We have to have enough stability in our lives, enough consistency and dependability, to pay the bills, and enough flexibility and spontaneity to be innovative and creative, and have the freedom to “follow a wild hare” down weird little rabbit trails. If we drift too far to either extreme, we fail to live as well as those with an interesting mixture of opposite tendencies.
We have to consciously bear the tension of the polarity. Living with both stability and spontaneity is one of the keys to a well-lived life. We live to be dependable without being tied down. We live to be like the wind and solid as a rock.
We need to know where we are going, yet, have the freedom to follow our heart and our hunches into unfamiliar places and the company of strangers. We cannot be so regimented that there is “nothing new under the sun,” or so uninhibited that you never know what’s next with us. You have to know that you can count on me, and I have to be able to disappear on a whim. Both things have to be true about me. I cannot be one way only. I am a magnet with opposite poles. So are you.
We plot our course and retain the right to change direction. Some things we need to see through; some things we need to quit before we begin. How do we know which is what? There is no knowing. Make up your mind. Change it if you must. Decide. Reverse your decision. Waffle. Agonize. Decide again. There is no value in being Steady Eddie to every bitter end. But never riding out any storm is nothing to be proud of either. When do you stick it out? When do you pull up stakes? “You have to know when to hold ‘um/Know when to fold ‘um/Know when to walk away/Know when to run.” How do you know? You take a chance every time. What are you going to do this time is the question. Make up your mind.
You would think we would make better calls over time, better choices, better decisions. It doesn’t work out that way. Experience doesn’t tell us a damn thing about the future. We never know what to do now to insure the best possible outcome. But, some things are obvious. “You don’t spit into the wind.” You learn that much from experience. The critical matters don’t have much to do with when and where to spit. You never have so much experience that you don’t have to take a chance. That’s one side of the equation. The other side is that refusing to take chances is a kind of death itself.
What’s at stake? What do you stand to gain? To lose? You probably can quit your job and find another easier at 30 than at 60. How safe do you really have to be?
Inhibitions are great things, up to a point. After a certain point, they get in the way. Where’s the point? Would somebody please point out the point to us? Geez. Everything comes down to knowing where the point is. No one can be so finely tuned as to know the turning point when it arrives. We guess ourselves to the grave.
Guessing is as good a game as any. Knowing what we are doing isn’t more likely to achieve a better outcome. I’d rather live with a good guesser than with a knower. Know what I mean?
It’s amazing how hard it is from time to time, feeling good about ourselves; believing in what we are doing; being with how things are. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says, in effect, that without novelty our thinking deteriorates into chaos and despair. Construction or destruction seems to be the spiritual/emotional (Where DOES that line lie?) reality. If we aren’t involved in something that involves us, we’re going to feel increasingly poorly about ourselves and our place in life. To feel good about ourselves and the way things are with us, our lives have to coalesce around things that generate enthusiasm and interest, and challenge us creatively, and bring our skills and abilities to life. We have to be doing things we enjoy doing. We have to be living with heart. We have to be having, yes, fun.
But, it’s a different kind of fun than going to Disney World. It’s the kind of fun that comes with concentrating on getting your forehand down, or with finding the right word to complete the sentence. It is the kind of fun that engages you in the pursuit of what is important to you. I walk four miles a day and call it fun. I get up before dawn to take a picture of the sky before sunrise in the Smokies and call it fun. Sometimes fun can look like nothing but work. And, you may not think of it as fun, until you think about it. And then, you realize you can’t remember ever having more fun.
So, if you find yourself being gloomy about yourself and your life, and glum about your prospects, don’t try to think yourself into a better frame of mind by telling yourself you have no reason to feel as you do. Of course, you have a reason to feel as you do. Lack of novelty. Absence of something about which to be enthusiastic. Nothing compelling you to make a complete investment of the self. Not enough fun in your life.
Don’t just sit there! Go do the thing that looks like it has the best chance of being interesting, and see where it leads. Get out of your head and let your heart lead you. Your head can set limits. “No more than ten miles from home.” “No more than $15.00.” Put yourself in your car and see where your heart takes you. What can you do no more than 10 miles from home for less than $15? The adventure alone will lift your mood. And, you have absolutely nothing to lose.