What Does It Mean to be Having a Life?
Updated: Jun 18, 2019
The other day I caught myself justifying my 4 day a week / 6 hour work day by saying that I was trying to have a life. It was one of those slightly sarcastic, not quite humorous, cliches that people use as an excuse for not keeping up with some perceived expectation. Then I started wondering what it really means to "have a life". And what is one having instead, if not that?
I imagine there are many answers to this query, -- none are wrong, and just as possibly, none are right for anyone but the individual asking them.
So I find that to answer this for myself, I have to look back at where I've been.
The Accidental Life
When I take that look back I can see that my life has accidentally, passively, centered around obligations, paying dues, even while consistently pointing myself towards independence -- all through at least three careers. This is in large part how I have successfully managed anxiety.
That is, I recognized that I had coped with worry and shaped my life around striving for an integrity that was all about doing "the right thing", and "being responsible", and earning what I got, while working towards becoming unfettered from restrictions on doing what I wanted to do the way I wanted to do it.
That Capricornian approach seems to have been more the legacy of being raised by parents who were raised during the Great Depression -- with its toxic message that no matter how hard you work you will never be good enough to deserve what you want -- than a conscious making of a life.
And let's not omit the waiting. A large part of my life was structured around waiting.
Waiting for the right time, or do be done with something else. Waiting to complete the next degree, the next training. Waiting for a better opportunity, or more resources.
But waiting is not living. And being organized around paying one's dues is not really a meaningful life, is it? It's really a life of drudgery and fading hope of getting some elusive reward.
So how does an introvert "have a life" that is meaningful, without being merely solipsistic?
There seemed to be a clue in that idea of striving towards becoming unfettered. But unfettered from what? Anxiety? Fear? Expectations and boundaries?
The small voice of intuition pipes up here to say -- meaning comes from striving, from detaching, in mindful ways.
Breadcrumbs of Making a Difference
Yes, I respond to that inner voice. It is mindfulness that creates meaningfulness. And that recognition opens the door to other breadcrumbs on the trail of having a life. The breadcrumbs have a theme. They are all related in some way to being in the energetic flow of making a difference.
Now the light dawns. Making a difference doesn't have to be about rescuing, or about teaching, informing, or productive enabling. Making a difference is also at its core about being the moment in which someone else gets to practice being who they are. It's about being one part of a dynamic in which aliveness is revealed and sparkles in shared consciousness.
Can that be my new quest, I wonder? Has this urge to be unfettered been pointing me away from the life of doing, and towards the life of being?
I ask these questions in the context of feeling a growing urge to jump in my car and simply go where my curiosity takes me. Something within seems to be awakening to the desire to simultaneously experience being purposeless and mindful, to be rather than to do.
By George she got it, I feel that inner voice exclaim.