Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Green Acres

I know it's human nature to always want what we don't always feel that the grass is greener somewhere else. What I wonder is if everyone always feels that way--or are there people in the world (Oprah Winfrey, say) who sit back and think, "Damn, I have a perfect life. I wouldn't change a thing.") But skipping the people on the Forbes richest list, do "regular" folks ever feel that way? I've known people who seemed content, but is that the same feeling? Is feeling pretty okay about where one finds oneself the same as never envying someone else's situation, lifestyle, whatever? And is it even envy? I can't think of a particular person who has something I necessarily covet--as in, I'd rather I have it than her. I don't covet THINGS...I could really care less about owning stuff.

What I crave is the freedom to live the kind of life I come and go as I please (to not be tied to a JOB, any job) travel as much as I want, anywhere I spend my days doing the things that give me pleasure (rather than spending my days making some person or corporation richer). My "problem" (within our societal framework) is that I just don't give a shit about material security. I don't care about being wealthy, although many would argue that being wealthy is the ticket to the kind of freedom that I crave. And I won't dispute that. But at this stage of the game, having spent decades as a wandering soul (and not foreseeing a lottery jackpot in my future), I think I really need to be satisfying those cravings for how I really want to spend my time.

About 20 years ago I read Barbara Sher's first book "Wishcraft." If you're familiar with Barbara and her several books, you know that she's all about creating the kind of life you want and were meant to have. There's a simple, but effective, exercise I still remember from that first book. You imagine the kind of life you want and then categorize the elements of that life into A, B and C columns. I don't remember the exact heading of each column, but the gist of it was that A would be the things you absolutely had to have and couldn't live without, the B items were things that maybe weren't quite as necessary to your ideal life but you'd really like to have, and C was for those things that would be nice to have but you could probably live without. Then you look at the items in the A and B columns particularly and think of even small ways that you can begin to incorporate those elements into your daily life. Like I said, it's a simple exercise...but I know from experience that it's effective.

I haven't done that exercise in YEARS, but I did do it right after reading the book. And lo and behold, not long after that I ended up with a life that only a short while before would have seemed to me like my dream life. What I hadn't prepared myself for was the fact that my concept of "dream life" would constantly change...and maybe that's just the nature of who I am. I have a laundry list of things I want to see and do in this life, and I hadn't stopped to realize 20 years ago that one day's dream life is just another checked item on my laundry list of life goals. And that's okay. Because for me, the joy comes not in finally reaching a place of ultimate contentment, but in realizing that that "grass is always greener" feeling spurs me to do and try a lot of different things. And my grass may not always be green. When I think back on my crazy, patchwork life thus far, there's probably some blue and purple and pink and red grass in there, too!

So if you, too, have ever had fantasies about living on a Caribbean island, take them seriously. Thirteen years ago I took a solo vacation to the Cayman Islands. I can remember sitting on 7 Mile Beach on Grand Cayman and looking at the turquoise water and palm trees and thinking how fabulous it must be to wake up there every day. To LIVE in a place like that. Ten years later, here I was...different island, same vibe. And we came here with nothing. We started from scratch and because of the talents and skills we brought with us, we quickly had a pretty sweet life. And we're not extraordinary. We work regular day jobs just like everyone else. We're just ordinary folks...who had a wacky dream.

So pay attention to those fantasies. Start going through your laundry list of life goals. Just keep in mind that if you end up here, I might already be gone. I might be off chasing that next piece of grass.


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