So your boss is nagging you for that overdue report and you know when you get home you have that worsening plumbing leak to repair. The kids are at that awkward stage (and have they ever not been?) and the spousal unit (or non-spousal equivalent thereof) gives you the dagger-eye for not being attentive enough.
The cause you most cherish in all the world is making so many demands on you that you start to wonder how you ever came to love it that much. Meanwhile, you never know what the NSA, the TSA, the ATF, or the IRS might spring on you tomorrow. But whatever it is or isn’t, you fear it. You tell yourself you don’t, or you shouldn’t. But somewhere in that one, obscure private corner of your soul that ought to belong to you alone, you fear it.
Unlike most of you hereabouts who don’t make New Year’s resolutions if the comments are representative, I do make them. Ellendra was about the only commentor on the same bandwagon. (Hi, Ellendra!)
Like everybody else who tries, I also fail at them. But I’ve found they keep me pointed in the right direction. In time, resolutions … resolve. It might be in a different way than you imagined or at a much later time than you hoped. But … you get there.
This year, though, I found myself down to the true stubborncusses of resolution-making. Those ones I’ve made year after year to no avail. The ones where I’ve gone so far as to post behavior schedules above my desk or slap Post-It notes on the bathroom mirror, only to find myself ignoring them as thoroughly as if they were written in Cantonese.
Take several days a week off from the computer …
Don’t spend money on X days …
Don’t ever plunk at the computer solely for the sake of plunking at the computer or shutting out the world …
Put more time and thought into what you eat …
All amounting to don’t fritter, don’t rush, don’t avoid, don’t be addicted.
For the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to draft these same old resolutions in a way that would finally make me heed them. A futile effort.
Then when I was walking the dogs in the woods yesterday the words came to me: “Live deliberately.”
My shoulders relaxed (I didn’t know they’d been tense). My stride slowed and lengthened. Breath deepened. My deadline-spinning brain let go of the noise — and a few hours later, the writing was a breeze.
At the moment the words drifted down on me, I didn’t recall where they came from. Something Buddhist, I supposed. It took me a while to remember what you probably got instantly: Thoreau. Walden.
I confess to never reading Walden. All that (ugh) nature. But even without that association the words “live deliberately” carry their own meaning and magic.
Yeah, yeah. I know that word’s so precious and touchy-feely you’d almost expect it to be embroidered on Pajama Boy’s onesie bottom. But really it’s a great word despite the unsavory associations.
“Live deliberately.” Live deliberately and of course you won’t spend your life checking Wikipedia trivia six times a day. Of course you’ll attend to your health and nutrition because you’ll be living consciously inside your own body. Because food will become interesting in itself and not merely something to shove down the gullet while driving from one appointment to another. Of course you’ll follow your dream (even if all you can do right now is put aside a little money or buy a few books or tools). Of course you’ll gradually put everything in better perspective … because perspective will be the driver of your days.
I found that merely thinking the words “live deliberately” put me inside a calm center, gave me a sense of directing my own life, and helped me look behind and beyond all my specific, piecemeal goals.
Is it hard to live deliberately? Yikes, you know it! It was hard back in Thoreau’s day or he wouldn’t have had to go traipsing off to the pond. How much harder in the era of smartphones, freeway commutes, Twitter, downsizing, and newsblather 24 hours a day? Not to mention government sneak attacks on our liberty that come faster than any “deadly black assault weapon” can shoot.
But the great thing about that phrase “live deliberately” is that it pulls everything together. It can help pull us, ourselves together. Maybe not keep us together 100 percent of the time. But that’s okay, too, because it gives us a quiet center to come back to.
I’m saying us and we and you — when (as so many times before) I’m preaching the good word to myself. “You teach what you need to learn.” I confess; it’s true. If us and we and you also enjoy and benefit of this little insight, then I’m glad. I’m doing that part of my job.
Living deliberately is a very freedomista concept. It declares that we’re the owners of our own thoughts, choices, and actions. It’s a very Outlaw thing to do because … well, if thinking for yourself is something control freaks militate against from the time you’re in kindergarten, then acting for yourself in such a centered, personal way is the nightmare every politician, bureaucrat, cop, snoop, moral nanny, scammy church leader, and otherwise-complacent elitist must dread.
Beyond the distractions of piecemeal thinking, piecemeal planning, piecemeal news, piecemeal decision-making, piecemeal political battles, piecemeal living, living deliberately can be a unifier, the defining factor behind which every large choice (and many little ones) can naturally fall.
Can you do it all day, every day? Can I? Gimme a break! But in two words, it encompasses a world of worthy goals and actions.