RENT VS. VACATION

I am a very focused person.  When my curiosity is aroused and my passion ignited I will chase down a goal with a level of focus and determination that could put a starving lion stalking its prey to shame.  I have accomplished things in my life that, in the retelling, I am often asked, “how did youdo that?” as if there was a possibility that what I was attempting would or wouldn’t happen.  Now, I’m just like everyone else, I worry if what I’m setting out to do is possible, or practical or just plain stupid.  But that question implies that reaching a goal is the only reason that we would ever attempt one.  That question implies that I have a choice whether or not to try.

Choice is often the enemy of progress.

When my focus is broken, my drive interrupted, it is by choices.  The particular choice that has been tripping me up for as long as I can remember is the one that I refer to as “the conundrum of rent vs. vacation.”  What that means to me is, “do I follow my calling to help others, to do work that I feel is important and contributes to humanity or do I follow my passions that bring me joy, that I love and that light me up inside?”  I have come to believe this is a “false choice,” I’m not actually being called to choose, but to shift my perspective to see how both options can be included in my path.

I also think that this choice is not a choice at all, but an alert system.  Something deep inside of me, my intuition, my purpose, my soul is speaking up and alerting me to the fact that I have come to an important juncture.  A juncture is a crossing we can view as a choice, “I could go this way…or I could go that way,” or we can view it as being on our path and now that path and something else have intersected, they are influencing each other.

When we are on our path it doesn’t really matter which way we choose to go, it’s still our path, so in that way there is no choice.  We can take the direct route or the scenic route and we will still get to our destination.  One way is faster.  One way is more interesting.  Neither is better.  There is just the way we go and the way we don’t go.

Do you remember when you first started to have thoughts about yourself as an independent being, one that was separate from your family; do you remember realizing that you would have a journey of your own to become what you were meant to be or what you wanted to be?  I do, I remember very early on feeling like I was meant to accomplish something big that would change the world.  I remember having a sense of my own power, that I was filled with some kind of energy that would drive and push me through life and allow me to fulfill this destiny.

I’m not special.  Every single one of us is here to change the world.  Your children would not be who they are without you and your parents would not be who they are without you.  All day long you influence those around you.  As the poet Rumi said, “we are all just walking each other home.”

From the beginning of my awareness of myself as a person I have felt called to do something that contributes to and influences the world around me.  I have had no idea what it would be and I still don’t know.  I can make guesses, but that is something that may not become clear until I am long gone from this earth.  It’s not our purpose to know what to give, it is our purpose to give.  At the same time, from the beginning of my awareness of myself as a person, I have known what brings me joy, what I am passionate about, what lights me up inside.  When something sets off a spark inside of me I know it, I can feel it.

When I was younger the connection between these two things felt very simple, very obvious.  I loved to make art, to draw, paint, sculpt and create anything I could.  Sometimes I would create an “invention,” pieces of cardboard and plastic taped together, trying to build my imagination into physical form.  Or I would draw a comic book, as perfectly as I could like the comics that I loved to read; it had a cover with volume and issue number and I even designed a publishing company that released the comic.  I tried every creative outlet put before me with equal abandon, I followed the ones that I found the most exciting: painting and writing.  But at some point I began to question the validity of what I loved.

It seemed like there were so many things “wrong” with the world, people were so unhappy and there was so much suffering in every direction I looked, including inside myself.  How could something as simple as a picture or a poem fix any of that?  And if those things couldn’t help then what right did I have to waste my time and energy and gifts on them?

I spent a lot of time feeling like what I loved made me a selfish and useless person.  And I spent a lot of time feeling angry that I wasn’t “supposed to” love what I loved.  And so I loved it out of anger, defiantly.  That’s not really love.  That doesn’t fill your heart with the spark of joy.  That doesn’t give you boundless energy to create and contribute and give like there is no end to what you have to give.  That, in fact, grinds you down and discourages you.

As I grew, I was able to identify the things that gave me hope, that allowed me to manage my suffering and regain my agency over my life and my choices.  For me it was using my body, riding my bicycle, practicing yoga, rock climbing, hiking, lifting weights; getting stronger and more powerful helped me to see how truly strong and powerful I was in every way.  My body was the medium through which I began to express myself.  And because of who I am I longed to share the hope that I found.  I followed a career that would allow me to encourage and effect others in a positive way.

And this is where the heart of my choice, my conundrum, lives.  Is it my purpose to contribute to the world around me or is it my purpose to voice the singing inside my heart, my creative drive?  Life is a gift we are given that we can never possibly repay but there will always be a part of us that feels like it has to try.  We also know what brings us joy, the special things that make us happier than happy, even if they are meaningless to everyone else, we can’t help but love them.

Every time I move more in one direction than the other I do so because it seems like the right thing to do.  And every time it feels off somehow, out of balance.  And this is why I believe this is a “false choice,” why I believe there really is no choosing at all to do.  When I really do something, when I focus and chase down something because I want it more than anything, I do it because it is what I have to do, not what I choose to do.  The pieces of my life seem to just fall into place so that thing will happen.  I still have to do my part, I have to work and pursue and create, but it’s almost as if the ending is already decided.  Only by abandoning choice have I ever been able to get on with the business of making progress.

How is my “false choice” actually a question?  “Do I want to pay rent or do I want to go on vacation?”  That’s the choice I’ve been seeing, but maybe the question I’m being asked is, “how does pursuing my passion contribute to the world around me?” or, “how can I use my creativity to give deeply of myself?”

Right now I’m at one of those important junctures, where something has intersected my path and is influencing it.  Maybe it’s these two “choices,” these two paths that I have thought of as separate, that are in fact coming together.  Maybe using my creative abilities, my intuition and deep, inner wisdom is what I need in my work.  Physical culture has deep roots in science, and while I use tools like objectivity and data to determine many of my choices as a trainer and coach I also simultaneously use emotion.  Because I love people, and that’s why I do what I do, out of a deep love and belief that anyone at any time and in any way can improve themselves and become the person they are meant to be: whole, healthy and happy.

My destiny is to help others reach their destiny.

We are all here to change the world.  And we all have something inside of us that responds to the things we love to do.  Maybe our purpose is to change the world by loving the little part of it that our heart responds to.

And really, using my creative energy is seldom like going on vacation.  It’s a lot of work, actually!  It can sometimes feel like playing.  Like how running around on the beach looking for shells is fun, playful, enjoyable and also leaves you exhausted and sunburned at the end of the day.

My dear friend, Shelly Johnson, shared this quote the other day, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it:

“Work which remains permeated with the play attitude is art.” —John Dewey

I can hear my inner alarms ringing.  Using my creativity and talent to more positively affect the world is important.  Loving the whole thing is maybe the most important thing of all.

Elias Gross