with a dog on a hillside
on a glorious afternoon
is to be back in Eden,
where doing nothing was not boring -
it was peace.
Local Living = Making a Life of the the Daily Events
This is a continuation of the last post I made about Living and Loving Locally.
Part of Local Living seems to me to be about becoming aware of and being satisfied with the little teeny tiny successes and accomplishments and interactions in each day.
I don't know how some people do it. Like look at Sean Anderson of The Daily Diary of a Winning Loser? Each of his days are packed with events. Of course his job is one that gets him out there with the public and and at events that are at least interesting to hear about. But he can make even the most mundane of things--the things you just have to do to sustaining yourself each day--like eating breakfast, sleeping, and talking a walk interesting to read through. I congratulate him on this. . . .my life seems so quietly uneventful next to his.
Another person who does this beautifully--and very consciously--is Maria of Little Things Are Big. She gets joy and satisfaction from taking a walk with her dog and noticing the leaves changing.
I want their kind of energy and optimism about the little makings of our lives!
I'm afraid I spend a lot of my life in "stew"--in my head a lot, tumbling worries and ideas and plans around like so many chopped vegetables, so that they all that simmering blends them together in one big brown, unidentifiable melting pot.
Even as a kid, I thought of myself as too smart and too worthwhile to lose any of my time on petty day-to-day tasks like making my bed. Making the bed, in my mind, was for less creative folk. I had things to do! Books to read! People to talk to! Journals to write!
In some ways, it was a similar argument with myself in terms of deciding not to have children (not just this, but it was a factor)--who had time to spend the evening making & monitoring meals so that kids ate nutritiously or giving them bathes or taking them to piano lessons? I had my own life to tend to! My own piano lessons to take! My own worries about nutrition to solve! Of course, I'm past the child bearing years now and I'm still fretting and stewing about the same issues sans the loving connection of kids. (Thank goodness for my "steps" --all of them--kids & grandkids!)
Recently my aunt gave me a huge bunch of clothes (26's, that fit, if that tells you anything)--and she included freshly laundered--barely worn, like new-underwear. After my initial thought of gross; I found myself thinking, I wish I could fold underwear so neatly and aligned--the very kind of thing I snobbishly have placed myself above spending time on! I neglected to realize that coming in the room to see a nicely made bed or opening a draw to nicely stacked undies gives you that mini boosting surge of happiness. . . and sometimes, that is enough.
John Lennon & the Bhutanese
John Lennon said, "Life happens while you're making other plans." I've started reading The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World again (I displaced it under the car seat during a recent road trip). The writer, Eric Weiner, goes on an international search looking for places that are the most happy. While in Bhutan, he meets with a happiness expert appropriately named Karma. I found this scene memorable and thought provoking:
I had a manager once who told me that she wished that I valued more what a great skill I had communicating with people (I didn't want to be promoted in the customer service aspects of my job; I wanted the path that led to editorial promotion so I could strengthen my editing and writing skills).
"Karma, are you happy?"
"Looking back at my life, I find that the answer is yes. I have achieved happiness because I don't have unrealistic expectations."
This strikes me as an odd explanation. In America, high expectations are the engines that drive us, the gas in our tanks, the force behind our dreams and, by extension, our pursuit of happiness.
"My way of thinking is completely different," he says, "I have no such mountains to scale; basically, I find that living itself is a struggle, if I am satisfied, if I have done just that, lived well, in the evening I sigh and say, 'It was okay.'"
"Do you have bad days?"
"Yes, but it's important to put them in the perspective of insignificance. Even if you have achieved great things, it is a sort of theater playing in your mind. You think it is so important, but actually you have not made such a difference to anyone's life."
"So you're saying, Karma, that both our greatest achievements and our greatest failures are equally insignificant?"
"Yes. We like to think we really made a difference. Okay, in the week's scale, it may have been interesting. Take another 40 years, I'm not so sure. Take three generations, and you will be forgotten without a trace."
"And you find this a source of comfort? I find it terribly depressing."
"No, as we say in Buddhism, there is nothing greater than compassion. If you have done something good, then in the moment, you should feel satisfied."
Another manager told me once I was "gifted" managing other people.
I hired someone once who later gave me a card with a picture of a drop of water hitting the surface of a lake and showing the concentric circles; she said I had no idea how much my faith in her had an ongoing impact on her life and confidence in herself.
In my current job, no one is falling over themselves to compliment me in such ways, but I like to think that I make my direct report's lives just a tad more fulfilling just by thanking them for their work and respecting their contributions and putting their lackadaisical moments and errors in perspective--like I try to do with my own.
Doing that at work comes easier than doing it with the personal stuff--feeling satisfied with a day filled with the mundane . . .the mundane that basically adds up to life.