One of the amazing gifts we human beings possess is our ability to use language to express ourselves, to communicate with each other and to describe the world around us. When we look more closely, it’s interesting to notice how the words we use have the ability to shape and color our experiences of ourselves, of others and our surroundings. In particular, I’ve come to realize that there are certain words that allude to states of being or states of affairs in such a way that distort our perception of reality, our ability to view life objectively and most of all, to find fulfillment.
The word “normal” is a good example. Another one is the word “enough”. And one of my absolute favorites is the word “perfect”.
All of these highly subjective words inherently imply there’s one standard or one way that things should be. Inevitably, as we use these words, we end up unconsciously measuring and evaluating our experiences, our selves, and others against them, often to find that something is lacking.
But there’s a huge problem with this.What is normal? How much is enough? When is it perfect? Who decides how it should be?
Ask a hundred people and you will get a hundred different answers.
Whose definition are we using and is it serving us?
As an artist, I always fantasize about the “perfect” conditions for creating. A calm and cozy space, pristine silence, just the right amount of natural light, no interruptions, I could go on and on. In my mind, I could easily be convinced that when the conditions are perfect, my best work will emerge. And yet, you can imagine how having such high standards and conditions on my creative process could get in the way of my ability to create consistently and find enjoyment in my work.
As I’m writing this blog, the loudest laundry machine I have ever heard is roaring outside my window. Seriously. The natural light isn’t shining quite bright enough in my room and the lamp I have is too intense for daytime. My roommate is rushing out the door to an audition and wants to quickly touch base about a few housekeeping matters. I haven’t quite found a writing nook in my new place yet, so that cozy, calm feeling isn’t quite there. You could say that the conditions are far from perfect.
If I really identified with this perspective, I might convince myself that I should leave the writing to another time. Or perhaps I might conclude that this is not the ideal place for me to do my work and that I would be better off finding a different location. Who knows where that would be or how long it would take me to get settled in there enough to get the juices flowing.
In essence, all of this thinking would amount to nothing more than me not doing the one thing I really want to do in this moment, which is to write. And it all comes back to that dangerous little p-word, how I choose to define it and the perception it creates when I view life accordingly.
There are many words like this and the phenomenon I have just described is pervasive. We are constantly subjected to our society’s, our family’s, our friends’, our colleagues’, our partners’ and our own subconscious definitions and standards of how it, we, they, and life should be. And when we live life in the shadow of these often unclear, unattainable and illusory standards, we end up spending all of our time chasing our tails and perpetually seeking the next achievement, the next fix, the next bigger, better thing.
And it completely cuts us off from being able to enjoy what we have, who we are and how it is right now. It completely hinders our ability to decide for ourselves what is normal, enough, perfect, successful and beautiful. Most of all, it often creates a sense that something is wrong or that something is missing, which leads to non-acceptance, which in turn causes unnecessary suffering.
And all we really want to do is play mindlessly, create courageously, express authentically, make a mess unapologetically, love deeply, connect intensely, sing passionately, dance carefreely, risk boldly and explore with curiosity.
Life has always been about the EXPERIENCE. Right here, right now. When we live towards some standard that isn’t even real, we miss the whole point.
The words we choose and use to describe ourselves and others, our relationships, our work, our experiences and our environments make a difference.
Let us choose wisely. Let us choose words that empower us, that inspire us, that uplift us, that fulfill us. Most of all, let us live within our own definitions of what those words really mean and what life is about.
Published by The Daily Love (Sept. 29th, 2013)