Like you, I have all these things on the horizon I haven’t reached yet:
I tell myself I can’t
I tell myself I’m not there yet
When I’m some Thing, some other version of myself than what I am now.
What happens when I get there?
Will I still be straining for the future and disconnected from what is all around me?
Or will I have a moment like today, where I stop, and look around and realize I have so much of what I’m looking for?
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MENTIONED ON THE SHOW
dooce.com by Heather Armstrong
Out on a Limb by Shirley Maclaine
HOST LINKS - SLADE ROBERSON
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I had a moment the other day, on a rainy day, drinking Earl Grey tea and writing at the Wildflower Apothecary and Tea shop where I go in the afternoons. It came over me, this wave of emotion, of realization and just awareness, in the moment.
I am who I want to be when I grow up.
I'm purposefully making that statement present tense, because I've still got a long ways to go. But I want to acknowledge that it's also happening now. If I can't be happy now, I mean, my family are all living and relatively healthy, nobody's fighting a serious illness.
My pets are happy and healthy. I am so thankful and acutely aware of that joy every single day. My favourite moments are being on the couch watching Netflix or reading a novel on Kindle with my cat Sam on my chest and my cat Scotty between my knees. My heart is so full in those moments.
And I know that they won't last forever.
I've never been more comfortable in my own body - I feel very grounded, I work out a LOT, I sleep well, I have no chronic physical complaints, no pain. I don't take high blood pressure medicine. I'm in pretty good shape for somebody going on 50.
I look in the mirror and I like myself. More so than I ever have.
I have a safe and comfortable home. It’s not some dream loft I might have envisioned, but it’s more abundance than 99.9% of the people on the planet can claim.
I have friends all over the country who trust and adore me and even though they are far away, I can text them within moments. I actually love those texting, long distance relationships. It's like this amazing, creative, humourous Improv that's always going on out there in the cloud.
The physical landscape I move through every day is pretty freaking beautiful. Nature in Chattanooga, Tennessee is a fairyland, it really is. It's the reason why I wrote about a fairyland that exists here. I would have never imagined myself moving back home, but there is an energy in this city at this time, and it’s a good time to be here.
And after all the personal friends and family and gratitude for good health and wellness, there is my work. My work is my life. THIS, right here, is my work. And I'm kind of like, Are you kidding me? That's awesome.
I make money for talking, and commenting, and giving my opinion and sharing my stories, and doing all the things I would do with you over a cup at a cafe.
And although I do work everyday, it’s because I love my work. It's part of my life and an extension of my personality. My schedule is my own, even though I'm kind of a slave driver about it.
And you know, by the way, I was just telling my mother I know this sounds like a highly superficial thing, but I drive my dream car. It’s not a luxury car by any means. It’s a hard top Mini Cooper, British racing green. And I remember a time when that seemed so out of my reach and I thought “Wow. That is THE car that I would get if I could get any car.” Sometimes I walk up to it parked on the street and I think “I love my car!"
I do! I got it.
I could go on with this list. I don’t do this enough. By the way, especially when you’re feeling bad, playing this game when you’re alone, driving around, naming things that are pretty or that make you happy on those days when you can feel happy. If you do it on the days you don't feel happy, it’s really powerful.
Just do it all the time, actually. But if you're in a place where you're trying to get that happy back, I mean, happy is such a dumb word. But you know what I mean. Whatever that means for you. I think it's something so much more quiet and less exciting than what we envision.
But it's a powerful exercise. The gratitude listing, the gratitude journalling thing, it really will change your mind. You can reframe anything, and if you get really, really diligent about it and really police it, it will change your life.
So do that, if you need it. Or if you haven't done it in awhile, this is your reminder, whenever you're done listening to me talk, turn this device off. Look around and start naming things.
The point of all this — and I hate it when people do the “I love my clients so much” posts on Facebook, because it feels a little like humble bragging / marketing your services without doing it, kind of winky wink. I try not to do things that I think will make people roll their eyes.
People make me roll my eyes a lot… That's something you don't know about me. You think I'm so much of a nicer person than I really am.
I digress … The point of all this is, not to humble brag, and not to imply that I love my work so much therefore you should buy all of it. The point of all this is,
If I can’t be happy now, when would I be?
One of the things I notice we tend to do — and there’s a lot of evidence of this in the conversations in the Shift Your Spirits Community on Facebook. So I lurk and I skim and I read and comment here and there as I can, but I don't have the time or ability to get involved in ALL the conversations, but I do love to observe the patterns of things that emerge for me there, within an hour collective zeitgeist.
We make a lot of things aspirational.
And we think we're just identifying aspirations, but I think we make things aspirational and make them too hard.
If it’s important, it has to be waaaaaaay out in the future. It needs to be difficult to get to. It needs to be freaking unattainable for us to dream about attaining it.
I mean, just as a common example, people often post or ask about meditating like it’s learning to execute a particularly difficult spell from Dark Arts class at Hogwarts. Lotus positions and mind emptying and special rooms in your house and special corners in the room and alters and singing bowls and incense burning and stretchy flowy clothes that cost way too much money to be synthetic…
In my mind, I'm seeing those and I'm seeing other people engaging and helping and offering advice, and their advice is often offered in difficult ways. They buy in to the difficult and, "Here's a really complicated answer to your complicated question", and I do that too with my own stuff. Especially when it comes to my writing and all my perfectionism issues around that stuff.
But I notice that, just with the whole meditation thing, people come up to me on a daily basis at the cafe and engage me in conversations. It's a really common refrain: "I really need to start meditating." "I want to start meditating." "I try to meditate. Do you have any advice for meditating?"
I just want to say, "You know what? Go for a walk. Clean things. Sweep your driveway."
Literally, that's what I do when I want to meditate. Because I don't do all that other stuff. I'm bad at it too! I don't like things that are aspirational and difficult. If I really want to do it, I want it to be doable.
Everything about my reason for starting Shift Your Spirits was to make the magical and the paranormal accessible to us NOW. In our daily lives, right? Where else would we want to have it?
It's the magic in the mundane.
I believe Toni Morrison is the one who gave me that phrase, possibly in some of her writing about writing or maybe an interview that she gave. I've always been really into stream of consciousness fiction. There's a strong element of magical realism and stream of consciousness in her work. That was my literary concentration in college — 20th century British novel. James Joyce. Virginia Woolf. Virginia's one of the really most famous executors of stream of consciousness. She's the reason we probably had to study it.
This concept of illuminating a single moment in time and consciousness, and elevating it with layers of thought and synchronicity and observation and philosophy, all existing within this fluidity of time.
Toni Morrison also talked about how we don’t have to find answers.
People think, especially with writers or with leaders or preachers, or whoever it is that's standing up in front of the others, and trying to show the way, that it's about delivering answers. She talked about how she thinks the true job is to ask and contemplate powerful questions.
So stop looking for the answers so much and just find a defining question for you.
It may not have an answer. But leaning towards those possible answers, and searching for them, can be the meaningful process that you're looking for.
It could give you the work of a lifetime, by the way. Trying to answer an unanswerable question.
Not only is it the magic in the mundane, but it's also the mystery. Being who you want to be when you grow up is about being able to recognize that, and living in the present moment and being that. And choosing to contemplate the gratitude for it, right?
Procrastination protects our dreams.
It keeps them in the future where we can’t fuck them up as long as it remains in a glass bubble floating out of reach, we have hope around it. We can build all these stories and these fantasies about "some day", and "When we get there", and "Oh, if only that were mine".
But if you take it down, and you break the glass and you use it, it changes it. And it's never as beautiful and mystical and magical as we thought it was.
It exists in perfection in that abstract, out of reach, state. But it's not usable. It's not alive. It's not happening to us now. We aren't really using it. So why have it in our consciousness if we can't get to it?
Just as an idea for a piece of writing or creative project is never what you actually execute. It's like, the best book is always the one you’re going to write next. It's never the one you're working on. It is never the one that you're 75% of the way through. Trust me. Even though you're doing it!
You're being the author that you wanted to be when you grow up. You're 75% of the way through editing a book, Draft 2. Oh, god help you. That looks nothing like the fantasy, right?
I thought when I was a kid, I was going to grow up to be a cross between, get this, C.S. Lewis, a diarist, and a writer on the team of The Young & the Restless — don’t laugh.
I loved soap operas from a really early age. I would rush home from the bus stop from kindergarden, or maybe my mother picked me up, but I still would want her to drive really fast and not stop and get the mail. I would want to get in there and watch that show.
I still adore that format, I don’t watch old school daytime soaps or telenovelas or anything like that, but I do love really good serialized premium cable story telling, you know what I mean?
And the diarist thing. I fell in love with this word at a really early age and I identified a lot with Anne Frank. A lot of us did when we read that book. And it’s this word that my spirit guides whispered to me as a child, diarist, again as a teenage, even again in my late 20s.
And I can remember, in fifth or sixth grade, researching who are the authors were who were famous or known for their diaries and at that time, there was this humorist named Erma Bombeck, who wrote these kind of funny, almost like stand-up comedy routines about her life as a housewife in Middle America, or whatever. It was in book format though. I think she wrote columns in newspapers and syndicated stuff.
I thought of that as kind of being a diarist.
And when I was a teenager, there were those Shirley MacLaine spiritual non-fiction memoirs. Out on a limb. I somehow discovered Virginia Woolf, too, waaaay before anyone had to study stream of consciousness literature or became an English major or anything. It was like a ridiculously young age, reading letters that Virginia Woolf wrote. LIke a collection of her letters, for which she was famous, and that kind of felt like diaries.
But I never understood HOW anyone would ever become successful or famous for writing a diary. Remember, my guides are whispering "diarist" all the time. Because Shirley MacLaine was already famous for being an actress before she shared her memoir. Even then, if the story was or wasn't interesting, we all knew that was part of the reason why it was published, and her face was on the cover, was because she was already someone that we knew, so we were interested in hearing more about her.
But I started keeping journals, because of all this, when I was about 11 or 12. I wasn't even a teenager yet. I was really diligently trying to follow this practice of being a diarist, which I felt like would lead me to something. But I had no idea what it would be.
I didn’t know as a little kid that C.S. Lewis was writing about religion and spirituality in another part of his career. I only knew Narnia.
As I grew up and discovered that he was trying to indoctrinate me with Christian allegory, I was really resentful of that. I was a little pissed. I found his other work really tedious, like the other science fiction stuff, and then the more religious stuff, ohmygod, it was just so polemic and... No! I don't even go to church. Why in the hell would I want to read this?
I quickly moved away from identifying wanting to be C.S. Lewis when I grew up.
Although I did memorialize the death of the opinion of both him and Tolkien by writing a research paper in college about how Lewis converted Tolkien to Christianity. Like, worked him over for a really long time.
I obviously didn’t become a soap writer either. So I was way off on that whole initial trajectory.
BUT, here’s what’s interesting to me. I don't know what's interesting to you. I did grow up to be an author who writes spiritualist non-fiction AND fantasy novels. So it's kind of like C.S. Lewis.
And I never understood how the “diarist” thing was ever going to come true — I could never see that path, yet my guides were really insistent. It's one of the things throughout my life the clairaudient word or message that I've heard most consistently, more than any other thing, that being a Diarist would be my key to becoming a writer.
I thought my guides were confused about the words. I thought maybe I would become famous for some other kind of writing, and then people would want to read my diaries after I died or something. So I made sure to keep them and make them interesting, or try.
Or I thought since I kept journals, like I thought of it as journals at that point. I wasn't even calling it diaries anymore. I didn't even buy the diaries with the little key on them, though I was fascinated with that whole concept when I was really young. But when I really got into doing a whole lot as a teenager, I quickly moved to writing in blank sketchbooks. I called them journals, and that's how I referred to them.
Maybe my guides were trying to tell me to be a Journalist and the word was off. But that specific path, being an actual journalist, did not appeal to me at all. So there was a real confusion around all that.
But then in 2003, I started seeing these web sites called blogs. Do you remember Dooce? Dooce.com? Did anyone follow Heather Armstrong? I'm going to put a link in the Show Notes so that we can go check in with Heather and see what's going on with her all these years later.
But she was one of the first people who was writing this weblog about her life and was fascinating and interesting and entertaining. I read it every week or every couple of days, whenever she posted. So I was at that point where I was trying to figure out how to use the internet to further my career, to learn how to publish online.
So I got some good advice from one of the founders of Movable Type, that I should learn how to install and build blogs. And then I should focus on learning to code CSS, which is webstandards. And so I did!
I learned how to install Movable Type, which was a big deal back then. You couldn't just click a button and have your web post put it on there. You had to do all this stuff. And then later I learned how to install WordPress.
But more than anything, I learned how to market these things, right?
They were diaries, they were shared online diaries. And I started one of my own, a few years after learning how to build them, called Shift Your Spirits that I thought nobody would ever even it.
And holy shit, I became famous for being a diarist. A blogger. That was the new word. But it's a diarist.
Would you believe, in Apple podcasts, my podcast, this podcast, was submitted into the Spirituality category. Where else would you put it? But Apple always puts it in “personal journals.” No matter what I do, I can't get it out of that category and into something like spirituality or wellness. Anything else, no matter what.
They won’t change my category. I have no idea why. They consider it a personal journal. I never called it that. Maybe their robots know more about me than I can see in myself.
My blogs and my podcast episodes are serialized, dramatized, episodic content. I can kinda a connection to soap operas there. Every week, I write this unfolding story and I have no idea where it's going or where it ends. I’m just creating it as I go. And I think that's part of what I love about that whole soap writing.
I’m sure I thought when I grew up I would live in a modern high rise in some glamorous city, there would be video phones like the Jetsons. I would wear fashiony dressy clothes all the time and I would putter about, busy busy, having meetings with people about my work, and possibly having meetings about my work by Jetson video phone.
The reality is, I live in the city where I grew up, but it's changed and it's become a more glamorous version of itself, kind of. I actually hated living in a big city. I tried it. I don’t even really like visiting them very much either.
I hate wearing dress clothes — I dress like a high school baseball coach who likes to hike on the weekends. I wear hoodies and crossfit trainers and sometimes I switch that up with a birkenstock clog. I write in cafes. My time is my own.
And I do have meeting by video phone — it’s called Skype and Zoom and FaceTime.
I get paid to tell people stories — about themselves, about myself, about these worlds I make up. I am not CS Lewis-level famous, but I am internet famous, which is probably better in some ways.
Bottom line, I make a living sharing ideas from my head.
It’s kind of better than glamorous — it’s casual! It's so casual and informal.
It probably does sound like I’m bragging.
But I really am just trying to acknowledge this moment in time in my life. I’m freezing the present. I'm looking around. I’m taking a moment to be grateful. And to just kind of shout it from the rooftops.
Because, like you, I have all these things on the horizon I haven’t reached yet: I tell myself I can’t. I tell myself I’m not there yet. One day, some day, when I’m some Thing, some other version of myself than I am now
What happens when I get there? Fastforward … to When I Get THERE.
Will I still be straining for the future? and disconnected from what's actually going on?
Or will I have a moment like I did the other day, today, where I stop, and I look around and I realize: I have so much of what I’m looking for.
You have two choices to be who you want to be when you grow up: If you don’t already have it, if you're not even close, you need to change some shit. And that is hard.
But if you want it, you have to be willing to give up some stuff maybe. I won't even go into all the things I gave up, or that I do give up, because I'm focusing on what I HAVE.
If you do feel like you might have all the elements in place, or you just want to accept that maybe this IS it, then the question is not about what you can change, but how can you feel differently about what is.
Be with what is.
I am already everything I’ve ever wanted to become. I am fulfilling my purpose by being here. And I can’t be happy then, in some glamourized future I may never get to, If I can’t be happy now, If I can’t be grateful right now.
If I don't know how to do that now, then how will I know how to do that whenever I get to wherever it is that I'm supposed to get to.
So I’m pausing to mark this moment in time. And I recommend you do the same thing. If you can.
You’re not missing anything. There’s nothing for you to bring in or add or change before you can acknowledge it. Before you can claim your reason for being here and to find love for yourself and the life that you're already living.
You are already everything you’ve ever wanted to become. You fulfill your life purpose with every breath you take.