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“To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution.” —Jo Coudert, Advice From A Failure
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #119
It happened this summer that I stayed put but I traveled a million miles.
Impossible in actuality, but absolutely possible figuratively when speaking about my inner world. This summer I stayed put for the most part in my new hometown Bend, Oregon. As long-time readers of TSLL blog may know, every summer prior since 2012, the summer after I wrote the first draft of my book, I have traveled at least to the east coast if not to Europe. After all, it is summer and exploration is required and desired.
And so it was my decision, something I chose with excitement, to stay put this summer, to revel in a dream coming true, and in so doing my exploration and then discovery began and occurred, all without stepping on a plane or outside the borders of Oregon.
The truth of it is, the journey began a long, long time ago. A journey to find peace, contentment, a true sense that I was doing what brought me absolute joy and also what allowed me to contribute to society, all the while reaching my full potential. As I look back now, so many pieces of the puzzle that were puzzling at the time, make sense now. Isn’t that what Steve Job shared in 2005? “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” Well, the dots are beginning to connect now, and it was my time staying put that enabled it to happen.
I recently read about Olympians who upon returning home after the games each four years sometimes find themselves in a state of “Post Olympic Stress Shock” as it has been coined. For four years, athletes have had a clear goal, a team to guide them, a respect and understanding from those who know what their goal is and even media at the time of the competition to put them on a pedestal (deservedly so) to revere them for their discipline, tenacity and dedication. The goal provides clarity, the support offers validity for living their lives so strictly because after all, if you can make it to the podium, it was all worth it to whomever looks at your resume. That line item is an impressive statement that most (if not all) can applaud.
The gold medalist in Rio’s decathlon Ashton Eaton (now a 2-time Olympic champion) announced that he would not be competing in Tokyo in 2020. While not entirely done with World Class competition, Tokyo was off the table. As he began to look ahead, he made this statement to The New York Times,
‘That’s what has always been good about track. The goal is very clearly defined: Try to win. Get the gold medal. And I’m able to put my energy toward that. The difficulty now is what’s the gold medal in something else? Now I have to make up my own gold medal.’
‘What’s going to be the next victory for me?’
I was drawn to this statement because the reality of finding the “gold medal” in the lives we live rest entirely upon each of us. One success to one person may be complete misery for another, and so we can’t follow the road map of someone else’s happiness. Rather we must get to know ourselves.
“It is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts.” —K.T. Jong
For me, it has always been a battle to convince others that I truly did enjoy living on my own. I sincerely enjoyed my own company more than most people I spent time around. As I began to tentatively trust this observation about myself, living by myself since my days at college, with each year, I began to enjoy it more and more. And the “more and more” came because I stopped trying to explain. I stopped trying to compare others’ approaches to life to mine. And so it was when I came upon an article that I shared last week in This & That, that I found myself saying, well no wonder it has been more of a struggle to convince others to accept what I have always innately found more pleasure in.
To briefly summarize the article titled “The New Science of Single People” it points that out no actual credible, reliable research has been done on actual single people, due to the social accepted ideal that “since social science has been interested in the concept of marriage, it has endorsed the idea that everyone’s goal and likely trajectory is to get married at some point.” But as the author points out, more and more people are either choosing not to marry or delaying marriage, and the question is why. And the answer is unavailable because no research has been done on the possible contentment that can be derived from solitude, or differing personalities choosing different ways of living and accepting that not everyone need mold their life’s relationships and social constructs in the exact same manner in order to find happiness or the unrealistic expectations that set many people up for disappointment.
I share this article with you only to say that if you keep listening to yourself, really tuning in, taking note when what the outside world says really doesn’t jive with what makes you feel content, there is a great rush of relief and celebration when you realize you were on to something. Now for me, the discovery or validation in a small way came with this article because I do enjoy a life that isn’t zeroed in on “finding a man to be happy otherwise I will be miserable” and rather building a life that has multiple modes of emotional and intellectual support. I am not anti-marriage or pro-marriage. I am pro-individual contentment, tapping into what makes you happy because when we get to know ourselves, when we respect ourselves, we become happier and thus those around us that we want to share our lives with enjoy our company and the relationship becomes healthier and stronger.
But the fact remains that we have to figure out what that is. We have to venture out into the wilderness of the unknown. We have to no longer hang tight to the cord of “how one becomes an Olympic champion”. That’s easy. There’s a guide for that, a coach for that, examples to model for that. (Yes, I realize not everyone can be a decathlete champion or the next Simone Biles, but by using this analogy, I am rather trying to impress upon the point that someone else’s path to greatness, contentment and happiness will never exactly be our own.) And in a very big way that’s a great thing.
Yes, believe me when I say, it is daunting to have fewer similarities than differences with people who are living a contented life. But also trust me when I say, once you find your courage and you set out to find the path and the lifestyle that is meant to be yours, when you find it, it will feel like you have traveled a million miles and experienced amazing unbelievable moments all without leaving your home. And that is the best gift you can give your life’s journey moving forward. Erika Harris has a great quote to provide some comfort about feeling lost while trying to find your true ‘home’, as if you don’t know where you fit in or who you are or how to find the life that is meant to be your very own:
“It is good to feel lost… because it proves you have a navigational sense of where ‘Home’ is. You know that a place that feels like being found exists. And maybe your current location isn’t that place but, Hallelujah, that unsettled, uneasy feeling of lost-ness just brought you closer to it.”
Now, I cannot know when you will have your aha moment of realizing you have found your ‘home’. Everyone’s will be different based upon a variety of factors: how much you have to discover, how much you have to learn, how much courage you are willing to muster and how trusting you are of your compass, but if you refuse to give up, it will happen. And as Lucille Ball shares, “It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.” When the self-discovery begins to happen, you will be able to put in place a vision which will provide you clarity and you will find yourself enjoying each day all the more. You will find yourself being more at ease, at peace and better able to say no or yes without hesitation because you know the life you want to build for yourself and you will know more clearly how to build it.
“Resolve to be thyself; and know that he who finds himself, loses his misery.” —Matthew Arnold
One of my favorite quotes that I repeat often, and even my mother has uttered to me as we discuss life and my journey from time to time is “As long as one keeps searching, the answers come.” I wrote an entire post about this specific topic a few years ago, and it ties in perfectly with the idea of never giving up. Never stop asking questions about which way you should go. Because the truth is, the answers are out there and they are worth finding.
~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~This week’s The Simple Sophisticate sponsor: Four Athletics
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A simple and inexpensive way to bring a touch of Mother Nature into your home is to place a single bud or flower into a beautiful petite vase. Below you will find inspiration from my desk and all other image are from my mother’s portfolio as she supplies flowers for local B & B’s in her hometown with her business Judy’s Bloom’s. An expert with more than forty years experience, all the flowers and plants used come from her garden and I regularly get inspiration and information from her regarding creative ways to incorporate and arrange flowers, leaves and anything that beautifully grows from the ground. Also, I have shopped for a few different bud vases to add to your collection. Enjoy!
SHOP Bud Vases:
Images: (1) source (all bud vase images via I, except the desktop image )