Peace

Peace

One of my biggest challenges in life is navigating fickle moods and anxieties that feel more like sickness than emotion. Fear takes me like a fever and my reality distorts.

Speaking of reality distortion: It seems that peak stress (such as not sleeping much, working long days) and creative expression (jamming, writing, performing) take me interestingly close to a psychedelic state. Something about the lights; something about the way disparate ideas connect; things shift and swirl beneath my feet.

(Perhaps this is why my psychedelic adventures have been sparse and cautiously done, and that a small amount goes a very long way. I’m already very nearly there.)

If I were able to better harness this abstract mind of mine, and calm the anxiety that hides beneath the surface, I could experience much more peace and satisfaction. But isn’t that true of everyone? Isn’t peace just around the corner? Isn’t conflict constant? Once you solve a problem, another one is around the corner, waiting. And it’s probably a bigger one. A juicier one. And I love problems, don’t we all love problems? What else would life be? A code to crack, a push to grow, an accomplishment and deep satisfaction when the problem is confronted. No problems would be like no gravity. Our muscles would waste away and we’d be flimsy and shapeless.

So at the same time, I resent anything that takes me away from the immediacy of my life. “If only I were less anxious…”, “If only I were more peaceful…”, these are true statements, and I want to grow in that direction, but these thoughts come dangerously close to making me resent where I am in the moment. If only makes things seem much worse than they really are. Because right now, things are pretty good. Great, even. Ups and downs are all a part of it. Sure, I’m working on being less anxious. But I’ve come a long way from the panic attacks of fifteen years ago, and everything really is okay.

It reminds me of how quickly we tend to acclimate to our reality, and then we want more. When I was younger, I lived in a cricket-infested small apartment, but it was good. Rent was cheap, I didn’t have to work much, and I was able to live creatively. But then – but then – I wanted a house. So my friends and I rented a house. And that was good. So much space! How fun to be with friends! But then, but then – turf wars, hostility, passive-agressiveness. I wanted to be alone. And on and on the journey went.

Now I live in a townhouse in a nice, new neighborhood. The rental price is one I couldn’t have afforded even a few years ago, especially on my own. It’s small, but nicely spaced between three floors. I can escape to do work without disrupting anyone. I can sing loudly, because I only have one neighbor who works during the day, and the soundproofing is great. My landlord is awesome. I’ve been here nearly two years, and I’ve had moments of deep pride at being able to make living here work.

Still, still, still. I think, wouldn’t it be nice to have a house? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a real office? Wouldn’t it be nice for my daughter to have more space? A yard? Or maybe it would be nicer living in a condo in a larger city. Wouldn’t it be nice to live that life and have those experiences instead? Wouldn’t it be nice to be somewhere that isn’t here?

And that nice home that I might’ve only dreamed of years ago, it becomes less satisfying. Suddenly I want more. It’s not enough. What if, what if.

Things could always be better. But things are good. If I stop averting my gaze from what’s right in front of me – family, friends, space, freedom, meaningful work, this bustling Sunday afternoon coffee shop – if I stop drifting to supposedly better futures – then, THEN, it’s all okay, it was always okay.

Yes, that’s where peace lives. That’s where it has always been.

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On Journaling and Love.

My life goes by too quickly when I don’t journal. Just yesterday, it seems, I wrote down some happenings. The next day, I was too busy. Journaling didn’t seem so important. Then the next day, then the next. And suddenly it was ten days later, like hitting the snooze button too many times and realizing you only have ten minutes to get to work.

Ten days is better; before that, it was a month.

Journaling is a dear, treasured habit that I haven’t been keeping up. I’ve always journaled, and since 2015 I’ve been collecting my yearly writings in print-copy paperbacks, because why not? I love having a paperback journal, and it’s a wonderful incentive to actually write.

I love writing, and yet I resist it fiercely. Isn’t this how it goes? Why do we resist what we love?

Because love is hard. You experience love and it threatens to break apart your very being. It takes you to the edge of overwhelm. It’s so powerful that it can break your life down to pieces in a moment. All that you think you are, all that you’ve built, demolished. Love builds towers, and it tears them down, with equal ease.

There is a sentimental, tepid, head-based thing we call love, and it’s the thing we say without thinking, the thing written on Hallmark cards, the infatuation with someone new and exciting. That kind of love is easy. Because it doesn’t mean anything.

The love I’m talking about is a love most parents know – a love so overwhelming and primal that the thought of anything bad happening to your children leaves you heaving, your entire being wracked with pain, so filled with the idea that you would do anything for that kid. All you’ve built, you would tear it down in a second if you needed to. That love is more powerful than any built life.

So love is hard. It’s a hard thing to feel, a hard thing to embrace. I think we spend a lot of time recoiling from love, preferring the safety of weaker states, states that don’t have the power to completely topple us.

I dearly love writing, and I always have. But I resist it, too. It’s work.

I’ve been in partnered relationships in an almost-unbroken chain since I was seventeen years old. Being in a relationship is natural and enjoyable for me, and I’m happier that way. But loving another person is hard; to be generous when you’re annoyed, kind when you’re indignant, to really talk, and really listen, to stay physically connected, to keep the hearth warm.

I love my daughter more than anything in the world, but parenting is the hardest gig I’ve ever had.

And that’s nothing to say of music, music, music.

That’s why I came to my journal today. I don’t just want to do what’s easy, because there’s no love there. What would I do instead? Some work emails, watch TV, read a book. All fine things, all things I’ll keep doing, but I have to remember the love. Journaling helps me remember (and psychedelics, but that’s for later).

Love is hard, but it’s one of the only things that actually matters. That’s why it topples towers. The towers were just pretend, and love was the only real thing all along.

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Too little, too late.

How many hot cups of coffee do I‌ have left to savor?‌ How many books will I‌ be able to read? How many gorgeous winter sunrises do I‌ have left to witness, driving on the highway, all the whites and blues and piercing cold sunlight?

Hopefully many.

How many times left to watch my daughter fall asleep, in this stage, so small, still a baby even though she’s no longer a baby? She was a baby, and then I blinked and she wasn’t. It goes by so fast.

How many songs left to write, ideas grasped out of nothingness, a tune from another world that becomes mine?

How many more plates of okonomiyaki, or mac and cheese with collard greens, cabbage rolls and perogies on the holidays with loved ones?‌ How many times will I‌ connect with my grandparents, my parents, aunties and uncles and all the rest?

How many more days like this one?

I‌ live like I‌ assume I’ll live forever. I take it for granted. There will be a million more, a million more.

I don’t want to forget to cherish you. To wake up in 50 years and realize it was wasted. It all went by and I‌ was blind to it. Like a dream, a life that evaporates.

I want to wake up tomorrow, and really wake up.

-Allysia

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Journaling expands your life.

I‌ was having a conversation with a friend this past weekend. I love talking about ideas; it’s a way to clarify thoughts I have in my head, to test them in the real world, to bounce them back and forth with someone who brings their own ideas and experiences, which elevates my own.

We were talking about journaling and writing. “Why,”‌ I‌ said, “should I‌ even bother with blogging every day, the way I have been for a week?” I told her that I didn’t have a goal with it. It wasn’t for any reason, except perhaps my own pleasure. I find writing fun. I find journaling fun.

She said that writing is a way to expand your life. How when you write about your life, it causes you to think about your life like a story. You crystallize ordinary moments in your memory. Having sharper memories gives you the experience of time moving more slowly. Instead of a week, a month, a year racing by with you saying, “Where did the time go?”, you know where the time went, because you’ve been thinking about it and observing it all along.

You start to notice recurring themes. You start to pay attention to the small things. You notice what’s happening in your daily experience. The beautiful lighting just before sundown, the perfect blue sky, the funny thing your daughter did, the strand of an idea you have. It all starts to mean more.

When it means more, you pay more attention. Life expands.

I don’t journal so that I‌ have an artifact to look back on, though that’s a nice side-effect. I do it for the immediate and long-term benefits of improving my memory and having more richness and depth in my days.

Once you start to see your life like a story, with you as the main character, you start to think about moving in more interesting directions. About making more interesting choices. Taking more risks. Pushing yourself further. Because after all, do you want a boring life story?

I’ve been journaling 40,000 words or more every year since 2015, and it’s one of my favorite habits. Before that, I‌ would handwrite in notebooks, but I‌ find the process too slow now. Some people love writing by hand, but I’d much rather type my journals. I reserve handwriting for lyrics and poetry, which by default require slow thinking.

Some of my earlier years are distinct and memorable. 2004, 2005, 2009. These years stand out to me clearly, with obvious themes that I‌ can recall in great detail. Other years blend together, with nothing of significance standing out.

Since 2015, I can easily identify themes. Some of them are based around life milestones – getting married in 2017 and having a baby in 2018, say – but others are more inward-focused, such as 2016, where my theme for the year was‌ “zest” and I made a point to start wandering outside my comfort zone in work, friendships and hobbies.

Sometimes my journal entries are just a couple of sentences. Sometimes they’re long and sprawling. Sometimes they’re anecdotes, other times detailing plans, goals and dreams. Anything goes. I‌ treasure it all. I want to live my life fully, and journaling is one important piece of that puzzle.

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Dress Like You’re in Love with Life

When I‌ was a teenager, I‌ was fearless. Insecure and a bit of an idiot, but fearless. Isn’t that true of most teenagers?‌‌ Isn’t that why it can be dangerous – you take unnecessary risks – but also why you have such clear, vivid memories of those days – because you were really alive?

I used to dress like I was fearless. It seems like such a small thing. They’re only clothes, after all. Who cares?

But how you present yourself to the world is a pretty accurate model for how you live in the world.

I went through a hat phase. Not ball-caps. More like old-school cloches, bucket and bowler hats. I‌ had a lovely Panama hat with a pink ribbon. I‌ wore a lot of pink back then.

I wore a bag was that was a gift from my friend, a talented seamstress and artist. One-half was pink, and the other half was a cloth-printed page of comic from my favorite manga series, Ranma 1/2. I stuck on a series of band pins for good measure.

My hair changed with the seasons. Each time my uncle would see me, he’d jokingly exclaim, “So this is the new flavor of the week?” Black, bleached, auburn, pink, short, long, bangs, it was all an open playing field.

I liked tights. Standard stockings like fishnets, but also multicolored or neon ones. The weirder the better. I loved to wear them under a simple skirt, or my cut-off jean shorts (which I cut off myself).

Not a nail-painter then, since I always chewed them off. Nails need to be short when you’re a piano player. Back in the early 2000s, when I‌ was in teenhood, the metalhead boys would paint their nails black, and wear black from head-to-toe. The baggier the clothes, the better. Band shirts, chains, dreadlocks, piercings. Of all the high school groups, they were the silliest and most fun to hang out with.

Why does any of this matter?‌ Who cares if I‌ wear a Panama hat, or mismatched clothes, or lots of pink?

It matters because of what happened when I became a “real adult”. Conformity, an idea I stood in diametric opposition to as a teen, became an attractive and useful concept in my twenties.

Some of it was fear. Fear of standing out and being noticed. It’s normal to be a weird kid. It’s weird to be a weird adult. Who’ll take you seriously?

Standing out can be problematic when you’re a young woman. You get unwanted attention. People say things. It can get scary. What better way to be left alone than to look like you’re on the frumpy side of bland?

I was a creative spirit as a teen. As an adult, I swapped out creativity with pragmatism. Bills, earning a living, being a role model for children (and not freaking out their parents), getting into serious relationships, all of those things required being practical and pragmatic and grounded and. Not. Weird.

My clothing choices reflected that. I donned the jeans and tee (or hoodie) uniform. Plain shoes, some plaid here and there, nothing too wild. Hats, but only toques and beanies to hide my floppy unstyled hair. I just didn’t care. I‌ was comfortable.

That’s exactly how some people would best express themselves. But it wasn’t me. I spent a decade not dressing like me.

I’m noticing something magical about being in my thirties, though.

I’m not insecure anymore. And I’m way less of an idiot (at least that’s what I‌ tell myself). I’ve got this adult thing figured out – I can pay the bills and do work I‌ enjoy and support and love my daughter. It’s easy.

So I don’t need to focus on that adult stuff so much anymore. It’s a learned skill. Put it in the bank, it’ll run on autopilot.

Time to put that focus toward something more fun. Discard the fear that’s been holding me back. And lean back into that creative spirit, the person I really am.

Maybe I’ll be dressing a little different in 2020.

x,

Allysia

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100 Dreams, Revisited

I recently finished listening to Laura Vanderkam’s new book‌‌ “I Know How She Does It”, and in it I was reminded of her “100 dreams” idea.

A little while back, I made a list of 100 dreams. It’s what it sounds like – basically a bucket list. But instead of putting on a bunch of arbitrary “shoulds” (I don’t need to skydive or see the coral reefs), it’s a list of 100 things that sound awesome to me, big and small. Things that I’ll actually make a point of doing, whether this year or in 30 years.

The last time I created such a list, I‌ got stuck around number 60. It was frustrating, but then something wonderful happened – the frustration evolved into an existential crisis. What am I doing with my life?‌‌‌‌ What’s it all for? The list pushed me to excavate to the truth. What‌‌‌‌ do I really want? Not just what looks good to want on paper?

So I‌ pushed for bigger ideas and ended up with 107 dreams by the end of it. It felt great and allowed me to re-examine my priorities. It gave me tremendous clarity in my day-to-day life and with my longer-term goals.

But the dust settles; the profundity of such an experience fades. That’s why, after listening to Laura’s book (excellent in the audio format), I decided to give the “100 dreams” list another go.

No existential crisis this time, but a surprising amount of my ideas changed in the year or so between lists. Things I wrote on the first list no longer mattered much to me (what do I‌ care if I‌ have a Stella McCartney handbag?). New ideas hopped on the page that I couldn’t have imagined the first time around‌‌‌ (build an energy-efficient house on several acres of land).

If you’re interested in creating your own list, here’s how I‌ did it:

1)‌‌‌ Divide your list into categories. These are the ones I‌ used:

 -Home

 -Family/parenting

 -Relationships/friendships

 -Career

 -Creative

 -Personal/professional development

 -Travel/adventure

 -Health and food

Once you have your categories, start coming up with ideas! You might discover additional categories along the way – use whatever headers and themes matter to you. 

2)‌ Make a note beside each of your 100 dreams on where you’re at with it.

  -In red, I‌ wrote anything that I‌ wasn’t actively pursuing.

  -In yellow, I‌ wrote things that were on my horizon or that I‌ wanted to do, but wasn’t doing.

  -In green, I‌ wrote those things that I’m already doing.

3)‌ Come up with a secondary list, “Dreams I’m actively pursuing”.

Put this list in a prominent spot and revisit it at least weekly, if not daily. Here’s where you put all your green ideas, and whichever yellow ones you’ve decided to take on and start integrating into your life.

When I created this secondary list, I‌ also craved more clarity. Instead of writing, “Learn about gardening”, I‌ drilled down and wrote, “read at least 5 books‌ on permaculture and take notes‌‌” (I have a notebook dedicated just to this).

Here’s an example of how I condensed the “home life” dreams section:

Home life

  • Purchase several books each month (use my Indigo card in Nov)
  • Purchase land and build house (huge ongoing project; broken into next steps on Nozbe)
  • Research at least 5 books on fruit and vegetable permaculture

4)‌ Put your projects or habits into your daily task manager

I’ve talked about Nozbe before, which I’ve used and loved for years. It allows me to arrange some of my dreams/goals into projects, and also create recurring habits (such as “meditate every day”).

This means that, as long as I’m checking my to-do list on a daily basis, habits I’d like to incorporate pop up on my daily list – no mental energy required to remember to do something. I like to review the secondary list weekly, in order to look over some things that might not neatly fit into my to-do list, but this process takes away most of the ambiguity around my goals. I see them every day; I know if I’m moving toward them, or not.

I want to restate that this is not a bucket list – at least not in the conventional way bucket lists are used (and ignored). This is a list of things I‌ really want to do, but things that I might not do without some long-term consideration and a little bit of planning.

For example, I want to meditate every day for an entire year. I‌ find the idea of creating a 365-day streak inspiring (and intimidating). At the end of it, I’ll have a well-established habit of meditation, which is great, but I’ll also have the experience of having meditated every day for a year – also great. Or maybe after a year I’ll say, “that was fun but I’m done with this meditation thing”. That’s fine too – it’s all part of the learning experience.

A long-term goal that I‌ wouldn’t be able to achieve without careful planning is getting a licentiate diploma in piano performance. I am a long, long ways away from that point. But I‌ like to keep it on my radar, and take tiny steps in that direction in the meantime. Maybe I‌ don’t get there for another 30 years – that’s fine. But I’d like to keep it in my head, and move toward it slowly but surely.

This process has been enormously helpful to me both times I’ve gone through it, and highly encourage you to do the same if you have a feeling of fuzziness, a feeling that you’re aimlessly drifting. It’s challenging, but it’s also quite fun – and what’s more important than that?

-Allysia

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The Most Important Things in Life

I have a wonderful friend who inspired me with today’s post. He shared a list of his – a sort of “life philosophies” list, a list of things to keep in mind – and it’s been on my mind all week. I wanted to create my own list, print it, and put it somewhere I’ll see often.

My list has several similarities with his (he had some great ideas!), but I went deep and thought about what the most important things are in life (to me), some rules of thumb, and questions to ask myself.

I’ll share this list here today in the hopes that it’ll inspire you to create your own or reflect on your own priorities.

Hope you enjoy it!

The most important things in my life

1. Honesty

2. Having the confidence and courage to express that honesty.

3. Energy. This means taking care of my health and body with diet and exercise, taking care of my mind with frequent ideas and input, and taking care of my heart with the things which fill my cup.

3a. Diet and exercise: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” (Michael Pollan). The exercise that I enjoy best is daily walks interspersed with occasional sports (like tennis), yoga and HIIT.

3b. An energetic mind: My mind functions best when it receives plenty of input, such as by reading many non-fiction books and listening to interesting podcasts. Ancillary to this is having frequent interesting conversations with people.

3c. Filling the cup: Things that make me feel whole and fulfilled include time spent with loved ones, writing music or working on other creative endeavors, writing, and having a little space in my life to breathe and not “do”.

4. Marriage. Continually reinforce this bond with random acts of kindness, interesting conversations, and weekly dates. Prioritize my marriage, especially over tasks that seem important but aren’t (like checking emails).

5. Time. Time is one of my most precious resources, and all of my decisions should take this into account. Am I making the most of my time? Am I organized and efficient? Do I have enough time for the things that matter most (relationships, fun, personal development, creative projects)?

6. Relationships with others (children, family, close friends). Be thoughtful and giving. Remember and celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. Have meaningful conversations that strengthen our bonds. Be a non-judgemental safe space.

7. Autonomy. Prioritize having freedom and control in my life and work. 

8. Money. Increase revenue (to create more time and autonomy), decrease expenses, and make investments.

9. Reverence. Take time to appreciate the beauty and sacredness of life. Step out of the ordinary and remember the extraordinary.

10. Learning and knowledge. Along with health, relationships, and passion projects, learning/knowledge make my life rich and fulfilling.

11. Passion projects. Pursue creative passions and projects without fear. 

 

Rules of thumb

1. Never have my phone at the table. 

2. Eat meals with my family whenever possible.

3a. Before speaking, run my words through three filters: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?

3b. Don’t engage in gossip or negative talk about others.

3c. Complaints are seldom if ever necessary. 

4a. Limit/moderate spending on non-essential things (makeup, clothing, impulse purchases, take-out)

4b. Spend freely (within reason) on things which contribute to my personal and professional growth (books, courses, exams, membership groups)

5. Remember to breathe and slow down. Stop and smell the roses.

6. Listening to music enriches my life, so don’t be lazy about it.

7. Prioritize sleep (7-8 hours). 

8a. Ask questions about others instead of talking about myself.

8b. Don’t be afraid to share my opinions and viewpoints in a non-aggressive manner.

8c. Don’t allow opinions and viewpoints to become my personality, which creates rigidity. Be open and willing to consider another point of view. 

9. Don’t wear sweatpants or leggings-as-pants outside the home (exception is wearing leggings to the gym).

10. Take good care of my possessions so they last longer.

11. Make simple decisions in 5 minutes or less (ie what to eat for dinner).

12. Allow myself and others the ability to make mistakes without judgment or criticism.

13. Take the time to cook nice meals, even if they’re simple and quick.

 

Questions

1. How can I have more fun with this?

2. How can I be more social with this?

3. What would 10x my results?

4. Who are five people who have what I want?

5. Is this the most important/best use of my time?

6. What can I learn from this experience?

7. Can I learn more by doing a 30-day trial on this subject?

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A Little Bit Blue.

It’s Friday afternoon and I’m wrapping up some work-related tasks for the week. The sun finally came out, though the air is cold for being the middle of summer.

After enjoying an Ethiopian buffet for lunch, I was waiting to pay. The owner had to go hunt down the debit machine, so while I waited, my eyes gravitated toward the television.

I’m not a news person. You might call me ignorant, and you might be right. But I’m a sensitive person and news has the tendency to quickly turn me cynical.

On the television, the news was detailing the most recent exploits of ICE. Pulling people from cars, separating parents from children. I almost broke down in tears right there. So easy to say from my point of privilege, as a Canadian woman. But how is it that these things are happening now, in this day and age? How has the fear of immigrants gone this far?

My problems are trivial, but they’re mine. I’m not at risk of deportation or separation from my family, which should be the end of that thought. But still, my own little concerns, little though they may be, feel heavy and weighty in my life.

We’ve been looking at houses in the city, closer to childcare, further from Michael’s work. Currently I drive 1.5 hours (one way) in order to have access to quality childcare. I’ve been doing this a couple times a week for over half a year, and the longer it goes on, the more rage I feel, rage against a broken system. Canada is better than the United States, but childcare is expensive and not readily available to all. It’s why so many moms decide to stay home while their children are young, permanently affecting their ability to advance their career in a meaningful way.

I want to be a mom AND have a meaningful career. It shouldn’t be so hard to have both.

Moving to the city means a daily commute of 1.5 hours for my husband, so it isn’t a fair trade-off. At the same time, it isn’t fair that I have to drive so far just to work, especially with a child who doesn’t always like the long drive. Few things are more stressful than inconsolable screaming during endless highway stretches.

If I could learn to be happy with what is. If I could embrace being a stay-at-home mom, and put work on the backburner. Even for a year. We could ride out Michael’s work contract and consider moving afterward. When I write it out, when I think about it, it seems like the obvious answer. Just deal with it, right?

Yet when I turn that over in my heart, I just feel blue. Heavy. Like the story of my next year will be defined by a resigned sigh.

Staying at home and being a good parent is challenging, but I don’t mind it. I spent the first year of Jane’s life scaling way back on work and focusing on being a stay-at-home mom. I made good friends centered around playdates. I cooked food and kept the house in order. It was fine. But now I’m in a phase where I want to focus on work. Especially because the possibility exists of becoming a parent to an infant again, which will reset the cycle.

The problem is the lack of choice. If I had the choice, I would work 3-4 days a week right now. It’s just too much driving, too much time away from home. A regular 8-hour day turns into a 12-hour day.

Still, there are real issues in the world and I’m stuck on this one. I’m complaining about a commute, but at least I have a family to commute to.

Many women would kill to be in my position. We can afford for me to stay at home with my daughter. Between my (small) income and my husband’s (slightly less small) income, we’ve been able to make it work in our little town. Many women work long hours with low pay and don’t have the option to stay home, even if they wanted to. Other women, like myself, feel somewhat forced into the situation, and a little resentful about it as a result.

Jane loves her current daycare. She’s excited to go there, and happily waves goodbye when I drop her off. Playing with the kids is a nice reprieve for her. The thought of pulling her out as the winter months approach, a real possibility, is a heartbreaking.

Where I live, winter driving can be unpredictable. Blowing snow, blizzards, fog, and ice are all reasonably common. In the peak of winter, we only have 8 daylight hours, and highway driving in the dark in these conditions only exacerbates them. Last winter I braved the highways once a week for daycare because I was desperate, but I don’t know that I’d do it again. It’s one thing if it’s just me in the car; it’s another entirely when my daughter’s in there with me.

So then Michael is supposed to drive in these conditions, and every day? Is that a fair trade-off?

We’ve been making serious plans to list our house in the fall and to start looking for a new place in the city. This should thrill me, but I’m left feeling guilty and a little bit blue. My husband is such a generous and kind person. Moving makes his life so much harder, but he wants to make my life easier.

Why can’t I do the same for him? Put it off for a year, or even half a year? Try to shove that resigned sigh back down and make the most of it?

So we’re floating in the ether of indecision, with no decision on either side being an easy one. I’m waiting for that alternative – that brilliant idea that is so perfect and I can’t believe why I didn’t think of it before.

Like maybe we just go travel. Do the opposite of settle down. Embrace the ether. But then I think about it, and it seems prohibitively difficult. Too difficult to be worth it.

What about getting a little condo in the city, so I can have a place to live during the work week, and then go home for the weekends? A temporary solution for the next school year? But that’s expensive and I don’t want to be away from my husband so much, and to have him be away from his daughter so much.

We’ve been having a wonderful summer so far. The pacing has been good and we’ve had lots of time together as a family. In some moments I’m blindingly happy. In some moments, it’s clouds over that sunny sky. It’s a little bit blue. Thanks for reading.

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Why the “Six months to live” lens isn’t always the right one

I like using the “six months to live” lens to get a grip on my priorities.

You know what I’m talking about, right?

This – “If I had six months left to live, what would I do with my life? Who would I spend time with?

I’ve always considered this lens to be the best litmus test of if what I’m doing is the best use of my time. With this lens I’ve easily determined that the most important aspects of my life are family, friends and meaningful work. Throw in some good food, fresh air and books and I’m golden.

But recently, I started thinking about it some more. And I had this realization: Why would I want to live my whole life like it’s the last chapter of my book?

Friends and family are important, but does it really make sense to factor them as the highest priority in all situations? Maybe, maybe not.

For example, if my husband, child and I wanted to do some extended traveling, say for a year, doing so doesn’t pass the friends and family litmus test. We’d be away for so long. That’s not what I’d want if my life was ending.

But my life isn’t ending (that I know of). And it’s virtually impossible to predict when it will. So does that mean I should never go on big adventures? Never do anything that takes me away from the anchor of home?

Of course not – that would be ridiculous. Going on big adventures is important for a whole whack of other reasons. It would be hard to be away from my family for so long, but there would be all kinds of benefits to extended travel. Not to mention my closest family – my husband and child – would be right there alongside me.

And that’s only one example. What about moving, or considering where we want to live for the next 5-10 years (or more)? Using the “6 months to live” lens, it makes the most sense to stay local to where most of our friends and family are. Even if there are many sacrifices to doing so.

Forgive this slight digression, but it’s been heavy in my thoughts: Our dream location wouldn’t be too expensive, would be near high-quality daycare, give us the opportunity for plenty of outdoor time, be a unique and beautiful house (my husband’s criteria), have a sizeable vegetarian community with access to great produce and restaurants, have plenty of sunlight, wouldn’t get too cold, and be walkable. I’d probably also want to live somewhere English-speaking. Milder temperatures would also mean not having to drive in extreme conditions like blowing snow, blizzards, and storms so frequently – a major upside for me. Not having hour-long commutes is a major bonus too.

Almost none of these criteria apply to where we currently live. Yet, it’s near friends and family. What to do?

There are other situations in which the “six months” lens falls apart. Say you’re working a job that doesn’t light your soul up. It wouldn’t make sense to quit you job and travel on a whim, or quit your job and write that album you always dreamed of writing – these things require thought and planning.

The “six month” lens is a great one in some ways. Have those meaningful conversations with loved ones, tell them how much they mean to you. Work on that album – make time for it if it’s important. Keep your priorities in mind when you and your child are getting sick of each other at 4:30pm.

But it’s not a great lens in all ways. I only pray that my life story is bursting with interesting chapters, and that my last one is far, far away. There will always be periods where I’m pulled to my family above and beyond any other consideration. But it’s okay to be pulled away from family sometimes as well.

I’m reminded of when I lived in Austin and Toronto between 2013-2015. Those were fond years – difficult, but dear to me. At the end of it, I was ready to be close to my family and enjoy all the familiar comforts of my home province. But I’m so grateful that I lived away. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Now, being home for five years, I’m starting to feel the tug of strings again. The tug of adventure.

I was bothered by it at first, swatting it away like an errant fly, I’ve since come around. It’s all good, it’s all okay, it’s exactly right.

Watch this space.

-Allysia

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