May is a very strange month. Sometimes it gets really warm and you think, “Yay! Time to put away the winter clothes!” But every time I’ve done that, I’ve regretted it, because sure enough, here comes a cold snap. So I think of May as an in-betweeny time, and I try to keep my options open.
There are all sorts of in-betweeny times in life. There’s that uncomfortable stage in your development when you’re not quite a child, but also not quite an adult. Some days you feel more mature than others. (And come to think of it, I still feel that way, only not to such an extreme.)
There are also those times when you take great risks and you feel both courageous and scared silly. That’s how I felt when I drove across the country to start a new life in a place where I’d never been, and where I knew no one. One minute I was thinking, “Dang, this takes guts! I’m proud of me!” and the next minute I was thinking, “Holy cow, what have I done?” I had no idea that adrenaline could pump for 3100 miles and during the first several months of my adjustment to this new life. But it turned out to be the best thing I’ve ever done.
I also experienced kind of a weird in-betweeny time when I started this new job. I mean, I had 14 years of experience as a bridgetender coming in, so being a bridgetender in Seattle came naturally to a certain extent. But there were also new policies and procedures and new nomenclature to get used to. It was like I knew what I was doing, but then I didn’t. That rattled my cage a tiny bit.
Another in-betweeny time for many people is when they find themselves in dysfunctional relationships, and can’t decide whether or not to stay or go. These transitional periods can also be the most dangerous for people in physically abusive relationships, because the abuser can often sense when he or she is losing power, and the violence accelerates. I’m grateful I’ve never experienced that myself. It must be terrifying.
And I hate the in-betweeny time when you suspect that there’s a cold coming on, and yet it hasn’t quite hit yet. You feel kind of bleh, but not so bleh that you have a legitimate reason to don flannel and start complaining. You just have to wait and see. How irritating.
And I’m sure that most of us have experienced the feeling of being on the brink of a major decision. Should I take this new job, or should I stay put? Should I marry this person or stay single? Should I buy a house or continue to rent?
In-betweeny times are when we are the most vulnerable, because we all want to make the right choices, but we will never be sure if we did. To this I say, keep your options open, but end your agony and decide. Because the no man’s land that you find yourself in is not a place that you want to remain for long.
This is probably rather short notice, but have you thought about how you will be entering 2019? Think of it as a crowded room. How you enter it will make a difference as to how the year-long party will go for you.
Will you enter with energy and enthusiasm, or sneak in the back way and hope no one notices you? Both are legitimate ways to get from this year to next, but they’ll probably yield wildly different results. I suppose it depends on what you want to get out of the months to come.
Personally, I’ve never seen the point of getting roaring drunk and entering the year with a head splitting hangover. To me, that seems like starting yourself off thirty yards deep in your own endzone. But hey, we all make choices.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating that you attend a great big New Year’s Party if you don’t want to. I never have. I’m a lot more low key than that. I’d rather not walk into 2019 feeling awkward and uncomfortable. That’s not a precedent I want to set.
No, I’m talking about the party of life in general. Do you have a plan? Do you have goals and intentions? (Forget about resolutions. How many people do you know who have stuck to those?) No, I’m talking about attitude. I’m talking about expectations. I’m talking about seizing the year!
I plan to enter this year with gratitude, joy, and anticipation. I want to have a wide open heart so that all my hopes and dreams can flow freely. I want this year to be one of hope and happiness.
So, Carpe Annum, dear reader! I hope you enter the year with a clear vision. I hope that you take some (measured) risks and have some adventures, and that this year yields everything you wish it will.
It never occurred to me that going to college wasn’t mandatory. My mother had been drumming it into my head since the age of six. You will go to college. College was the next grade after 12th. That was what one did.
I don’t know why, but it shocked me that everyone didn’t feel that way. Many of my high school friends never went for higher education. They had other goals in life. Now I know that there’s nothing wrong with that.
It wasn’t until I met someone with no ambition at all that I realized how important goals truly are. This guy will probably always live in the same city. He’ll always have the same job, and the same struggles. He is so stuck in the past that he never looks toward the future. He works toward nothing. He looks forward to nothing. He never gets excited about anything. He has absolutely no imagination. He doesn’t want anything because he thinks he doesn’t deserve it. He never takes risks because he is too afraid of failure.
He is the most boring human being I’ve ever met. Being in his presence is depressing. I feel sorry for him. But I also have no respect for him.
Ambition is what makes life worth living. Striving for something is why you get out of bed in the morning. And your goals don’t have to be financial. That’s no yardstick to use to measure your life. Accumulation of stuff is meaningless. You goals should be about achieving something, or going somewhere, or creating something, or checking something off your bucket list. Those goals should be unique to you.
I’m not telling you what goals to have. I’m just saying, for heaven’s sake, have some. Otherwise, what’s the point?
As an avid traveler, I’m not unaware of the inherent dangers of going to countries that aren’t your own. Getting caught up in political tensions. Breaking laws or making a cultural faux pas due to your own ignorance. Getting lost. The inability to communicate. Losing one’s passport. Misunderstandings. Being considered vulnerable and therefore getting targeted by criminals. I even knew someone once who got into a car accident in a third world country and wound up getting hepatitis from an unclean blood transfusion. Years later, she died as a result.
Travel is not for sissies. Do your homework. Take precautions.
But until today I didn’t realize that there were also mental health risks. The fear of losing one’s luggage is scary. But actually becoming psychotic? Yikes.
I heard someone mention Paris Syndrome this morning. It intrigued me, so I looked it up in the Font of All Human Knowledge, also known as Wikipedia. Now, be advised that none of the syndromes I mention in this post can be found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. But it fascinates me that they crop up enough to have actual names.
It seems that Paris Syndrome can occur when one visits that fair city and experiences extreme shock when it does not live up to expectations. I do remember that on my first visit, I was disappointed that all the food was not phenomenal, and surprised that most people on the streets were not wearing haute couture. But I got over it.
Not everyone does. Some people experience delusions, hallucinations, dizziness, tachycardia, and perspiration, among other things. It’s like culture shock, writ large. For some reason, it seems to happen to Japanese tourists more than any other group. I have no idea why.
From there, as often happens when surfing Wikipedia, I was led to an article about Jerusalem Syndrome. This one occurs when someone visits Jerusalem and experiences religious delusions. It used to be called “Jerusalem squabble poison”, and it has been occurring since the Middle Ages. Tour guides are trained to look out for it, in the hopes that they can nip it in the bud before the sufferer steals the hotel bed sheets, wraps himself up in them, and then delivers a nonsensical sermon at one of the holy places in the city. Good grief.
And then there’s Stendhal Syndrome. This one happens in Florence, Italy. It’s named after the first known victim, a writer from the early 1800’s. With this syndrome, one is apparently so overcome by the art of Florence, and the presence of the graves of notables such as Machiavelli, Michelangelo, and Galileo, that one experiences ecstasy, dizziness, and disorientation.
For the most part, these syndromes seem to resolve themselves when the tourist leaves the cities in question, but area hospitals are used to admitting patients with these symptoms. It’s enough to make you want to stay home.
Well, no it isn’t. But it certainly makes you think.
The worst mistake I’ve ever made was staying for decades in a situation that made me unhappy. I now look back on those years with sadness and wonder what I could have achieved if I only had the courage to listen to my gut. But no. I played it safe. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I thought that by putting everyone’s needs ahead of my own, I was being a good person. The truth was that I was afraid to take risks. What a massive waste.
In essence I held myself back, and by extension I’m pretty sure I held everyone around me back as well. I thought I was being kind by not rocking their boats, but actually I was being selfish. By not allowing myself to grow, I was stunting the growth of the people I cared about most.
Now that I’ve started leaning toward my growing edge, I’ve discovered that I’ve made a positive impact on a lot of people without even trying. I’ve been told that by doing my thing and living my joy, I’ve influenced others to take chances. I’ve gotten people moving and applying for jobs, and actually taking their talents seriously. I’ve encouraged people out of toxic relationships. I’ve introduced people who would otherwise have never known each other, and that’s sparked some amazing collaborations. I’ve shown people different ways to look at the world. I feel as though I’ve opened some sort of flood gate and the abundance therefrom is washing over more than just me.
Am I taking credit for other people’s lives and choices? No. Of course not. Life is way too complex for that. But I have to say that I’m noticing this existential shift all around me, and I don’t think I’d be seeing it, feeling it, or experiencing it if I had simply stayed put. I had to get into the flow to be a part of it, to increase that flow.
The worst thing you can do is make choices for yourself based on how others might feel or react. Doing so assumes that their present existence is their best existence. That means you are underestimating them. You have no idea how your changes might free them up to make changes of their own.
So don’t stay put. Don’t cling. Don’t become stagnant. Move! Grow! There’s a big old world all around you. Experience it!
Okay, before you get all worked up, let me start by saying I’m not talking about religion here. I’m not touching that third rail. At least not in this particular blog entry.
I’m referring to the fact that the older you get, the more often you can see some people’s lives as slow motion train wrecks. You stand there at the platform watching that train go past, wanting to get it to stop, knowing in the very marrow of your bones that it’s about the jump the tracks, and there’s not a thing you can do about it. It’s a horrible feeling.
You feel it when a young girl marries the guy who has “only” hit her a couple of times. You feel it when someone thinks they can handle heroin, or when they take unnecessary risks with their safety or their money. You hear the chug chug chug of the train at family get togethers when Cousin Bobby has had a little too much to drink and is clearly about to tell Aunt Georgina some home truths that he’s been saving up for her for decades. You whisper, “Don’t do it…” but he does.
It’s a natural instinct to want to save people whom you care about. But it’s also a natural instinct for people to want to live their own lives, and unfortunately that includes making their own mistakes. People are not pawns on your own personal chess board. You have to let them make their own moves, no matter how hard it is to watch.
If someone asks for your advice, feel free to give it. If someone wants you to listen, listen. If someone asks you for help, by all means provide it if you can and if you think it will make a difference. By all means assist in the clean up after the fact. But don’t spend too much time on that platform, bearing witness, or someday you might get hit by the debris.