today we will give up on all those things that no longer serve us, and we will embrace change. Ready? Here we go:
1. GIVE UP YOUR NEED TO ALWAYS BE RIGHT
There are so many of us who can’t stand the idea of being wrong – wanting to always be right – even at the risk of ending great relationships or causing a great deal of stress and pain, for us and for others. It’s just not worth it. Whenever you feel the ‘urgent’ need to jump into a fight over who is right and who is wrong, ask yourself this question: “Would I rather be right, or would I rather be kind?”Wayne Dyer. What difference will that make? Is your ego really that big?
2. GIVE UP YOUR NEED FOR CONTROL
Be willing to give up your need to always control everything that happens to you and around you – situations, events, people, etc. Whether they are loved ones, coworkers, or just strangers you meet on the street – just allow them to be. Allow everything and everyone to be just as they are and you will see how much better will that make you feel.
“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond winning.”Lao Tzu
3. GIVE UP ON BLAME
Give up on your need to blame others for what you have or don’t have, for what you feel or don’t feel. Stop giving your powers away and start taking responsibility for your life.
4. GIVE UP YOUR SELF-DEFEATING SELF-TALK
Oh my. How many people are hurting themselves because of their negative, polluted and repetitive self-defeating mindset? Don’t believe everything that your mind is telling you – especially if it’s negative and self-defeating. You are better than that.
“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive.” Eckhart Tolle
5. GIVE UP YOUR LIMITING BELIEFS
about what you can or cannot do, about what is possible or impossible. From now on, you are no longer going to allow your limiting beliefs to keep you stuck in the wrong place. Spread your wings and fly!
“A belief is not an idea held by the mind, it is an idea that holds the mind”Elly Roselle
“Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino, y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante, no hay camino,
sino estelas en la mar.
Wanderer, your footsteps are
the road, and nothing more;
wanderer, there is no road,
the road is made by walking.
By walking one makes the road,
and upon glancing back
one sees the path
that never will be trod again.
Wanderer, there is no road—
Only wakes upon the sea.”—From “Proverbios y cantares XXIX” in Campos de Castilla by Antonio Machado
Why Love Matters More (And Less) Than You Think by Umair Haque
So, how was your Valentine’s Day? Me? I had an anti-Valentine’s day at my local bar with the ghost of Albert Camus, an existential crisis, and a decent bottle of wine. Here’s what occurred to the four of us while we were angsting out.
I’ve made the point before that our economy seems especially good at mass-producing toxic junk. Food that malnourishes us, entertainment that bores us, “news” that isn’t, finance that blows up our economy, et cetera. So somewhere into the bottom half of the bottle, I found myself sinking into the well-worn mental ruts that are probably familiar to anyone who has ever hated Valentine’s Day: how it’s a suspiciously consumerist celebration of cheesy pink-tinged coupledom that exists for the sole purpose of selling pink (or blue) fuzzy (or smooth) disposable crap (or overpriced blood diamonds). Smile winningly, pledge your troth, and log into the intertubes to breathlessly proclaim “Life goal achieved!!!!<3!!”
Throw The Art of War at me if you must, waterboard me, glue my eyes wide open and dress me in one of Rick Santorum’s sweater vests if you have to, but I’d suggest, when it comes to real human prosperity: the truest denominator of a life searingly well lived is love. And that has nothing to do with pop songs, rom-coms, or candy hearts.
Hence, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way — thanks to a long string of catastrophically failed relationships, imploding corner offices, living in between multiple cities, a couple of fistfights, and long evenings of solitude at the bar. These aren’t the only lessons — or even the “best” ones; just a few of mine.
Experience. There are many kinds of love. The Greeks distinguished between agápe, éros, philía, and storgē. Consider: five millennia ago, a more nuanced conception of love existed than the McLove that surrounds us today. Without experiencing the many forms of love — evoking them in one another, and elevating them for one another — we’ll probably always feel a little empty.
Act. Love is a verb, not (just) a feeling. Love is investing in, sacrificing for, and caring about; seeking what I’d call higher-order returns — igniting the creation of real human wealth in others (and reciprocation in kind). The former without the latter is to love what Mission Impossible 4 is to great film: banal, disposable, and shinily vacuous. Love, above all, must be lived.
Suffer. Love transforms, and transformation hurts. Hence, you probably won’t love if you can’t surrender to a little bit of suffering. You can’t love your work if you don’t suffer for the art and craft in it. You can’t love your partner if you don’t suffer a little bit sometimes when you see them — as if the act of seeing them reminds you of the heart-stopping fragility of life. And I’d bet you can’t fully love if you can’t deprogram yourself from the cult of consumer not-quite “culture” and its relentless cycle of self-loathing. You have to take a deep breath and plunge into the arduous journey of figuring out why you’re really here, who you are — and why it matters.
Mean it. Erich Fromm, after a lifetime inquiring into the meaning of life, famously concluded: “Love is the only sane and sensible answer to the question of human existence.” To which Woody Allen tartly replied: “Love is the answer, but while you are waiting for the answer sex raises some pretty good questions.”
Sure, it’s possible to divert yourself for a long, long while with money, power, fame, toys, and the other assorted fun and games we’ve used the institution of a consumer economy to produce. But love is not a commodity. Love is the messiest, most singular, least interchangeable, and most transformative idea our species has yet invented. Unlike the humdrum, yawn-inducing stuff our institutions can offer us, love can’t be bought off the shelf in a neatly packaged twelve-pack.
But it can, if you’re very lucky, be earned. So don’t front. At the end of the day — and especially at the surprisingly short end of life — there’s no such thing as a substitute for the real thing. And there’s no better way to miss the real thing than to tell little white lies to yourself about it. So love your partner. Love your friends. Love your family. Love your life. Love your job.
Despite our attempts to trivialize it, commercialize it, and strip-mine it of meaning, love is still dangerously, incandescently meaningful. While we may try to reduce it to a mass-made quasi-luxury we purchase on credit once a year, obediently, in the form of chocolates, flowers, and dinners, it remains vital. While we may try to turn it into an option — one more choice to be plucked off the shelf, depending on whether you prefer the red label or the blue — it remains necessary. And it must be evoked and created, nurtured and renewed, tilled and cultivated — because without it, life is little more than sleepwalking.
Perhaps our celebrations of “love” are so often tinged with a quiet desperation because what we’re really pursuing is a caricature of love. And perhaps by endlessly redrawing that caricature, we ourselves are lessened, little by little; as if we feel we don’t fully belong in the human world, but can’t quite understand why.
None of us belong here. But we are here. And there’s not enough time. Cut the bullshit. Love.
The shot gun house on Cambronne eased into silence as the street lamps flickered on. Well, slipped into that naked sound that night makes at least. A sputtering old engine and tires over gravel. A young thief’s whistle as he saunters on home after a long day— working. Sleepy Memés cackling on the neighbor’s front porch, ice cubes chiming in their glasses of sweet tea. Light bugs buzzing around the window pane. Jean-Pierre yawning his little dog yawn, settling at the foot of the bed. The deep sigh of relief from every floorboard and roof top as the darkness hummed another bayou lullaby.
Papa only knew but four notes on his saxophone: Sweee Bah Dum Dum Dooo. Jean-Pierre raised a furry paw and barked his little dog bark. Mary Faith shuffled toward the bedroom, the comforting shoo shoo of worn house slippers. Her tongue clicked against the space on her gums where her front teeth used to be. “You wake Dawlin’?” Halfway awake probably. I could smell the Lilac oil she used to smooth her hair over those big spongy rollers. “Well you better git wake! Papa heyah baby. Ya heard?”
I stumbled behind her cautiously, wasn’t as comfortable listening to Papa as she was. Stale yellow light from the street poured through the stain glass. Colorful shapes danced about the chair in the living room. “Oh, he’s just laughing at those wide golf ball eyes you got, Chile. Calm yo nerves.” She smiled a big toothless smile at the chair and toyed with her wedding band.
I always thought it was a funny thing, burying the dead. Especially if they just come back to the shot gun house on Cambronne in the middle of the dark! to play the saxophone. Dooo Dum Sweee Bah Bah.
To celebrate our 25th anniversary, I had the videotape of our wedding converted into a DVD as a surprise for my wife. This was going to be a stay-at-home anniversary; we had splurged on our 20th knowing that by this year our oldest son would be frighteningly close to college. So a quiet dinner and a movie — our own movie — were what I had in mind.
My wife and I hadn’t viewed the ceremony in years, but the routine was delightfully predictable. She would cry on cue (at the moment when she choked up reciting her vows) and we would hold hands and give each other that knowing look — the one that said, “I’d do it all again, in a heartbeat.”
I had forgotten how long it took to get beyond our background stories — the high school swim teams, the travel — all leading to that electric day in Santa Barbara, Calif., when we first laid eyes on each other and knew almost instantly we were meant to be.
“I’ve met the man I’m going to marry,” she reported to her mother that first night.
As the DVD played on, the tears began welling, but this time long before we recited our vows. And it was me crying.
My God, she looked gorgeous as she stepped out of the white Cadillac, dodging the raindrops. She beamed a smile at the camera, her eyes filled with anticipation. Everything was perfect down to her painted toenails. I remember it all so well, back when Heaven was so generously shining on me, the lucky guy I was, this dream bride at my side.
My oldest son wandered into the room and grabbed a seat. He had seen the tape before, but didn’t really remember it, and certainly had never watched it with such purpose. On screen I had a full beard and thick wavy hair and looked more his peer than the middle-aged father now sitting next to him. It was funny watching me pace with my groomsmen, awkwardly waiting for the ceremony to begin.
As I sat in front of the TV, I laughed and cried all at once, knowing with hindsight all that awaited us.
His mother — well, she looked stunning to my son, too, and there was no mistaking her. “Let’s get this show on the road!” she ordered. My high schooler immediately recognized his mom, a quarter-century of distance erased by a handful of take-control words.
Still, he didn’t stick around. It turned out to be too hard for him to sit with me, his dad by then reduced to a helpless spectator to his own life. He felt like an intruder, he later confessed. And when one of his brothers happened by, he, too, was so unnerved that he darted out the front door. His eyes were swollen and red when he returned, not a word needing to be exchanged between us.
You see, as hard as it has been for my three sons to lose their mother — she died rather suddenly two months shy of our 25th — I learned that anniversary night that it has also been hard for them to watch me lose the love of my life. | READ MORE
“This was Michelle’s most profound influence on the Obama presidency,” Ms. Kantor writes, “the sense of purpose she shared with her husband, the force of her worldview, her passionate beliefs about access, opportunity, and fairness; her readiness to do what was unpopular and pay political costs. Every day, he met with advisers who emphasized the practical realities of Washington, who reminded him of poll numbers; he spent his nights with Michelle, who talked about moral imperatives, aides said, who reminded him again and again that they were there to do good, to avoid being distracted by political noise, to be bold.”—From Partners in Love and the Presidency—A review of The Obamas by Jodi Kantor
“Over the past decade, academic researchers such as Oatley and Raymond Mar from York University have gathered data indicating that fiction-reading activates neuronal pathways in the brain that measurably help the reader better understand real human emotion — improving his or her overall social skillfulness. For instance, in fMRI studies of people reading fiction, neuroscientists detect activity in the pre-frontal cortex — a part of the brain involved with setting goals — when the participants read about characters setting a new goal. It turns out that when Henry James, more than a century ago, defended the value of fiction by saying that “a novel is a direct impression of life,” he was more right than he knew.”—From The Business Case for Reading Novels - Anne Kreamer - Harvard Business Review