flotsam

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I was reading The Way of Action this morning, and I came across the following sentence: “There is no greater teacher than daily life: everything can teach us something, and if we are bored with it, or feel frustrated in its grip, the fault is within us and not within the circumstance.”

I loved this passage because it really captures something that I am always trying to move toward in my life . . . As a kid and young adult, I viewed much of my life as filler taking up the time between moments or events that were more exciting or worth experiencing, such as an upcoming vacation, date, party or some other event or highlight. I remember my mom telling me as a kid that I shouldn’t “live for tomorrow.” That was good advice, but it was hard for me to follow. Living in anticipation of future events gave me a way to avoid experiencing the anxiety, grief and insecurity that was part of my daily existence. For example, in high school, I could imagine all week that the party I would attend on Saturday would increase my popularity at school, secure my standing with a particular friend or result in some cute guy falling in love with me. Of course, the reality of these “events” always fell dramatically short of my expectations, leaving me in an emotional rut from which I felt compelled to look for the next big event to rescue me.

Over the years, I have gradually (oh, so gradually) been able to compress the distance between where I am and the horizon to which I am looking for my fulfillment. For a few years now, I have managed to keep my attention on the current day, but I often catch myself waiting for the work day to be over or imagining how nice it will be when the kids are in bed and I can relax. Now I know these aren’t terrible or uncommon things to think, but I have really started to understand the way in which those seemingly innocent thoughts or sensations can really rob me of the opportunity to be creative, to generate ideas or to experience connection and love.

In the Amy Tan TED video I posted a little while back, she describes her creative process as starting with a question about life. She says, “When I have the question, that is the focus. And all these things that seem like flotsam and jetsam in life actually go through that question. . . those particular things become relevant.”

Could those moments that feel like flotsam and jetsam really contain important discoveries and exciting, creative opportunities? In case you you didn’t guess, I think the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

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