Thoughts About Returning To 'Life'

6 January, 2013

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don't need to escape from.” - Seth Godin (author of Linchpin).

I saw this quote somewhere in my Facebook newsfeed upon returning to civilisation - cell phone coverage and internet - after 10 days in the NZ bush.

It caught my attention, as I had been paying close attention to my mind and my feelings over my summer holiday in the wilderness when reflecting on my life 'back home'; what was I looking forward to getting back to? What was I dreading?

I had begun thinking about why I was dreading certain things and what I might like to do about changing them, or changing my experience of them.

And when I saw this quote, I must admit to having mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I understand where Seth is coming from - I also truly believe we can all tap into a sense of personal empowerment and design our lives the way that we want them - be it location, finances, career, relationships, health, hobbies, passions etc.

AND on the other hand, our individual lives as they stand now are both the manifestation of choices that we've personally and consciously made (e.g. having children, being in a relationship with that person) or things that we have not consciously chosen (e.g. having a difficult mother, needing to remortgage the house you'd nearly paid off because of the financial crisis). What I think this means, is no matter how self-empowered and skilled at designing your own life you are, there is no perfect life. There are things we can control and design and to use Seth's words 'set up' in life - and - there will always be those things we cannot control or 'set up'. For example, you might have a child with an intellectual disability that you find very challenging to cope with on a daily basis and would therefore require a break or 'escape' from at times. This doesn't mean you are going to leave your child and swan off somewhere in the pursuit of setting up a life that you don't need to escape from!

Of course, we can always control and design our internal responses to these less-than-perfect circumstances, but not always the circumstances themselves. And cultivating your inner-world in this way takes commitment, continuous work and skill that we don't always have ready access to at the time.

I therefore find Seth's quote is a little disrespectful to these aspects of our lives that we can't always control, and do perhaps need escape from. The trick is in not believing you can have an absolutely perfect existence where dread nor suffering never occurs, but in working out those bits of life that you can be the architect of, and then how to be the architect of your own internal response to those bits that cause suffering. And, of course, with a good old fashioned dose of acceptance, for those places where you notice yourself fighting against circumstances that simply can't change or control.

I am always curious about how I feel at the end of a holiday or 'vacation'. I have amazing excesses of energy, I sleep like a log and get more than enough sleep each night, I don't need to practice any 'letting go of thoughts' exercises or mediation to feel happy and in the moment, I don't need to consciously unwind at the end of the day, my life is organised, and there is a timelessness which allows me to mulch about and do whatever takes my fancy at any given moment. I always feel so great, that I ask myself "how can I keep this holiday feeling going for myself when I go back to work, routine and daily tasks?".

I will be honest and admit that I am not sure exactly how, although I have some ideas I am going to experiment with! I am planning on paying attention to where my energy drains over the next few weeks of returning to work, and when my energy levels start to change and why. I am going to practice a few things and see what happens. I will report back with some - hopefully - useful insights to share!

As always, I welcome your comments and chat - leave one below and let's chat about it.

Charlotte.

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