Listen. Are you breathing just a little and calling it a life? – Mary Oliver
I don’t know about you, but maybe because we are at the onset of a new year, or maybe because I just turned a big birthday, I have been looking back at my life (as they say hindsight is 20/20) as well as looking ahead (visibility is poor here). I came to a conclusion that I am at the start of a journey, even at this age. When I say the start of a journey, I don’t mean the beginning of adult life or the beginning of a career or a job etc. I do mean the beginning of another journey: the journey of my second life, my unlived life.
Most of you are already aware that in August of 2017, my youngest went away to the University, and with that, my new life begins as an individual who no longer has anyone depending on her to solve minor problems, or take care of things, or chat about silly things. There is no longer, “How is your day?” or “What was lunch at school?” for me to ask. There is no more of “Have you done your homework?” for me to nag about. There is no girl smiling or scowling at my silly jokes, or no boy making fun of my appearance or giving me surprise hugs. When I get up in the morning, I no longer make my way to the rooms down the hall to rouse the teens out of their beds. I don’t have to yell at anyone because they are running late, or laugh with pleasure because they say or do something clever and witty. The house is quiet except for the sound of the television or the meow of a cat who keeps insisting she needs to be let outside in the cold.
Here is my morning routine: I get up, I meditate if I do not oversleep, I make coffee, I drive to the gym in the morning and head to work. Because the commute is an hour long, I listen to podcasts after podcasts about finding happiness or protocols for self-improvement. I am forever excited by the prospect of improving myself, but seldom carry out the practices recommended by so-called experts of life.
At the end of the day, I do the same. I drive to the gym on my way home, if I have not gone in the morning, then head back home, make dinner occasionally or eat fried eggs on most nights (very healthy). Because right now is in the middle of winter, I don’t feel like getting out in the evening again. By the time I get home, the world has already turned dark, weather plummeted to marrow-freezing cold. So, I stay inside. I work some more if work demands it, or else I read, do some writings, binge on TV series, and a lot of internet-ing. Maybe, I might meditate a few minutes before bed if my mind is cluttered with stressful things. In the morning, I start all over again. Sounds fun, right?
With no kids suddenly I have so much time on my hand. And yet, I feel as if I never had enough time to do everything I need to do. In other words, I feel as though I am trashing my most precious commodity i.e. time as if it were garbage.
Here’s a topic I am wondering today: Unlived life or if I want to be fancy, I’ll call it “yet-to-be-manifested potential”. As the author Steven Pressfield says, “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”
Meaning, what is it in me that I have not yet let out to make it real because of some form of resistance/fear or another? I am middle-aged now. As they say, days are long but years are short. Considering my father died at 63 or 65 (I can’t remember), I could very well be near the end of life. Or if I take after my mother who is 86, I could very well have a good 30 years or more ahead of me.
What I am trying to say is that time is precious now. What I do with my time, whether a day left or decades left, I should spend it doing what I love, what I treasure, exploring what will bring a deep sense of gratification in the end. Right now, I am recognizing the fact that there is a yearning in me. In fact, it has been slowly festering for a number of years now. I want to be healthier, happier, more fulfilled. A person whose values are aligned with actions. I want to be happy for no reason. I want to be fit as a fiddle, being able to feel good about my body and mind. I want to be a true artist, devoting my time and nurturing my Muse so she will always offer a hand to pull me out of a rut.
There are a lot of wants, and not a lot of dos, in the above mentions. I know me. I am more excited by the thought of the destination and the to-do lists for the journey, then the destination itself. After all, over the years, I have indeed started many new things but rarely seen to completion. My Facebook newsfeed will remind me every day in January with declarations I made 2 years ago, 3 years go, 5 years ago, that “Finally back to the gym!” only to see March came and no more gym-clarations on my wall because by then I am sitting at home eating cookies and cakes.
So then, I ask myself. How do I make sure I don’t fizzle out of my intentions this year? How do I know I won’t get bored or become lazy when faced with the tedious but much necessary steps I need to do consistently to achieve my goals?
For one, I feel different this year, which gives me hope. For the first time in my life, I see this me who always seeks validation and acceptance, who flits from one thing to the next like a humming bird because one thought will lead to another and I will follow them all. This perspective reminds me to pause my brain from thinking, step back, fly above the earth to get a better view. I have now learned to zoom out in certain moments instead of always pulling out my metaphorical magnifying glass. I am learning to say “pause” whenever I feel the urge to answer a text promptly, or chase one new thing to the next.
It’s really quite simple. The rule of bringing out the hidden part of me is this: “Focus” and “consistency.”
Focus on single tasks. Do it every day.
- If I want to be a poet, read a poem every day. (I am reading more Mary Oliver this week. She saves me). Write or edit poems every day. No matter what. Even if I am writing crap poems, write it anyway. Treat it like a job and not like a hobby. Go pro!
- If I want to be a fitness goddess (kidding, a fit person) I need to hit the gym every day. I need to train hard, learn harder, (this channel Athlean-X is Xtra X-cellent!) know body’s limits and push myself. No pain no gain. Eat better. Plan meals ahead of time. No 2 pm vending machine visits at work just because I am bored.
- If I want to have a calm mind, an aligned life, then meditate. Be mindful of my emotions. Notice more. Judge others less, judge myself the least. Practice this every day. I use this app (Headspace) this week and it really helps me.
- If I want to be more knowledgable, learn. Devote time each day to learn something new. Data visualization or woodworking, just read, practice, ask.
Do more. Think less. Let the body leads me. Not the incessant thinking mind which quibbles and argues and rationalizes the volumes of reasons why I should not do the things I know I should do.
This is how one brings out unlived -life into a life living. This is how I intend to turn “pro” as the author Steven Pressfield puts it.
“What happens when we turn pro is, we finally listen to that still, small voice inside our heads. At last we find the courage to identify the secret dream or love or bliss that we have known all along was our passion, our calling, our destiny.”
― Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro
I’ll check back in February. And let you know how unlived-me is living.
Gym Days in January
You can see the dip in PBF (Percent Body Fat) in December 2017, which is a couple of weeks after I started strength training.