Friday, January 26, 2018

The Truly Important Things

So much of what people consider important, in the grand scheme of all that is life, isn't even remotely so.  Not close to as paramount as we imagine these things to be.  Many of us (myself included at numerous times) have chased (or, continue to) the wrong priorities.  Prizing or running after things that aren't really all that important in the big picture.  Focusing on aspects of life that are not actually the ones most likely to bring deep, resonating, lasting fulfillment and joy.

There are numerous things that people believe will bring them satisfaction and happiness, and which many chase with unrelenting focus, which will not actually make them feel much fulfillment or lasting joy.  To name a few: more money, a bigger more expensive car, a hotter and/or younger spouse/sex partner, the most expensive clothes, fancy things to adorn their home with, recognition from others, a sense of perfection or "being the best" (these last two, especially fruitless, since perfection doesn't exist, and because there will always be those who are "better" off then you, as well as always those who will be "worse."  There will be people who recognize what you have to offer, and people who overlook it.  Always.  So running after such is ever shooting in the dark, sure to be a tumultuous emotional roller-coaster of feeling affirmed and good one minute, only to feel crushed and sad at the next, back and forth.  Ever at the mercy of how others measure your worth.  Forget about that.  Instead, do your best and base your standards on you.  Not on everyone around you and their opinions-an impossible measuring stick, never ending in both directions).

Other things people sink their time into which may or may not be the best use of their limited time here on earth:

--Spending hours every day at the gym in attempting to get the "ideal" body (which of course doesn't exist, as well as beauty is in the eye of the beholder so what one person finds sexy another may not).

 --Working 60, 70, 80 hours a week to make boatloads of money, as well as to feel good about oneself, and for what?  Do these people even have much time to actually enjoy that money and relax into the beauty of the rest of their life outside of work?  To really revel in doing other additionally meaningful things in their lives outside of work?  Maybe, but I am doubtful. 

--People sitting for hours in front of the TV, watching things, playing video games, something of that nature- and all the while, lamenting wishing to write that novel they really want to crank out, or run that 5k, or meet their next big love.  So much talk and wishing, but without any of the effort or action towards making it happen.

There are loads more examples...those being just a few quick ones.

What we focus on though, is what our life will be.  Where we choose to invest our energies, our time and our hearts, this is what our lives will become.  Tell me whom and what you love, and I will tell you who you are.

So, the list goes on of misplaced priorities and wasted time/energy.  People who speak of their dreams, wishes and wants continually, all while doing things that produce quite opposing results.  Then wonder why they feel left wanting, as though there is something missing from their lives.  As though there is "something more" out there.  There is.  They just aren't attuning their priorities and actions in such a way that aligns with their real, deepest yearnings.

With all of that said, here are some truly important things in life:

Wisdom.  This comes with life experience, as well as openness and a choice to create ones own wisdom.  Because there is such a thing as people who are older, and with much experience, but very little wisdom.  And there is also such a thing as those who aren't so old, but who have experience and much wisdom.  However, no one is "wise" suddenly.  This is a constantly flourishing, growing, ever being added to part of each human being.  Some more so than others, depending on how well you learn the lessons presented to you in your own life, and then change course to reflect those learned lessons.  Wisdom though, is what comes from a life well lived.  Its what comes from listening carefully to the lessons offered around you.  Wisdom is the badge of age, that grows more prominent as the years go by and you continue adding experience and knowledge to your soul.

GrowthWhen growth ceases, so does life.  Part of being a healthy human being is both being interested in, seeking out, as well as actually growing.  This can come in a plethora of forms.  We can grow daily, if we so choose.  People to whom we are close offer reflections back to us, they are our mirrors if you will.  Giving us feedback about what kind of person we are, where our strengths lie, as well as where we might be struggling or with ways of thinking that might be worth reconsidering.  Growth is offered in choosing to be patient instead of growing angry where you might have otherwise.  Its in choosing to forgive, when forgiveness isn't deserved.  Growth is seen and felt when you choose to do something different that you otherwise might not have, which you know is the more mature, positive, growth inducing course of action.  Growth is seen in vulnerability.  In speaking up and in drawing boundaries with others when needed, even if its hard to do and causes some waves in the moment.  Not everyone embraces growth.  Sadly, there are many who stay largely the same throughout their lives, dodging, ducking and dismissing away challenges for growth.  But to grow, is to truly live.

Fireplaces.  Why is it that as humans, we are mesmerized by fire?  I think there is something almost mythical about it.  Something deeply calming, cozy, and of course, warm and inviting about a roaring fire.  I cannot think of many better places to be than beside one (especially with a book in one hand, a hot drink in the other).  Fireplaces allow us to relax into ourselves and the moment.  They offer a sense of safety and respite.

Daring to speak of your affections.  This is a big one.  Too few people do this.  Too many people hold back, out of fear.  Feeling scared of rejection, or being embarrassed, or the recipient not returning their affections, or just of looking silly.  Making oneself vulnerable is a scary thing.  Its also one of the moments that makes us feel most alive.  Think about it: your heart racing, voice trembling a bit as you decide to open up and tell someone the depth of your feelings for them.  That's big.  It can also be life changing, or at the very least, it certainly heart filling and quite moving for the recipient.  What a gift you give, when telling someone they matter to you.  Life is very short.  Say what you need to say, while you can.

Here, a short, sweet, inspiring article about why its so important to tell people what they mean to you.  How it takes away from our life experience when we do not do this, and how doing so can be life changing.

Great books.  Yes, I am biased here, as a passionate and avid book lover.  Even so, books offer so many riches for the taking.  Cheap, portable entertainment.  The education and learning of any and every possible topic you could want (a language, how to cook certain foods, how to be a better friend or lover, how to garden or fish, about certain dog or cat breeds, to become a better photographer, the list goes on and on).  And within both fiction and non, books teach us how to be human.  Within stories, both real and imagined, there are absolutely examples of real human dilemmas, challenges and true-to-life emotional experiences.  Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.  In reading, we can garner new ways of thinking, different ideas on how to live, even on how to love.  We can enter into different perspectives, cultures and alternate ways of being.  If you want to do one, simple thing to add immensely to your life in varying ways, make time for and prioritize reading.

For a list of poignant, life changing, as well as enthralling and awesome reads, here you go.  A "reading list for life," if you will.

Tea.  So warm, comforting, and great for your health.  In all manner of flavors and varieties, there will most certainly be a tea out there to your liking.  Holding a warm mug of tea is just the epitome of coziness.  For some, its an acquired taste.  It was for me.  I used to hate tea but started drinking green as I know its awesome for your health.  It took me several months to actually like it, but now I enjoy it immensely, and am benefitting my health big time along with it.  Sample some different teas until you find one you like.  Add milk, or non dairy milk, some honey to it if need be, in order to create a tea drink you will enjoy.

Emotionally moving films.  Being deeply moved/inspired by/shaken up/heart rendered in watching the plights, struggles and triumphs of others is a great thing for all of us.  There is something awesome about being deeply emotionally moved by a film.  Its an intense feeling, and one every person should experience from time to time.  I believe this one is similar to books in that, watching truly high quality, emotionally moving films with great stories to them, this is another thing that can help in teaching us what it means to be human.

Kissing.  Gosh, we don't have very long on this earth.  Take a look at however old you are now.  I bet its stunning, how fast its all gone by thus far.  Life is beautiful, achingly so, and fleeting.  And you only get one of them.  One life.  And then its all done.  So, find someone wonderful and kiss that someone who makes your heart do flip-flops while you can :-)

Nourishing, nutritionally rich foods.  When you eat things that truly nourish your body, you both feel and look great.  Its clears up your skin, hair looks shiny and strong, you have energy and sleep better.  Moods are more stable.  All around, its life changing.  Conversely, when you eat badly, food that's generally easily accessible but crappy and processed, you feel it.  Low energy, more moody, usually worse skin, more bloated, the list goes on.  Take the time to make and eat things that are healthy, real, whole foods which are awesome for your body.

Animals.  There is something about petting an animal that is just...nourishing, joy inducing, totally relaxing and comforting.  In fact, studies show that pet owners tend to have lower stress levels than those who do not have one.  A pet can offer the most heart warming of companions.  An unconditional love that extends in both directions.  They offer the addition of play, silliness and joy in ones life.  An at-the-ready cuddle buddy.  A being who snuggles close when you might most need it.  Pets, especially animals such as dogs, cats, horses, have levels of empathy and nuanced intuition with regards to their owners emotional states and moods.  In other words, they can often sense when their owner is both happy, as well as distraught.  And they tend to respond accordingly, coming towards you when you might need it most.  This is an awesome, heart filling thing and type of love to have in ones life.

Candlelight.  The most flattering light known to man ;-) but more than this, candlelight is romantic.  Mysterious.  Magical.  Even sensual.  There is something about it that beckons people closer to one another.  It adds immense atmosphere with just a few lit wicks.  I would even go so far as to say that in some moments, candlelight can amplify emotion between people.  There is just something about that lulled flickering.  The gentle glow.  And alone in ones own company, candlelight is equally as awesome.  Get 3 or 4 candles, set them around your room, and light them before bed while reading or working on your laptop.  The best.

Snowfalls.  Magic.  So gorgeous.  Awe inducing.  I cannot think of much more beautiful natural scenery than a wide expanse of nature blanketed in glittering white (with the exception of maybe fall foliage, the leaves ablaze at the height of autumn).  Especially when the bare trees are covered in snow, like lace against the sky.  Snow is the only weather element that, when covering the earth, makes my breath catch.

Adventure.  If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine.  Its lethal.  Seriously though, adventure is a must for a truly happy living experience.  It brings you face to face with yourself, in ways that everyday life cannot and will not.  Within adventure, one comes face to face with their own resilience (because yes, stressful situations will arise that you hadn't anticipated.  All part of the package deal of traveling and adventure).  You will come to meet bravery head on, and decide whether or not to grab its hand or walk away and retreat.  You will become a believer in romance and magic.  There will be moments within your adventures that are just so.  You know them.  The moments where everything seems to fit together seamlessly for just that moment.  The lighting is just so, the laughter is heartfelt, the looks between you and your companions- powerful.  Or, you witness an awe inspiring sight, or gaze upon a jaw dropping piece of architecture.  You taste something mind blowing- great, now you know this piece of deliciousness exists, the knowledge of which will haunt your edible dreams forever going forward ;-). 

Within adventure, you will find inner confidence when you help make something work out, when pushing through a tough moment or challenging situation, in getting lost and finding your way, you name the situation, but a sense of accomplishment and confidence will come.  Adventure fills one with a sense of liberation, realizing just how capable you actually are.  I could go on and on, but adventure is one of the musts in life that so many people do not prioritize or go after, which actually is quite life changing.

Read my past blog article here on why you should date an adventurous person <3

And here, one of my earliest musings (aka articles) on why traveling is of paramount importance in life.

Traveling alone.  Yes, traveling with someone you love is a priceless, incredible, outstanding experience.  Do this for sure.  Do it many times.  But also, travel alone.  At least once and for several days in one stretch, though ideally do this more than one time.  Traveling alone is a majorly character builder.  The first time I did it, I was terrified.  A week alone in Italy.  I worried, would I be lonely?  Would the time drag on and be miserable?  What if something terrible happened and I had no one along for the ride, with which to navigate through it?  None of this came to pass as reality.  On the contrary, I loved every second of the week.  Reveling in my own company, loving being able to explore and do whatever I wanted and at my own whim.  Meeting several people along the way with whom I clicked and had a handful of awesome experiences, but mostly, spending the time on my own and absolutely loving it, much to my surprise.  One year later, a week was spent solo in Portugal. The same fears filled me as the trip approached.  And the same result was experienced.  Absolutely reveling in and relishing the experience.  Traveling alone pushes your comfort zone, its scary, its immensely liberating and exciting, its just a boatload of fun.

Falling in love.  If this isn't one of the pinnacles of human life and experience, I don't know what is.  Since the beginning of time, human beings have written about, sang of, made movies and TV shows around, talked about in great depth, searched for, lamented the loss of, obsessed over, and just generally been utterly fixated on romantic love.  Its one of the central focuses of our existence.  And how many times does this happen (falling madly in love) in each given human life?  Not a ton.  For most, it can probably be counted on one hand.  That's why this is such a huge, all consuming, deeply moving and remarkable life thing.  Its one of the most emotional, heart rending experiences in life, which most of us feel for only a special few over the course of our lives.  (Fun life fact and inspiring insight: you can fall in love with the same person, many times again, over the span of years together, if you so desire such, choose to do so, and are with the right person/in a good and healthy relationship).  So, cherish and revel in this awesome aspect of living.

Love in general.  Look around you.  Surely there are several people to whom you feel close.  Who you would claim loving (and hopefully, also liking along with it ;-)).  This could be your parents, siblings, other family members such as a cousin, uncle, aunt, grandparent, you name it.  This can include pets.  Close friends for whom you feel such depth of feeling.  As well as a romantic partner of course.  My point is, there are quite likely several sources of love in your life if you look close enough.  Another one of the most awesome aspects of life.  Both, loving others and in feeling loved.

Music.  Talk about a mood booster.  Nostalgia inducer.  Joy filler.  Entertainment and energy provider.  Music is the bomb diggity.  Sure, everyone has different tastes, to be sure.  But music in general is one of the most emotionally moving aspects of life, much like love.  Music can lift your heart, make you feel understood, be a prompt for deeper thinking, be a mood enhancer or influencer.  Music is heart rending, poignant, resonating, as well as fun and lively.  It can be anything, really.  Depending on what you choose to listen.  Music is a means of expression, it can be therapeutic, a much needed respite, or just an enormous sense of joy.  A life without music is nearly akin to a life without food.  Music, like books, add infinite richness, and awesomeness to living.

Cooking and baking.  Believe it or not, there is much joy and fulfillment to be found here.  Both, in eating whatever delicious item you have prepared, in the satisfaction of learning how to make something nourishing and tasty, and in watching the delight of others enjoying whatever it is you made.  Cooking and baking are forms of art, really.  Creating something for others to enjoy and revel in.  The process of cooking and baking can be relaxing, therapeutic.  And making your own food tends to result in much healthier, more nourishing meals as opposed to chemical laden fast food or processed stuff.  It can be such fun to cook for people and enjoy their reactions to the tasty treats you prepared.

Trust.  Knowing there are people you can rely on when in need.  Having those in your life whom you believe in.  Confident that there are a handful close to you who have your best interests in their hearts.  Who truly care about how you are feeling, about what happens to you, and your own life experiences.  Who want to listen to you as well as know you.  Feeling that you can reveal your heart to someone and their opinion of you will not alter or shift, but instead, they will adore you still just as much.  All of this circles back around to trust.  And what an important, comfort filled, soul rending feeling it is, to have people with whom you experience this.

Passion.  This both brings meaning to life, as well as is what makes people feel the most alive.  Within the throes of passion, we find our bodies tingling with thrill, excitement and a feeling of "flow" if you will.  Time tends to fall away when in the midst of passion.  We are totally involved in whatever we are doing.  Fully present.  Sinking completely into said activity or moment.  And when you have something for which you feel passion, this add s much meaning to ones life.  A sense of purpose.

Naps.  Ah yes.  A frequently forgotten about, vastly underrated thing in life.  Naps, so delicious.  Eliciting the feeling akin to sneaking a sweet treat when you aren't quite supposed to have one.  A sense of rebellious thrill rushing through you in doing so.  In a 30 minute nap, one finds themselves refreshed and rejuvenated.  I have a theory that if people were allowed naptime at work, say a one hour break to go nap and then come back to work, productivity, motivation and joy at work would be much higher as a result.

Meaning.  Without it, a life is severely lacking, and this will be felt by the person living it.  Where and what is the meaning in your life?  You tell me.  It could be to share what you feel are relevant lessons learned within your own experiences, with others.  It might be in raising and rehabilitating abused animals.  It could be in cooking and baking healthy but totally tasty treats, to provide a sense of joy as well as health to other people.  It might be to bring joy, romance and wonder to the lives of those you love, by small gestures and large.  It could be via the route of being a therapist, and helping people to sift through their own challenges towards a hopefully happier life.  Meaning can be found through making beautiful art that people will then enjoy in their homes and everyday lives, adding a sense of comfort and loveliness to their life (the little things, if you will). 

The list goes on and on.  But through what means do you feel and find meaning within your own life?  There is no wrong answer here.  Just that it fills you with a sense of fullness and purpose.

A sense of purpose.  This goes hand in hand with the previous one.  What exactly are you doing here on earth?  Meaning in ones life is more personal, with regards to you specifically and the meaning felt in your own heart.  Its something felt on the inside of oneself.  But a sense of purpose reverberates to the outside.  What are you doing with your life that gives you a sense of why you are here?  Are you giving to others?  Loving as fully as you truly can?  Are you kind and loving to those around you?  Do you assist those in need?  Help provide support and mentorship to others who might need it?

Romance.  So many people accept far less than this.  Why?  To me, romance is the whipped cream, strawberries on top, and sprinkles of life.  Its what makes life beautiful, exciting, and memorable.  Its the little things in life (though romance can and often is also big things) that make it so sweet and awe inspiring.  Romance is what sears into our hearts, leaving us with the most moving of memories.  Ones we are sure to conjure up again and again, long since their passing.  And romance can be many things.  No, romance is not relegated to romantic couples in relationships.  Romance can be a feeling, a mood, a moment, a certain look someone gives you, a gesture or gift, it can be a place or atmosphere, the list goes on.  To show just a few instances of romance...

Between the pages of an awe inspiring book

Breakfast in bed, or on the balcony or patio together.

Love letters.  Hand written gets major bonus points.

Magic.  This is much like romance.  Magic is everywhere, if only you look for it.  Its felt in your heart racing prior to seeing someone whom you are thrilled to spend time with.  Its witnessed in the stars scattered across the dark sky, the moon full and bright.  Magic is within the strange, too coincidental coincidences that happen.  The timing that seems eerie and just so.  The very thing you were thinking of, coming into actualization.  Or, the signs you saw and ignored, but now realize were there all along.  Magic is found in beautiful words from those we care about.  Its found in first kisses, and even the hundredth kiss, if still you search for it.  Magic is found in seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time, or being caught in a snowstorm of brilliant white.  Magic is lain between the cobbles of that tiny Italian village you are exploring on foot, or within the heartfelt letter you've received from someone meaningful to you.  Magic is in the way he or she looks at you.  Its within that warm cup of tea, or gripping book that has you so hooked.  Magic is found in eating a delicious, creamy ice cream cone on a searing hot day.  Its found in a long embrace with someone you love.  In the lavish, hours long brunch you share with a close friend, awesome family member or lover.  Life is laden with magic, if only your eyes are open for it.

Having at least one close friendship in your life.  It doesn't really matter if you have 25 great friends, three of them, or even just one.  Because here, its all about quality.  Not quantity.  Plenty of people have loads of friends, but still feel left wanting, not connecting especially deeply with any of them.  And many people have just one or two close friends, which fulfill them immensely.  So the number isn't relevant here.  The point instead is in having at least one emotionally deep, open, close connection to another person (who isn't family, someone outside of this realm.  That's not to say you cannot have connections of this nature to family members.  You absolutely can.  But its important to have at least one non blood related person with whom you share a sense of genuine liking, trust and closeness). 

Numerous studies have shown, time and time again, that having at least one close confidant is immensely important to ones emotional, spiritual and even physical well being.  From bringing a sense of joy to your life, to providing feelings of companionship, sharing and connection, to having an emotional support and sounding board when needed, to even helping reduce blood pressure, improving coping and resilience, as well as adding big time to ones levels of happiness.  Friends are there to listen to us and support us emotionally.  They offer us a sense of understanding and empathy.  Friends also love and accept us as we are now, but simultaneously see all that we are capable of becoming and help us grow into such.  Friends are our most honest mirrors, valuable sounding boards, and people with whom to have loads of fun.  Having a close friend is of vital importance in terms of life happiness.

Playfulness.  Seemed a fitting note to end this non exhaustive list on.  As we leave childhood and become adults, most of us leave this sense of self behind.  A sense of being playful, carefree and silly.  Why?  Who decided that to play and be silly is "not ok" as adults?  That this is something only relegated and acceptable to children?  For what reason is that exactly?  I cant imagine finding a valid one to support that idiocy.  Play, silliness and fun are things that add immense joy and lightness to ones day and being.  So much of life is serious, routine and challenging.  Allow play ample room in your life too.  In fact, invite it.  This can be anything, from playing board games with friends and family, to dancing together, making silly faces at one another, having a snowball fight, sending someone playful or flirty texts, telling other funny jokes, reading a hilarious book, etc.  Play is part of what makes life awesome and a blast to live.

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