Saturday, March 14

living the dream, pt3

If you want to follow the saga chronologically, head on over to part1 and part2 first.

Okay, so I was one type of person, innately free-spirited, but always harbouring a childhood induced Fear - that I was worth something only with a title or decent pay-check, that I had to earn love. I broke away enough as I became an adult, but then entered into a marriage that found me right back into my childhood drama - I must prove my worth through career or financial contribution, I must earn love.

And then I started to let go.

So this creates the question, how did I go about it? How did I step back onto the path of living the dream?

Here's the thing. I have a small issue with the word 'passion'.

There are tons of gurus and self-help experts who use this word, as well as joy, and even dream. But I don't necessarily believe we all have a passion, or at least not in the way we interpet that word.

DIY Dad's mum is now retired, but she retired about 4 years after she was supposed to do so. Why? Because she claimed to love her job. She loved getting up really early, even during the winter months, to have her quiet time of tea and biscuits/cookies, before leaving. She loved the people - both her co-workers and the patients in the hospital. She loved feeling useful, loved making the patients feel less alone, loved chatting in her broken English to anyone and everyone, loved feeling a part of a team, loved feeling pride in a job well done. She took overtime almost whenever it was offered, and hardly had more than a handful of days off in over 25 years.

She wasn't a doctor, or a nurse, or an orderly. She was a cleaner, and she made the tea/coffee for the patients.

Was this her passion, her dream job? I doubt it. But likewise, I doubt that she would comprehend the idea of passion in this way. But she was happy, content, and fulfilled.

We have a friend who studied and practiced as a lawyer. He gave it up and became a plumber. He enjoys pipes and watery things and wrenches and fixing problems. People can't believe he gave up law for plumbing. Because of course our society has established which is the preferable career, right? And 'preferable' has nothing to do with personal contentment, but rather status and money.

I don't think he is passionate about plumbing, I just believe he is content.

I feel that the whole wave of Finding Your Passion has caused unnecessary anxiety in many of us. Including me.

When I was feeling disatisfied with my life and not knowing where to turn. When I was doubting my ability to find happiness, I also worried about not having a passion.

I discovered later that what I was really worried about was not fitting into society's idea of an acceptable reason to step out of the rat race.

Because, it's acceptable to say - 'I've discovered that I'm a dancer/writer/interior designer/circus juggler, and I'm off to persue that'. While it will raise eyebrows and many will utter tsk-tsk behind you back, it's enough of a box in which others can place you.

But say that - 'I just want to Be', or, 'I want to do stuff that makes me happy', and then people will turn their backs on you. You will be boxed as lazy, irresponsible, self-indulgent, useless to society, selfish.....People will not be comfortable with your choice.

(And I'm not suggesting that all you will do is sit on your butt. But hey, if that's what brings you joy, then so be it. But most people that sit on their butts truly doing nothing, are not joyous, right? So of course I'm not talking about apathy, and I personally believe that joy is found being ourselves and being of service to others.)

The point is, you're not easily boxed and people won't be happy about that.

But what's really interesting is how we feel about not boxing ourselves. How comfortable are we not having an answer, or a socially acceptable answer, after the question, 'so, what do you do'?

So this brings me to the whole 'going about it' question. For me, it hinges on two aspects - theory and practice.

The theory is what I've been mentioning - how you feel and think on these issues. But more importantly, it's about realising what is possible. Truly realising it.

The theoretical part was easy for me, it wasn't an issue. I knew what was possible. I had lived, and been amongst those that lived, on the outskirts of society. For a lot of people, heck, perhaps for most, these are just vague ideas that belong to book or film. Yes, we all know that there are starving artists, and hippies living in communes, and travellers in caravans, and people who spin their own wool. But we know this on the same level we know that there exists professional assasins and spies - the stuff of books and films mostly.

This was the case with DIY Dad. He couldn't compute this other end of the social spectrum as something viable. Even if he could, he wanted a box. For example - fine if a person wants to paint all day, but they should sell paintings and pay the mortgage, and in having some 'success', you also have a job description to to tell others.

My issue was the practice. I knew what was possible, but I allowed myself to be stuck by the mundane daily grind. At the core, by my Fears.

So how did DIY Dad come to accept, at least as far as he was able, an unconventional life?

Let's first make something clear. I love him. He is the love of my life. I believe we are meant to be. So for me, leaving was not an option I entertained. I was going to make it work, but now I was going to make it work with me happy.

As a concrete thinker, he needed concrete examples. So I made sure he watched every show about people, ordinary folk, moving away from their normal lives to try something different. These weren't lawyers becoming artists. These were office workers starting a farm in France, or a paragliding business in Australia. It's a fairly popular notion in England. This leaving of your life for something more fulfilling, often in another country.

I also talked alot about people I actually knew, who left decently paid jobs for something utterly different. A nurse who became an air stewardess, a banker who became an interior designer, and so on.

I also stopped living the way he preferred, but instead lived how I wanted to live. I made it clear - I did not ask for most of what we owned. So if he wanted stuff, he had to take responsibility for working for it. I didn't even want the house, so why was I paying for it with my happiness?

(Between you and me, I appreciated the house, now that we had it, and all his hard work, but I had to be blunt so that he would 'get it'.)

You see, some people want certain things, or they think they want them, and they expect others to mold their Self into those wants. Marriage and any partnership is about compromise, but never about losing your true self.

And so he mostly did get it. He realised that there was nothing left to argue about. If I didn't want the house and was willing to lose it, then how could he argue with that? How could he tell me that I should want the house?

And this was a BIG mental shift for him. And it was a burden off his mind too. Afterall, trying to force someone to be someone they are not takes work. It's stressful for both of you.

So over time, he came to that place. That place that allowed him to truly believe that lifestyle possibilties were limited only by his thinking.

Here's a fictional dialogue that reflects many conversations I've had with others:

Person: But I have to pay the bills!
Me: No, you don't.
Person: But if I don't they'll cut off my water/electricity/etc.
Me: So you want water and electricity?
Person: duh
Me: Then you choose to pay the bills to bring you something you want.

It's like this.

Either do the job that brings you joy, or learn to be joyous/content about a job that gives you the life you demand. One of the biggest mistakes we make is believing the lie that life happens to us, rather than that every single occurence is our choice or of our making.

There are many, many people in this world who do very mundane, difficult, or boring work, and don't give it two thoughts. Why? Beause they work to live, not the other way around. You see this a lot in Europe. People live for their families, friends, good food, the simple joys.

If you are fortunate enough to live in a country that is rich, and thereby you have more choices than millions of others, isn't it a waste to not use that privilige?

We have decided that happiness and success is measured in money, status, fame, or passion. And those of us without those things are left floundering and wondering what it is we should be doing to get us there. We're reaching for other people's brass ring.

Once DIY Dad shifted his thinking, it was a matter of course before we were planning our move to another country for a life lived on our own terms.

Back to passion....

Yes, I don't believe that finding our passion is necessary. Me personally, I do have a passion, but regardless, that's not how I made the practical shifts in my life. I began with simply allowing my soul to Be. I feel it needed that time first anyway. I began by not making choices out of fear. I removed the phrases and words from my mind that I thought weren't a part of me.

From early school I questioned authority, out of school I questioned societal norms. I was a radical, an anarchist, a hippy, a non-conformist. So I asked the questions...

Exactly why am I supposed to get married?
Exactly why am I supposed to have 2.5 children, or any?
Exactly why am I supposed to have a respectable job?
Exactly why am I supposed to wear certain clothes, stick to certain subjects in conversation, or live a certain way?

I regarded 'supposed to' and 'should' very suspiciously, and still do. If you are brilliantly observant, you might have noticed that I don't use those words on my blog. I say 'ought to' at a push.

But these words had popped back in. Or, really, they had never left and I had simply been fighting them all my life. Given the right conditions, they positively flourished.

Without shoulds, the world was my oyster. I did housework because it felt good to take care of my home, I cooked because it felt good to feed my hard-working husband, I chose each and every chore from a place of soul rather than obligation.

And I know that many people are not comfortable with this. They will label me as selfish. They will say that sometimes in life you have to do things you don't enjoy, that sometimes there are obligations you are forced to do.

I don't believe that.

If you do something only out of obligation, you are a slave to Fear.

It is a fear of being alone, unloved, unaccepted, unrecognised, worthless, meaningless, a nobody, inferior.... so we conform. And then we moan about it or quietly die inside.

I believe that everything is my choice. Everything.

(and please don't think something ridiculous like, that hurricane wasn't my choice. let's be wise here, you know what I'm talking about)

So these very small things changed my life. I chose happiness and with that there was no room for doing anything out of Fear. Even folding laundry became an act of love. And if I didn't want to fold laundry but write or be in nature instead, I did that.

And once DIY Dad realised that what he asked of me was really his needs, he shifted.

Then when we were here, in Montenegro, away from the rat race, from the glaring eyes of our usual society, things REALLY shifted for him.

But this post is long enough.....

Okay, I'm digressing here. But you get the idea. Our world is not something that happens to us, it is something we create. And we create it as individuals and as a collective. Yes, if we break away too much from the collective realities, we are going to find ourselves rather alone. And as social creatures, we tend to avoid this. Sure, some conformity is beneficial.

But problems arise when we conform while believing we are acting from our own desires and needs. We convince ourselves that, 'this really makes me happy'.

I did that when studying at university and aiming for that title.

My partner wanted it so much, I loved studying so much, that I was able to make my mind cooperate. I loved the academic life, the books, the discussions with other students, even the time-tables and deadlines, well, not so much of the latter. But I loved the specifics so much, and I loved my parter so much, and I owned my childhood Fears so much, that I convinced myself that what I loved was the Big Plan, the Ultimate Acheivement.

But you know what is never convinced? What can never be convinced? Your heart.

Inbetween the exhiliration, and even the fun, there are dark times. There are tiny moments of emptiness.

When you are in you own company, doing nothing much, what do you feel?

I felt empty, numb, a fraud, longings without names, fantasising about other lives. Other people's lives were sources of fantasy and vicarious joy to me. In a way that my heart was drawn there. If not a friend's, a character in a book or film, or just a life from my imagination. And yet, for the longest time, I never really connected the dissastisfaction to my own choices.

When I look around at my life and think, this isn't what I want - I need to recognise, accept, and embrace that it is my choice to be in it. Because it was at the moment that I began to reclaim that awareness, of choice, that everything changed.

I haven't got it all worked out (thank goodness), and I often stumble or waver, but here's something that rings true for me.
Happiness has nothing to do with the complexity of passion, but about the simplicity of being authentic. When I am all who I am, doing what is authentically me, authentically loving what Is, that is happiness.


  1. I'm not sure who I want to hug more - you or that baby panda ;-). Thanks for another therapeutic post. There's so much here that it will likely take me months to process it all. But, it certainly resonates with me (as do most of your posts). Have a lovely weekend!!

  2. This is one I want to show to a friend of mine who is beginning to make that change into being, and needs en-courag-ment. Thank you once again for your wisdom and your willingness to share. You prove one of the things I've always believed about being true to your soul: when you are, you can genuinely touch others and change their lives.

    The photos were heart-lifting, especially the one with her hugging the cushion.

  3. By the way, you have the best links ;-)

  4. wonderful post. thank you so much for sharing.

  5. I just stumbled across your blog and I want to thank you for this post.

    Thank you for taking the time and the wisdom to create this.

  6. Beautifully said. This "passion" thing is something I often struggle with having obtained an undergrad degree then some law school. I have such two different sides to my personality; ie the nature-loving hippie and the type A lawyer-like demeanor. I often get caught up in which personality I am supposed to nurture. The indecision causes me to do nothing and I can't seem to move past this internal conflict.

  7. SwedishJenn15 March, 2009

    I don't know that I'll ever get to this point in my life Mon. We believe we can live our dream by accumulating enough money to make it happen. For us, it has nothing to do with what we want but what we believe we have to do to get what we want. The "If you work hard enough...." philosophy seems to drive us, imprinted on our psyche by family, societal pressures, etc. For whatever reason, we believe freedom is earned or perhaps it also has to do with luck, being born into the right family, winning the lottery, etc. We certainly derive a lot of satisfaction from our work but that has a lot to do with what we think we'll GET from all that hard work and perseverance. And of course, it never seems to be enough. I envy you for your wisdom and ability to have overcome the pressures to conform and am of course, thrilled for you. thanks for serving as a good example and an inspiration.

  8. Wonderful! I know exactly the feelings you are talking about. It is another synchronistic post for me and it reminds me that everything is a choice. It also reminds me of Yoda, 'Do or Not Do, there is no Try.' Wise little furry-eared man. I would say these principles are much central to most spiritual paths really, particularly Buddhism. The idea that we offer every act we perform as a prayer, a gift to the moment, every moment then becomes an opportunity to connect with spirit. And opportunity to be present. After the ecstasy, the laundry!

  9. Thanks for another thought provoking post. As usual it was very timely. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

  10. Oh, changing our minds about things is so hard. Especially when the whole world conspires to keep us with those old ideas. DIY Dad (and you) must have been working very hard to shift things like that.

    I've never been a "passionate" person, at least not on the large scale of what I want to do with my life. But I'm lucky to have found paying work that does support me having things I want (sendin my kids to private school) and is joyful to do. I also had to shift my perspective on money: it's a tool that we accumulate in order to do other things. If I want to control what I do with my money, then I need to avoid debt. If I want to have the freedom to do things that cost money, I have to save.

    I think people get stuck by clinging to old ways of thinking. Most people would never think that they could move to Montenegro and build their own house! But they can, if they really want.

    I think contentment is underrated. I'm like Bilbo Baggins: I just want to have my comfy chair and my second breakfast and a good book. No courageous (passionate) quests for me! (Can you tell I am very phlegmatic?)

  11. Your thoughts run beautifully great that you share them....this is something I have been tumbling in my mind lately and coming to my own realisation of for myself regarding interesting.
    And thanks so much for stopping by my nice to visit here too....

  12. You are very wise. You have a way of writing that is so loving, non-judgemental, strong and insightful all at once. I struggle a lot with other people's opinions/expectations, especially my parent's and siblings'. This post is very timely for me. Thank you.


  13. This is a wonderful post Mon. Inspiring and generous.

    There's so much of this I can see in my own life patterns. Particularly the relationship part. It's funny how it can be this that is the block many free-spirited types seem to manifest, or attract. If it's something that can be worked through, those very different energies can complement each other well. I'm glad you and DIY Dad were able to resolve these issues. I'm just getting to that point in my own relationship.

    And it's spooky timing right now that you post this right now...just as I am embarking upon a very similar path, and one that I hope is authentic. But this is not the time and place to go into that.

  14. I'm a little late on this one, but wonderful post, and I can so relate. I left a corporate career after 15 years six years ago, and because I had worked so hard to 'get where I was' and made so much money, everyone was shocked. Why would I give up all that 'hard work'? At one time, I loved the challenge, and that fed me, and it actually was part of the growth process I needed at that point in my life to own my personal power. But things changed. And not for a minute have I regretted it. And it was a big adjustment for DH too, but it has all worked, especially once we had kids. And I also so like the part about how 'finding a passion' can become a trap. Everyone wanted to know, 'so are you going to teach meditation full-time now? be a SAHM? are you going to write a book? are you going to do xyz?' because that made them more comfortable with my letting go of the career. There had to be a definable, external reason - a new 'calling'. But mostly I have meandered (besides having three kids of course!), doing a little writing, a little teaching, but no big ambitions. I sense there may be a more goal-directed phase of my life coming up, but these years of just going with whatever feels right have been a fantastic gift.

  15. I wonder what people would do if there was nothing they "had" to do. Occasionally I ask my husband if he likes his job, because I don't think he truly does, but something is keeping him there. I quit my job to be a photographer--not so much because of my love for photography, but because I wanted to be in charge of what I did. I have things I am passionate about, but I think my real "passion" in life is to simply be happy and to do the things I want to do.

  16. Wonderful reading all you thoughts and eprsonal stories!


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