Someone once asked me what I eat for fun. She was concerned because I eat a plant-based diet and thus was passing over several of the options at the buffet. I was 25 pounds overweight at the time (nowhere near my top weight), experiencing a lot of negative physical ramifications, and determined to get back to normal as fast as possible. Eating for fun was what got me into this mess, and I knew it!
Being 25 pounds overweight qualifies as thin now. Not just normal, average, fine, or unremarkable, but thin. (I was once described as “willowy” at this size, unless it was a typo and she meant “pillowy”…). People will say, “You don’t need to lose any weight.” They will try to talk you out of it. I’ve been told to “be careful.” (That one seems to be specific to women, as though men who want to lose weight will already know to wear a hard hat, ear protection, safety glasses, and a back safety belt). I was once asked, “Are you anorexic?” because I turned down a slice of office birthday cake. I said, “Do I look anorexic to you?” I was in my largest clothing size at the time and would see black spots when I walked upstairs. But a woman who isn’t using her cake hole for eating cake clearly has some kind of diagnosable mental illness. It’s like… walking past a shoe sale!
Recreational eating is a funny concept. I have a friend who used blown-up photos of See’s candies as weight loss motivation. We often talk about treating and rewarding ourselves for our accomplishments and hard work, and more often than not, those treats and rewards are… food. Special dinners. Drinks. Coffee. Desserts. We talk about “cheat day,” as though eating a bunch of junk is like having a GameGenie and we’re just gonna skip a few levels. (Who are we cheating?) (Should it really be called “eat day”?) Our holidays and celebrations revolve around ritual food items.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Eat to live, and not live to eat.” I do and don’t agree. I’ve always felt that if we need to eat meals every day in order to survive, we may as well enjoy them. It’s an opportunity to pause and feel pleasure and gratitude multiple times a day. What are we supposed to do, begrudgingly choke down flavorless kibble and rush back to our desks? Order a lifetime supply of Soylent? While the young Franklin cut back on food so he could buy more books, he seems to have become pretty well-upholstered in his more prosperous later years. Books versus food is a false dilemma for most of us.
“Eat to live” versus “live to eat” is also a false dilemma. We can set rational limits and still eat all our favorite foods – just not in the same quantity and not at the same frequency. We can treat and reward ourselves in other ways; thinking of a ‘cookie’ as a ‘treat’ makes me think of my dog rolling over, sitting up, begging, and dancing on his hind legs for a biscuit. If the answer to a happy life was hidden under a smear of frosting, believe me, I would have found it by now. The idea that tasting a piece of chocolate or a French fry is the pinnacle of life experience is… well, it’s the saddest thing I can imagine. “What do you do for fun?” is a much more interesting question that should have much more interesting answers.
A parrot I used to know had a pretty extensive vocabulary. One of the things he would say was, “Well GOOD FOR YOU!” followed by raucous laughter. He would fan out his tail and his eyes would flash yellow and orange and he would look very jolly indeed. It is a truism of the parrot world that five things come not back: The spoken word, the sped arrow, the past life, the neglected opportunity, and anything your bird thinks would be funny to repeat, even if she only hears it once, such as the smoke detector. Most people’s birds would waddle around muttering things like “Eat a bag of die in a fire.” Fortunately, the Good For You Parrot heard a constant stream of positivity, enthusiasm, and encouragement. (I realize he is starting to sound like a mythical beast here; surely he was being sarcastic?)
My own bird finds it amusing to feed our dog. They will make eye contact from across the room and he will suddenly jump up and run to her, frantically wagging his tail. She trained him, as a 10-week-old puppy, that she would drop choice tidbits for him. Now all she has to do is squint her eyelid a little and he’s her willing slave. Several times she has illicitly dipped her sneaky beaky into a bag of nuts, where she always tosses him a couple of walnuts before choosing an almond for herself. She seems confident that there will always be plenty for her and enough to share. Maybe it’s noblesse oblige. Maybe it’s her way of paying protection. Maybe she’s just sloppy. Either way, he might as well enjoy the fringe benefits of their association.
Sometimes it can be hard to allow ourselves to enjoy the same things we would wish for other people. We don’t feel entitled. We want our friends and family to be happy and fulfilled. We choose or make gifts we know will be perfect for them. We remember their likes and dislikes and we cook them their favorite foods. We carry them in our hearts and we’re devastated whenever anything in their world goes wrong. But we hold ourselves to a different standard. We don’t feel like we deserve these things for ourselves.
The truth is that other people have a vested interest in your happiness. Your smiles are contagious. You have a great laugh. You’re probably a great hugger. Nobody is served by your down feelings. If you feel ashamed or guilty or lonely or awkward or unworthy, it does nothing to boost anyone else. Someone out there may want to dote on you, and it’s then your job to receive that feeling.
Maybe everyone you’ve ever known has been a naysayer or a source of pain in your life. It does happen. Even the most selfish, cold relatives may still feel proud when you do well. Don’t hold yourself back just to spite them or prove a point. The worse your start, the more inspirational it is when you do well. Your happiness can be a beacon to others who have it worse than you did.
People who love you want you to flourish. People who like you are glad when you do well. People who don’t know you may have their days transformed when you walk by, just seeing the light in your eyes. People who wish you ill? Don’t worry about them. Maybe they’ve never felt that anyone approved of them or regarded them as a kindred spirit. They, too, will benefit from an increase in net happiness in the world. If you don’t feel entitled to be happy on your own account, try a little taste-test and see what your happiness does for others.
I love potlucks. Well, I do and don’t love potlucks. I don’t love the part where most of the dishes are irrelevant to my interests. I do love the part where I set down my contribution and it’s sometimes gone before I can turn around and cut a slice for myself. I’m good at choosing crowd-pleasing recipes. I always bring an entrée because I know there will be so many sides and desserts. My cooking used to be nefariously bad, but now I can make anything I want. I know what I’m bringing to the table and I’m proud of it.
That was an allegory. This post is really about relationships.
My husband and I were both divorced when we met. We each have a bitter ex-spouse who would probably tell you all about how horrible we are and why we both deserve to die alone. We’ve also both been single and lonely. Part of what we like about each other is that we’ve accumulated the experience to form our own philosophies about love and dating. Also, staying together means we’ll never have to go on a blind date ever again!
When we met, I was sleeping on an air mattress in a rented room. My credit cards were maxed out and I would sometimes eat a can of green beans for dinner and then go to bed early. I was at my heaviest and so unfit that I would see black spots when I climbed a flight of stairs. I was “still the same person” – but looking back, it doesn’t surprise me that I was single. There were a lot of logistical reasons why I would not be a great pick. I would definitely have been a case of dating someone’s potential. I felt I deserved to have someone believe in me; the trick was convincing anyone else of that. What I was metaphorically bringing to the table at that time was… an empty can of green beans.
My first husband met me as an average-sized girl with long hair. When he asked for a divorce after three years of marriage, I was a chronically ill, overweight, unemployed person with short hair. It was, to put it mildly, extremely inconvenient timing for me, that he would leave just when I needed someone the most. Looking back, I could see how someone would regard our marriage as a bait-and-switch. The person he wound up with was not the person he thought he was marrying. We didn’t make any vows about sickness or health. I quit bringing many of the things I had brought to the table before.
Fast forward a bit. With the benefit of hindsight, I am grateful for the lessons of that experience. I came away with a long list of things I did not want in a relationship, and the glimmerings of a list of things I did want. I wanted someone who liked me and thought I was funny. I wanted someone who was willing to meet me halfway and try out the things I liked. I wanted a companion. I came to believe that the personal characteristics of such a man (appearance, profession, hobbies) did not matter, as long as we felt comfortable together, enjoyed talking to each other, and preferred being together to being alone.
What did I have to offer? I had an emotional commitment to monogamy. I had resolved the question of kids (can’t have them). I took accountability for my personal circumstances. I was solution-oriented and well organized and frugal and I knew how to keep house. I didn’t need a man; I just wanted to have one around. I wanted to dote on someone, to have someone to spoil and maybe hero-worship a little. If I found someone and we were a good fit, I knew I would give my 100% and always do my best to give him a happier life. I like male energy and I can make space for privacy and a “man cave.” I resolved that whomever I chose, he should be able to enjoy any interests that didn’t happen to overlap with mine, to hang out with his friends without me, and to have time to himself when he wanted. After all, these were benefits I wanted for myself. I wanted someone who would be eager to spend time with me and be fully present when he did, and I knew I needed to offer freedom first.
I got my wish. We’re coming up on nine years together. I got the friend and companion I wanted, someone to spoil and hero-worship, which, if I told you all the awesome things about him, would make you say, “Wow, you’re totally right. He is like an epic hero and stuff.” He carries me around on a little tasseled cushion and feeds me bonbons. Part of the reason for this is that I made a secret commitment to improve something every year, so he was slightly gladder about marrying me with every passing year. When we got married, I had no consumer debt, which I’ve maintained. Since then, I’ve learned to cook and become athletically fit. What will it be next year? Shh, that’s for me to know and him to find out. I’m always conscious of what I bring to the table, and making it a bit better all the time.
Sometimes when I write I surprise myself. “How can I tell what I think till I see what I say?” The other day I was writing about “Hidden Goals” – a topic that popped into my head fully formed – and I found myself typing about the goal to “Never Pass Up an Opportunity to Eat Sugar.” This is to be filed under the category of NOTE TO SELF.
Later, my husband read the post and shared it. We talked about it for a while, and he said he thought most people have hidden goals and aren’t aware of them. Simply talking about the avoidance of physical, social, emotional, financial, and intellectual risks may be too broad and abstract. I started to wonder what other hidden goals there might be, and figured I’d just get started and see what came out of my keyboard today.
First, the original list:
· Avoid publishing to avoid one-star reviews
· Keep all the awesome stuff and keep adding more
· Never pass up an opportunity to eat sugar
· Buy everything I want
· Avoid “depriving myself”
· Fear of Missing Out
· Avoid leaving the house/stay in bedroom or living room as much as possible
· Avoid meeting people
· Avoid company of frenemies
· Avoid confirming suspicion of new medical condition
· Avoid uncertainty about sketchy leftovers by just waiting until they grow spores
· Continue to indulge in behavior even when it is contrary to my best interests
· Get coworkers to leave me alone
· Avoid confrontation
· Prove someone wrong
· Sit in the corner and lick my wounds
· Get sympathy
· Be excused from demands of daily life
· Preserve block of uninterrupted High Quality Leisure Time, even at cost of adequate sleep
· Stay in dead relationship to avoid emotional risk of looking for a new one
· Preserve illusion of perpetual youth
· Look smart
· Try to get everyone to like me
· Conform to stereotypes
· Deny knowledge of mortality
· Prove I’m right and you’re wrong
· Control others
· See if I can actually grow roots that attach me to the couch or computer chair
· Drink all the booze
· Eat all the food
· Manipulate neurochemistry
· Demonstrate autonomy – “You’re not the boss of me!”
· Replace people with furry friends
· Live in a fantasy world
· Dissociate mind from physical/emotional self
· Pretend body does not exist from neck down
· Avoid bodily functions
· Defend self against knowledge of life metrics (bank balance, credit score, blood sugar, etc)
· “Give in to feel good” – temporary mood repair via procrastination
· Look cool
· Keep lid on volcanic personal power that may erupt and change everything
There are other reasons why we don’t do the things we truly want to do. Why, when we have passionate goals, do we let the years go by and not carry them out? Why wouldn’t we just gallop directly toward those dreams? Hidden goals are one reason, but simple lack of knowledge is another. We don’t know the next steps to take. We don’t know the right search terms to put into Google. We don’t know whom to call. We don’t have any friends who have done it whom we could ask for advice. We may not be aware of anything other than a vague, niggling desire to make a change – but to what? Those are topics for another day. Nothing else can hold us back quite as much as self-sabotage.
Building and living in a tiny house has been a fantasy of mine since the day I first saw a picture of one, maybe a decade ago. I read an article about Dee Williams and her tiny house back in 2008 and wanted to know more. This 2014 book has all the details one could crave.
Williams talks about the genesis of her fantasy, about the planning and the materials and the tools and the logistics of building and hauling a tiny house. This should be exciting for anyone, but especially single women who aren’t necessarily fully confident of their tool-wielding skills. It’s like your fantasy is a photograph and this book is the blueprint.
One of the themes of the book is the balance between independence and intimacy, as Williams manages a scary heart condition that she tries to minimize or hide from others. Anyone who has battled a chronic illness will be impressed that a feat like building one’s own home was still in reach for someone else who has had a near-death experience.
The Big Tiny is funny and sad and moving. It’s full of raunchy humor, mixed in with a bit of philosophy. I really enjoyed it and I will be curious to see if the author writes another.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do over the next three years. That seems to be about the maximum time span for realistic long-term planning, whether in business or in personal life. I have no idea where I’ll be living in five years or what my most consuming passion will be that year. Several options keep cropping up: traveling the world, going to grad school, building a tiny house, or operating a parrot behavioral rehabilitation center. Note that in the short term, these goals are more or less mutually exclusive. What you may not have realized, but fortunately I have, is that they all obscure a hidden goal.
The hidden goal in my life right now is to avoid publishing my first novel. This is what Stephen Pressman calls “The Resistance.” I know full well that I’m petrified of reading negative reviews of my book. Part of me evidently believes that it’s better to never do anything than to expose oneself to criticism. As though doing nothing will somehow stop anyone from criticizing you! My heraldic bird is the chicken, and it has a yellow belly.
Hidden goals are everywhere. We want to get organized, but there’s that hidden goal of “Keep All the Awesome Stuff and Keep Adding More.” We want to lose weight, but there’s that hidden goal of “Never Pass Up an Opportunity to Eat Sugar.” We want to save money, but there’s that hidden goal of “Buy Everything I Want.” If there’s one thing we can’t stand, it’s “Depriving Myself.” We frame everything we want to do in terms of “giving up” something in our current comfort zone, rather than how much we’ll gain from accomplishing the new thing.
Most things that are scary are worth doing because they are scary. I’ll watch a slasher film, jump over open flame, or go to a haunted house – but I won’t publish my book because I’m afraid of what some troll will say in the inevitable one-star review. (I mean, if War and Peace and Pride and Prejudice have their share of one-star reviews…). I’ll fly to a foreign country and live in a tent for three weeks, but I won’t do a language exchange because I’m scared to do video chat with a stranger. I’m not afraid of spiders or snakes or public speaking, but I am afraid of social risks.
The 99u book Maximize Your Potential categorizes five types of risk: Physical, social, emotional, financial, and intellectual. I will launch myself full-speed toward an intellectual risk. My tolerance of physical risk is fairly high on solid ground but very poor in water, air, or at high speeds. I’ll go to emotionally risky places without too much trouble. My tolerance of financial risk is an F-. Social risk? If it’s people I’ll never see again, I’ll do whatever I want, but if I seek to impress, I’m shaking in my shoes. Knowing my risk tolerance profile helps me recognize when my yellow-bellied chicken is flying high. When protecting my anxiety is my hidden goal, it’s a goal I don’t want to meet.
Seriously. It’s the most clichéd question ever, besides “what would you do if you only had 24 hours to live?” The reason something like this becomes a cliché is because it is extremely important and has universal relevance, like “drink plenty of fluids” and “brush every tooth you want to keep.” What would you do if you had a million dollars? Tell me. I demand you.
I spent some intense mental energy on the question of how being a millionaire would make my life different. The reason is that I believe most of the things I would do as a millionaire are things I am perfectly capable of doing right now. Also, a million dollars isn’t all that much money anymore! I could be a millionaire in pesos in a relatively short amount of time. It’s all about context.
I have something that many celebrities would pay anything to get, and it’s not for sale. I have TOTAL ANONYMITY. I am one. obscure. person. I can go anywhere and do anything and paparazzi will not care. I can check into a hotel using my real name! I can walk around any city in the world without a hat or sunglasses! I can make friends with people and know (oh, how I know) that they aren’t trying to use me for money! As an ordinary person, I have real freedom. So, the first thing I figured out about being wealthy is that I would want either wealth without fame, or the kind of fame that does not include facial recognition. It’s a relaxing thing to know.
My picture of wealth involved lounging next to an infinity pool with a view of the ocean. It turns out you don’t have to have a million dollars to do that. What the image really symbolized to me was serenity, peace of mind, leisure, and a fit body. Guess what? None of those things cost money. I went out and developed the fit body. Now, if anyone ever invites me over to play in an infinity pool, I’ll come over and look rad in my bikini and they can post their awesome pool party on Instagram. The best part is that now that I have the physical fitness, I’d choose it over a million bucks any day.
I don’t have to choose, though. That’s the secret behind abundance mentality. There are no costs to being fit other than the occasional delayed onset muscle soreness, and the spiteful glares of people who don’t know I beat thyroid disease and am thus fully entitled to revel in being healthy. The only way haters will let you get away with enjoying something is if you can prove you suffered first. If I ever get ahold of a million dollars, it will be okay, because I have my poverty credentials all in order.
The other image I had of being a millionaire was of having a deep, scintillating conversation with some fascinating person or other. In formal clothing. That second part can get high-maintenance. It turns out, though, that through the power of the Internet, I can reach out to virtually anyone and try to strike up a conversation. If I hold my end up, I can correspond with any fascinating person I choose. That’s also free of charge.
If I had a million dollars, I like to think that I’d feel pretty upbeat. I would have choices. I would live a virtually seamless life where everyone was gracious and respectful and interesting. I could take my time eating breakfast and I could be surrounded by flowers and hummingbirds. Amazingly, that is an atmosphere I can create on any budget, at least in my climate.
I have a bachelor’s degree in history. The best thing about the study of history is that it produces happy people. Historians tend to be excited about everything, (unlike, say, people with English degrees, who choose to study the one thing they loved the most and then learn to analyze it until they can’t truly enjoy it anymore). What I know from the historical record is that any emperor who ever lived would raise an army to try to get ordinary luxuries I take for granted. Indoor plumbing! Central heating! Public libraries! The Internet! My spice rack! Ice cubes! My pillow alone is probably better than anything Charlemagne ever had. My iPhone – fuggedaboutit. On a historical continuum, what I have now is better a million dollars.
If there has ever been a sentimental object that is hard to let go, the wedding dress is a serious contender. (Funeral urns are probably in first place). The odd thing about wedding dresses is that we tend to keep them even if the marriage was a total failure. Let’s think about the logic of this for a minute. We spend more on one garment than we’ve ever spent on another piece of clothes, for something we’ll wear once, and then dedicate storage space to it while struggling to make room for our work wardrobe, even if the very thought of the groom that went with it makes us shudder. Weird, isn’t it?
My husband wore his suit to our wedding. He still has it. He wore it to a business conference a couple of weeks ago. In fact I think he may have worn the same shirt and tie as well. Think how odd it would be for a woman to wear her wedding gown to a work gig!
I wore my grandmother’s dress to my first wedding. I was the only granddaughter, and Nana and I were the same height. If I hadn’t gotten divorce cooties all over it, I could probably have pulled it on this morning and worn it. What actually happened was that I had to have five inches added in the waist, because I used to be fat. The dress was a 1939 satin stunner with a beaded collar and a train. It cost $19.99 off the rack. My grandparents were married over 50 years. It was a legacy dress and now I can’t bear the sight of it. It may be in a closet somewhere, and maybe one of my cousins’ daughters could wear it, but maybe she would feel the same way I do: divorce cooties! Ugh!
My second wedding was a bit more pragmatic. I went to Ross and bought a white dress for $36. I still have it and we’ll be at six years this summer. I’ve lost over 20 pounds since then. I haven’t tried the dress on, but it was a bit too long at the wedding and I’m sure it will be “longer” now. The reason I saved it was that I thought it would be romantic to wear at our 25th wedding anniversary, or perhaps our 40th. (Not sure we’ll make it to 50, but we’ll certainly do our best). I’ve started to question how flattering this too-big, too-long, low-cut dress might be on my elderly self, and I think I’m ready to let it go. I ran it by my husband.
Me: “I’m thinking about selling my wedding dress.”
Him: “I didn’t realize you still had it.”
Me: “I wanted to run it by you in case you wondered what I was doing and took it as some kind of sign.”
Him: “If you wore it at our anniversary, it would probably have taken me a few minutes to recognize it.”
Me: “Yeah, like whenever they play the song from our first dance!”
Weddings are something most men accept as a ceremonial tradition to get out of the way so they can get on with being married. “Just tell me what to wear and where to stand.” A wedding is basically a big photo op. If I had ours to do over again, I’m 70/30 in favor of eloping to Vegas, and I don’t think anyone in either of our families would have had a real issue with that.
The real sentimental, romantic object for me is my ring. It’s an unambiguous, plain gold band from an ethical jeweler. It’s never left my hand. This ring has been on my finger through every minute of our marriage, everywhere we have traveled, and everything we’ve done together as life mates. It’s a very potent symbol. It’s also… pretty practical. I’ve worn it running a marathon, climbing a mountain, fording streams, pounding tent stakes, climbing up and down ropes, crawling under barbed wire, jumping over open flames, and standing waist-deep in mud, not to mention while folding laundry, scouring pots, and clipping the dog’s nails. Anyone who wants to do all that stuff in a poofy white dress: video or it didn’t happen.
I believe in marriage. I believe in romance. I believe in love, not just heteronormative love, but love, end of story. What I don’t believe in is going into debt for a ceremonial garment, keeping a symbol of a dead relationship, or hanging onto an heirloom that could cause quarrels among the potential heirs. My wedding was not the happiest day of my marriage – just the first day – and maybe letting go of my dress could bring a little luck to a new bride.
One of the few guarantees in this world is that I will crack up laughing whenever someone sings the song “Turkey in the Straw.” It’s been this way ever since third grade, when we had an assembly of traditional American folk songs, where I heard it for the first time. Another song I learned at that assembly was the old favorite, “There’s a Hole in the Bucket.” My memory may be dim but I’m pretty certain this is our national anthem.
This guy named Henry has a hole in his bucket and he wants to tell his friend Liza all about it. She helpfully explains how to fix the hole. Each time she makes a suggestion, he counters with a reason why it won’t work for him. After a few rounds, it transpires that there’s a hole in the bucket because there’s a hole in the bucket. The most interesting thing about this song is that there is a version of it documented at 1700 CE; it may be older than that. It may in fact be the topic of the Voynich Manuscript.
There are two perspectives on Holes in Buckets. One, Henry just wants someone, ANYONE, to say, “Bummer, dude. I am sorry you had to go through that.” He’ll wander the earth with his poor cracked bucket, searching for someone to fill it with empathy and kindness and warm gazes and superior listening skills. Two, if Henry would just get on with fixing the bucket, he and Liza could spend the rest of the day picking blueberries, having a picnic, and napping in the shade. At the end of the transaction, he feels misunderstood, she’s exasperated, there’s still a hole in the bucket, the blueberries wither on the vine, and everyone loses.
I have a hole in my bucket at this time. You see, I ran a marathon. I over-trained and developed tendinitis of the anterior tibialis. [cue audience cooing, “Awwwww…”] I went to physical therapy and diligently iced and took anti-inflammatories and did all the rubber band exercises and all the things. It’s been seven months now, and it’s better, but it still gets sore and tired if I walk more than three miles. The other thing that transpired is that I went from very active to very sedentary as I tried to rest my foot. In that time, my old chronic neck and shoulder tension came back, and I have a pinched nerve that causes a lot of pain in my forearm. I’m basically turning into Gollum over here. Can’t run, can’t walk far enough to suit my high-strung temperament, can’t ride my bike, can’t lift weights due to the pinched nerve, can’t do many of the poses in T25 or Bikram. Basically everything I want to do makes me hurt somewhere. SO MANY HOLES FOR JUST ONE BUCKET!
If I had a helpful friend like Liza, I’m sure she would be pretty tired of listening to me by now, but she wouldn’t give up. “What about surgery?” “I doubt that’s necessary.” “What about painkillers?” “Great idea; then I can add ‘pill problem’ to the list.” “I’m done with you, quit texting me now.” Fortunately, I am a possibility thinker and a solution-oriented person. Complaining is for amateurs. I don’t want to wallow in my problems; I want to make them go away. If I can’t do X, Y, or Z, what can I do?
My credo is always to Do the Obvious. The Obvious in this case is yoga. I observed in physical therapy that most of the lab-tested, medically-approved exercises are virtually indistinguishable from traditional yoga postures. I conferred with my PT at the end of treatment, and we determined that my lingering pain at this point had more to do with my tight calves and hips than anything going on in my foot or ankle. I already know this is true of my neck/shoulder/forearm because it’s a chronic problem I’ve fought for over 20 years, related to excessive typing and heavy backpacks.
One of the hidden gifts of chronic pain is that it draws focus inward and amplifies physical signals. The first thing you do when you wake up every morning is review from toe to head: “Where does it hurt today?” While this tends to lead to magnification of sensations that other people routinely write off or ignore, the advantage is that we tend to be more conservative and attentive when we indulge in new activities such as yoga. People have hurt themselves quite badly trying unfamiliar poses or pushing too hard, out of stubbornness or a desire to impress. We, the delicate flowers, generally avoid these problems. We’re here to fix the bucket, not to kick it!
I was so excited by Chris Guillebeau’s book The Happiness of Pursuit, which I reviewed two weeks ago, that I immediately got his earlier book, The Art of Non-Conformity. In some ways, I found it even more interesting. I also think there are at least four* more fascinating books somewhere inside the author that deserve to be written, any one of which could stand alone and make his reputation as a thought leader, if he hadn’t built that reputation already.
I think I may have seen The Art of Non-Conformity at some point and shrugged it off as a book I didn’t need to read, because I could probably write it myself. Past Self, you imbecile, what were you thinking?
Guillebeau spends single chapters addressing topics that others have made the centerpiece of their careers. He uses the term ‘convergence’ for pulling all the threads of life together and making them balance. Personal finance (Your Money or Your Life fans, he got to Chapter 9 a few decades early); ‘radical exclusion’ (for the minimalist/de-cluttering crowd); location-independent work (4-Hour Workweek fans); adventure travel; epic-level volunteerism… He basically presents all the radical things he did in just a few years, demonstrates how it can be done by anyone who wants it enough, and then waves it off at the end by saying he doesn’t want to get caught up replaying his glory days and that he’s still planning more cool stuff. Meanwhile, the rest of us are still staring at our staplers and tape dispensers and boggling at the idea that maybe we don’t have to spend another 30 years in a cubicle… ?
Okay, I’m excited. Guillebeau’s books are nice and short and you can blast right through them, and I hope you do. How many quests will burst into being due to his inspiration?
* One on how he hacked his education, one on traveling to 197 countries, one on his four years doing charity work in Africa, and another on the genesis of the World Domination Summit. That would maybe just about get him caught up.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
This website uses marketing and tracking technologies. Opting out of this will opt you out of all cookies, except for those needed to run the website. Note that some products may not work as well without tracking cookies.Opt Out of Cookies