Life, Goals, a Good Cup of Coffee
"No amount of security
Is worth the suffering
Of a mediocre life chained
To a routine that has
Killed your dreams."
I was scrolling through my Facebook feed as I lay in bed one morning and I came across this poem.
We see these messages all the time. Words that imply a predictable life is a prison sentence. Terms like "risk" and "challenge" and "change" are lauded while "security" and "routine" and "safety" get vilified, equated with failure.
My mood began to fall; the dormant anxiety creature in my belly began to stir and the rest of my day was shit. Which was surprising because the day before I was doing great! I was checking things off my to-do list, sending out emails about venues for my recording, researching the cities I will be singing in during my tour abroad this summer, submitting an acceptance letter for a grant I won. I have a lot to be happy about. I am accomplishing things.
Yet the nagging thought that I haven't done enough kept returning; that I am not being "bold" and taking great risks to fulfill my potential, to accomplish my dreams, to break away from the life I know to live the life I was meant to live, and so on, and so forth. That this? Right now? Is not enough.
Where the hell did this narrative come from? Why do self-help books and "encouraging" status updates start with the assumption that where you are is not good enough. We are all looking to improve, to grow, to find the means to pursue our passions...but we're okay. Right now. Looking for inspiration does not mean that where we are at is no good.
To be clear, if you are truly miserable in your life than perhaps you do need to make a bold change. As my mother says, if you are unhappy with something there are only two options: change it or get over it. But are you unhappy? I know I'm unhappy when I read about people who I perceive are doing better than me, when I read some article about how feeling safe means you are not growing, that you are stagnating in the comforts of the familiar if you are not leaping off a cliff and trusting the Universe to catch you. But I wasn't unhappy before. I was pursuing my goals, putting one foot in front of the other, while keeping myself intact.
Living a life that you feel is meaningless is bad. But so is projecting all of your efforts towards some future, undefined Waaaaay Better You.
Do you have a roof over your head? Do you sleep somewhere safe and dry at night? Do you have enough to eat? Is your family safe from war? Do you have people in your life who care if you're okay? Do you have people in your life you think about and cherish? Then you are doing freaking great, my friend. I'm not sitting on my self-righteous seat admonishing you for taking your privileged life for granted; I am the one lying awake at night asking myself these same questions to remember that life, my life, is a fucking gift. Whether I move to Europe or land that great role are rather insignificant in the face of the good fortune I already have.
I've had the opportunity to meet some pretty accomplished people. People who have careers many would envy. And you know what? They are still just... people. They worry about their mortgages. They worry about their weight. They hope they will still have work next year. They fight with their spouses, feel estranged from their children, get lonely in hotel rooms after doing their jobs. You know, like humans do. The whole "accomplishing your dreams" thing doesn't change the fact that you will struggle, that you will worry. You'll just have a different set of worries than the ones you had before. And that's okay. That's just life.
When I was struggling with depression during my university days I really couldn't see much that was good in my life. I cast about wildly looking for something to hang onto, to take comfort in, but all those things seemed to be out of my grasp. Things I thought would make me happy were up to other people. As an artist I wasn't getting much in the way of validation and I shrunk deeper into myself.
At that time, my sister taught me something very valuable. She taught me to be in the room, to feel the warm sunlight on my face, the soft woolly fabric of the comforter on my lap, to hold that cup of coffee in my hands and take pleasure in it. That cup of coffee.
I can still recall the scene. My sister's eyes closed. Her lips in a soft smile, fingers curled around a favourite pottery mug as tendrils of steam lashed at her face. And I felt content in that moment. I felt okay. For me this image of a good cup of coffee is my touchstone because it reminds me that in this moment there is happiness. It's enough to hold a warm beverage in your hands and savour it. Like a cat in a sunbeam, we are creatures who can find pleasure in the moments that make up our lives. This is living a meaningful life.
And this is enough.