Living each day much muchier

Compass in the wild

People have been asking what gift/s I want for my rapidly approaching big four-oh. It’s a milestone. It should be something good, something meaningful. Yet things (objects, stuff) seem to get less meaningful as time goes on. I treasure what I have. I need very little.  

There is one thing that I would like from people that I can’t get for myself. Something I can never buy, no matter how hard I work, or save (and no, it isn’t a house, though that would be nice too).  

What I want at this halfway(ish) point, is the benefit of your wisdom.  What are YOUR hard earned nuggets of truth that help guide you through life’s weirdness?

For the record, these are my top 5 most treasured wisdoms, my compasses in the wild.

I’m sorry if this is like a recap episode where 5 minutes of new content stitch together popular skits and one-liners.  It’s just the best way I know to show you what I mean.

Compass 1: The bothness of everything

It is not your truth against theirs. The actual truth of what’s going on includes everybody’s experience, and their stories about why it happens and what it means. In any situation, you think you see the truth because your feelings and selection of facts make it obvious, but so does everybody else and for exactly the same reason.

We trap ourselves into binaries, but don’t have to insist on our own side or adopt theirs. If you let both stories coexist, side by side, a bigger, complex, more interesting picture appears. Sometimes, that bigger picture gives you options you couldn’t see when you thought your only choices were what they want OR what you want. So step back for a moment and consider the bothness, the all-of-it-ness.

Maybe they’re wrong. Maybe you are. Maybe you both are. It doesn’t matter. Whether you change your perspective or not, your choice isn’t between their truth or yours, it’s which path best honours your heart and your needs.

Compass 2: Are your needs met?

Everybody has things that light them up, satisfy them and give them energy.  Everybody has things that stress them out, drain them, and make them cranky. These things are always a balance.  You can’t have fun all the time, but neither should life be an endless drag. If you find yourself always tired, a hair-trigger away from crying or blowing it all up, maybe you’re not actually broken. Maybe you just don’t have the balance right, and you need to stand up for yourself and make some hard choices in favour of the things you know make you feel alive (…and sometimes that’s professional support for mental health).  

It’s okay to have needs, but it’s up to you to make sure those needs are met. No-one can meet them for you. Likewise, you should not be constantly overextending yourself to meet someone else’s needs (unless they are your literal dependant).

Compass 3: What’s the payoff?

We relive our pain, long after the events that caused it. New situations take the face of our old pain and we wonder how we ended up here AGAIN. As unreal as it sounds, there’s a payoff in it for us, an emotional kickback. There is a grand, tragic narrative that takes on a rerun quality about who we are and what other people are like, and ultimately, what we deserve. We become a hero for our suffering, even as we lose. The martyr feels needed. The fighter feels righteous.  Or if you’re like me, the outsider feels wise and insightful, like you’re the only one who sees the REAL situation, because none of it applies to you. It’s still painful, but the kickback is perversely worth it. 

What payoff feeds your choices and behaviours? What new story do you need to tell yourself about who you are and what other people are like?

Compass 4: Happiness needs infrastructure

Paul Rudd in ‘Living with Yourself’, streaming on Netflix

Happiness isn’t an object or a state of being that we attain. It’s an energy that channels through infrastructure that keeps it live and humming.  Without that infrastructure, happiness fizzles into the air and you’re kicked swiftly back to a negatively charged state. 

How we build and invest in those structures is a lost labour. We’re forgetting how, inside a culture that tells us we can buy anything we want and deserve everything we dream. These labours are our relationships, skills, creativity, and those things in compass point 2 that meet your needs. Happiness is an act of creation, not consumption. 

Compass 5 – Zoom in, not out (or Be a (wo)man about your business)

Through pandemic lockdown, many of us grew used to seeing our colleagues, friends and loved ones as brady bunch squares. Feeling ‘zoomed out’ is a real thing. It’s fatigue from the extra work of interpreting physical cues on a digital medium, and constantly seeing and judging your own face on the screen in anxiety-producing, real-time feedback. 

Women are socialised to zoom-out in the real world. We learn to watch and judge ourselves from the outside. How do I look? Is that message landing? Was this outfit a mistake? Who is noticing me right now? Am I pretty? Am I heard?

We don’t always think of it in words. It’s muscle-memory on loop. Zooming out is being both in-AND-out-of-body, watching yourself through a gaze or a camera that isn’t there. It’s constantly avoiding conflict with people in our lives. Zooming out is pretending we know what they’re going to say and then protecting them from the consequences of their words and actions because we’ve convinced ourselves that a state of hyper vigilance is EASIER than conflict. 

It’s exhausting.

A woman about her business pays no mind to the ‘camera’. Live in your own body and pay attention to what’s in front of you. Take an outside view when you need to, and by exception, but live in your own skin. The gaze from your own eyes is enough. 

These might be my five compasses, but don’t let me give you the impression that I do any of them perfectly, or even well. They just help me navigate times I’m left wondering WTF was THAT?

I treasure these compasses. 

If I know you, for my big four-oh, I would love you to write your compass/es in a card. I want to learn from you. If I don’t know you, I would love for you to comment below. 

At age 20, we worry about what others think of us. At 40, we don’t care what they think of us. At 60, we discover they haven’t been thinking of us at all.

Ann Landers

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Who am I?

Department of Words

Department of Words

Thinker. Writer. Photographer. Dancer. Not necessarily in that order.

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