The measure of a human is not in her wealth, or success, or any of those worldly attainments to which we so happily ascribe great value in the popular realm, but in her simplicity. So much can be accomplished by the reduction of focus on unimportant things, the removal of distractions, and reverence for the smaller and more ephemeral stuff. This, this is how we shine.
This is my wish for all of you as the new calendar year begins. May you find goodness and contentment all around you, and may you in turn share and propagate it everywhere you go in 2014. Peace and abundant happiness, my friends.I rarely have an actual Plan for the upcoming year, but this time around I do want to move toward a few specific things. First and foremost, I want to be more deliberate about finding ways and excuses to be an even happier person, and to leverage that happiness to spread it as far and wide as I can to other people. Call it intentional optimism, call it doing random acts of kindness, call it whatever you want, but I think it’s more likely to be good for the overall tone of the year than not, and that alone is worthwhile.In addition, I intend to start making money this year again, however little it may be. I have no delusions of getting rich, but would love to put my own tiny dent in our family expenses, savings, and/or retirement. It’s been a long time since I got any actual dollars for anything other than a present, and I know that, however unlikely a choice I may be on paper for anyone who’s hiring, I will find a way. Or two. It may not be a regular job, or it might be a conglomeration of tasks and sources. I’ll keep you posted, friends, but if anyone happens to have any brilliant insights before I do, chime in; I’m listening! Meanwhile, I’m happy to keep working on increasing the happiness quotient however I’m able. That’s Job #1.
Did I worry you for a second? Never fear, friends; I’m not going to be a big old humbug, let alone a grand tragedian, here. It’s just that, living where I live, I’m always in the shadow of some circling or perching vulture sussing out his or her next all-you-can-eat buffet. I’m pretty sure that I too would look fairly delish if I just had the kindness to croak somewhere out in the open within a vulture’s purview, yet they don’t turn up their beaks in disdain at smaller game. So I can get a regular reminder of my mortality just by looking over in the tall grass next to the road, where there is often a vulture or two munching on someone else’s gnarly remains, any time I need said reminder.
I am, as you’ve seen if you’ve spent any time around this blog, of the school that still has an appreciation for a good memento mori as a reminder of the fine and great and joyful things that being Not Dead can have to offer. It’s just about time for the biggest holidays of the year in many cultures, and as workers in the life-supporting jobs that include medicine and law enforcement and social services will tell you, depression, health crises (both physical and mental), family violence, crime and all sorts of other terrible social ills tend to peak. Unreasonable schedules and outsized expectations of delirious happiness around holidays and other celebrations are practically doomed to failure, and even those who are fairly realistic about their expectations may have actually built in a sort of assumption of disaster that only adds to their stress.
Letting go of a lot of this overwhelming and impractical perfectionism and most of the silly entitled assumptions that the world owes me satisfaction and pleasure has greatly simplified my life. It has certainly lightened the load of worry and wishing. And every time I walk under the perch of a local vulture and look up at it as a fellow living creature, I am thrilled to pieces that I have the greatest way of all to celebrate whatever holidays and special occasions I want to enjoy: alive. Not particularly wanting, not overburdened with Stuff and needs and promises I can’t keep, and simply, happily Alive. Just having one of those massive birds circle over my head without interest in me as an entree reminds me that death is close at hand, since the avian beast is clearly keeping a keen eye on something nearby that is already deliciously deceased, yet also says that I am not quite yet on that side of the equation and can go on to enjoy my holidays. Kind of makes every day seem more worth the celebrating.
Behold the moth: he waxeth wroth, and sure has cause if any hath:
A life so short and labor-filled that many lesser moths hath killed;
Yet all’s not tragic, dire, dark things, for, briefly as he hath his wings,
He waxeth too his Silver Wraith; it shineth like a ghost, i’faith.
As caterpillars of his ilk produce the finest bolts of silk,
Yea, marvel at such industry, and bitter butterflies ne’er see,
For, selling such rich bolts of cloth, they’ve little cause for waxing wroth.Yes, I do know that my photo here is of a butterfly and not a moth. Just as I’m sure you know that this poem is not a scientific treatise on the relationship between entomology and high-end automotive art. Anybody coming to this blog in search of hard data on virtually anything is clearly lacking in logic anyway, so welcome, all! And may none of you fall into the clutches of any lepidoptera with anger management issues or delusions of being silkworms, either one. Also, if you happen to be the computer programmer who designed my auto-correct function, to my knowledge a TelePrompter is in no way related to or a straight-across substitution for a lepidopteran in either linguistic or physical form, though it might amuse you greatly to experiment with such things. I do give thanks for the laugh.
That old saying has transcended life-directional, generational and international boundaries so widely and deeply that it’s practically accepted as the absolute Truth. Don’t get me wrong, for many it is indeed an operational reality. But as someone who not only loves to sleep in but craves, nay, needs large quantities of sleep regularly if not constantly, well, I have come to accept my own version of this truth, or one I think is a more completely accurate version.
Yes, the early bird gets that proverbial worm more often than not.
But every birdie that gets out there, raring to go, in the earlier hours of any given day is not inherently smarter or a better hunter or more wonderful than the one still tucked neatly into the nest, storing up strength for her own burst of action, no matter what either’s pace or style or M.O. happens to be. For one little thing, the Law of Unintended Consequences can indeed be a nasty spank on the flank to anyone not paying proper attention, but in other senses, it can also lend a lovely surprise ending, a positive twist unforeseen: the worm that the aforementioned early bird unceremoniously cheated out of another day’s orchard-munching left an untouched, pristine apple hanging there. This glorious apple would otherwise have been unavailable to Miss Sleepy-Cheepy, who has finally arisen, seen the sweet orb of the fruit eclipsing a late-morning sun and surrounded by its celestial aura with a sense of angel choirs bursting into cinematic soundtrack song, and eaten her fill of juicy, energy-producing (and doctor-evading, if we are to believe all old sayings while we’re in this groove) goodness. Hopefully, thanking in her heart her early rising cousin for rescuing a tidbit that she secretly prefers to eating boring old worms anyway.
This, of course, is one microscopic scenario in the universe of possibilities. Many of those alternate realities are terrible, many grand, and many, just as on the millions of days before them, unremarkable. Except as they are experienced by us quirky, crazy, individual beings. We have our own filters and will always know life’s ups and downs through those; even though our filters must change as we change-or-die in life, we will never cease to experience a filtered life as long as we do live. We find our own realities. We shape them and understand them as best we can, and we let our own compulsions and desires and beliefs keep pulling us into the new world of tomorrow, whether we get up at the blink of its dawn or lie somnolent well into the middle of the day.
I am no bird. But I can fly, too, despite my urge to sleep a very long time while nestled in my safe places, and despite my natural resistance to learning new and seemingly impossible things. And it doesn’t have to be before a certain hour of the clock for me to stretch my wings. Maybe I’m a bat. If so, that makes me the early one, I guess.