Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Accidental Life

"Is this the life I really want?"

I've decided that should be a regular "check in with yourself" question for me...one that I should ask, perhaps not frequently, but regularly, like say every 6 months or so. I need to reconnect to my deep desires every so often just to make sure I haven't been pulled off course...and to claim my life as my life afresh, which is something someone like me needs to do just about every day.

The world around you has a certain gravity to it--not the kind that holds your feet to the ground, but a subtler one than that. One that pulls at you from the sides, like a salesman who starts walking as he talks to you, and before you know it you're somewhere unfamiliar, in a place you never intended to go.

This subtle side-pull of life makes things clump together--people...routines...responsibilities--until you wake up one day and find yourself in an unplanned and unsatisfying world, with a life that doesn't really fit you and that you'd rather not be in. It's like the whole thing happened by accident, but in such slow motion that you didn't feel a thing. Some people go for years, or even a lifetime, as if nothing's happened, and they don't ever notice the light in their eyes has bled away through the unhealed wound of their heart.

So the question is a touchstone for me--Is this the life you really want?--to make sure I'm choosing the path I'm on, the life I've built around me, and I'm not just drifting along in an accidental way.

People assume there's only one way to live a life, and live it well, but that's not true. Read Thoreau's Waldon, or the biography of just about any missionary, and you'll see the American dream is only one of a hundred or more possible ways to travel through the world. The thing isn't to judge one right or sensible and the others wrong, but rather to make sure the path you're on is one you've chosen from the heart, and not one that's been chosen for you.

"We can live any way we want. People take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience—even of silence—by choice. The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse…I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you."--Annie Dillard

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