Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Meaning of Life... Who Cares?

I try not to second-guess my decisions, or wonder about "what may have been." But when I'm out biking or running for hours on end, I can't help what creeps into my mind. There are a lot of things I'd like to do, a lot of things I would do if I didn't train so much. For years I was an avid photographer. Now I only shoot when I'm paid to, and that's maybe a couple times a year. I have a webcomic, but I haven't drawn a new comic in over four months. I still write, but I'd like to write a lot more.

You will never have a perfect life.

And if by some chance you realize your idea of a perfect life, the first thought will be, "wait! I could have more! I could do better!" Incidentally, those are the same thoughts that often bring us misery. I could have more. I could do better. I feel that too. Sure, I can get stronger with training. But if I have those thoughts without any intent to do something about them, they just make me angry at myself.

Just bubbling with anger.

Some people live in the future. They're always picturing that some day they'll have money, or an amazing spouse, or achieve some epic goal. They figure they just have to tread water until it falls into their laps. People who actually work at their goals don't obsess over them. They obsess over the work they're doing to get there.

Some people live in the past. They remember days when they were carefree, when life was fun and they felt invincible. But that was bliss born of ignorance. Real life sweeps us up in its current, and there's no swimming backwards. You can only hope to navigate along the current, avoiding the rocks that crop up. And sometimes you crash into a rock. You just take the pain. Succumbing to it means drowning.

Literally and figuratively drowning...

Then there's the age old advice to live in the present. Here's my take on it. I have goals, things I want to accomplish. But I can spend months working towards that goal, training hard. And if I accomplish it, then what? There's a certain emptiness. Life doesn't change in that instant. And if I fail at that goal, that crushes my soul. All of that hard work, and I feel worse than when I started.

That's happened to me a lot. I wanted to qualify for Boston last year at Run for the Red, and I missed my goal by just a few minutes. Then I wanted to try again at Via, and that race was a disaster. And I sank into despair for months afterwards. Because I had forgotten why I run, why I train.

I train for adventure. Oftentimes, the failures make for much better stories than the successes. I blew up at Musselman, and I took a nap, and my first thought as I lay down on that bench was, "this. Is. AWESOME." Inside, I laughed. It was just too amazing not to. I ran a solo marathon at midnight on New Years. It was slow, and it was hard, and it wrecked my body for months afterwards, but it. was. Epic.

Both of those times I had fun because I didn't care about the result. I've been training for triathlons, but my training has been mediocre, and I've accepted that. I just want to finish, and enjoy it for the adventure that it is. When I ran on New Years, I didn't have a time goal. I just wanted to do something that I'm pretty sure no one else has ever done.

And most importantly, all of those crazy escapades have exploded my life with tons of amazing new friends. For a while last year I kept myself totally isolated. I'm not sure what I was waiting for. But I had some sense that I needed to get to some point before I "allowed" myself to experience love again. And that was stupid. The people in my life, they don't care if I can qualify for Boston or if I'm a slow swimmer. We share a connection that dwarfs those trivialities.
Crazy escapades with amazing people!

I've been seeing a number of articles lately about the most recent generation, youngsters who have never experienced life without technology and social media. And they're miserable. All of this amazing power at their fingertips: The power to see how much better everyone else's life appears to be. The power to bully others anonymously for a brief hit of empowerment. It's power without purpose or direction.

Us "old" folks, we had it simpler. We picked a thing (or had it picked for us) and did that thing and were happy for it. We made friends with whoever was within walking distance. And sure we didn't always get along, but that just taught us to have a thicker skin. We learned to navigate the real world at an early age.

My point with all that is that the modern era gives us too many options. Too many ways in which we can perceive our own failures. Too many others we compare ourselves to, some of whom are blessed with natural talent, and many more who simply lie about it (but look convincing enough on their profiles). So we flounder and search and second-guess and spin our wheels and end up doing nothing in the end and feeling all the more awful for it.

Just spinning spinning spinning...

This pattern can be identified and stopped. It would be easy to question myself about why I batter my body every day. It's easy to wonder if my life had another path. It's easy to think that the person sitting at the next table might be a soulmate or lifelong friend.

It's all bullsh*t.

There's no perfect way to live life. Life is its own meaning. Our purpose is to exist. Pick something you can be passionate about and do it. Make that choice once, and don't think about it again. Just do it, and be the best you can be at it. Be loving towards those around you, and you will in turn experience love. Don't close yourself off, waiting for the perfect person who "deserves" your energy. That will lead to a very solitary existence. Be open with everyone, let everyone into your life, and you will find many who decide to stay.

Don't obsess over the future. There's a lot of life to be experienced until it arrives. Don't obsess over the past; make new amazing memories instead. Appreciate what you have in the moment, and work hard to make every moment better than the last. Getting started is tough, but once you get that momentum, your happiness will skyrocket.

You are your own meaning. Your passions, your goals, your love, and the life you live. There's no right or wrong way. Be open to life and let it flow through you. Don't filter it through lenses of doubt; simply appreciate it. Love and pain, success and struggle, happiness and suffering. They all strengthen you and make every step you take easier than the last. But you can't take those steps if you're standing still.

Some pretty sh*t to end the post with.

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