Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little. – Edmund Burke
For most of my life, I’ve felt alone.
I could see everything going on around me. Life. People. Progress. Accomplishment.
But I was stuck behind bars.
Bars of anxiety, fear, and apprehension.
Bars of depression.
The bars of rejection and failure.
And the bars of chronic illness, and the cognitive and physical struggles stemming from that.
Throughout my life, I’ve felt much like a lioness, walking back and forth in my cage. A creature with restless energy, but no idea where to put it or how to apply it within such limited scope.
I am too malnourished to break through these bars, and the glass wall beyond them.
I silently watch as life – my friends, opportunities, my dreams – go by, wondering if I’ll ever be freed from this cage, yet slowly coming to accept my fate – that I may die here, forgotten, with no contribution or legacy or meaning to leave behind me.
I gradually lose my creativity, coming to instead see these walls as my limitations and boundaries.
Until, at some point or other, I stop looking at the walls.
When I stop focusing on my limitations, I find that there is more within the space that confines me than my eyes could previously see.
I’ve spent so long looking out. Out at a life, a world, relationships, ideas, events, materials, opportunities that I would never touch. Things that would never be available to me – at my disposal to work with or use in my creative process.
I’ve spent so long looking outside the boundaries of this prison and wishing to have or be something I could not – coveting what would always for me be a fantasy – that I’ve lost time I could have spent trying to be resourceful with the air available to me, the nitrogen, the oxygen, the sunlight within my domain.
When I at last stop looking at my boundaries, and instead look within them, I begin to see past them. I see a new dimension that was not evident to me before.
Not a dimension of height, or depth, or breadth. Another dimension, another energy. Something I’m still trying to describe and explain and understand. Perhaps it’s a form of music.
I begin to sing.
I start with a quiet song. One that is only audible to me, and the walls and waves of energy that blanket me.
But as I practice, my voice becomes stronger.
And eventually, it begins to carry.
It carries through the glass.
The vibrations of my voice begin to mildly, subtly disrupt the field of energy around me.
I soon sense the presence of another soul.
I am not alone.
But…why? Why would anyone in the free world come to visit a captive? A nobody, locked away in prison? How would they find my small offering even mildly relatable or interesting?
At last though, it starts to make sense. I begin to realize that they, too, are in a prison. But just as mine had formerly been invisible to them, so was theirs to me.
Perhaps their prison is one of societal pressures.
Relationship pain or heartbreak.
A persona they wear, which conceals their true essence from everyone.
A career that they hate.
A different form of chronic illness.
As they visit me in my prison cell, I begin to feel free, and no longer isolated.
I watch as they, too, begin to sing from the confines of their prison.
I watch as their formerly invisible chains begin to unravel.
© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved
According to one study (details in this post), only about 15% of our fears will actually materialize.
And of those fears which do transpire, most will either be more manageable than we had anticipated, and/or we will gain valuable takeaways from these situations.
I needed to remind myself of this today. I’ve been very anxious and jittery the past couple of days, worrying about all the terrible things that could possibly happen in my life, often building mountains of fear off of just a fraction of a legitimate “reason” to be afraid.
Whether or not some of my fears are realized, time will tell.
But regardless of what happens, I’m positive that I will learn something from whatever comes my way.
We always buy our “independence” with slavery to something or someone else. We just have to decide to whom or to what we’re willing to enslave ourselves.
For example, we might think that landing a well-paying job will earn us independence. Yet perhaps we overlook the fact that even financial independence is dependent on our employer’s decision to keep us employed. Therefore, we are our employers’ slaves, and our financial independence is dependent on our employers.
Additionally, we will be sacrificing time, energy, and possibly sanity to keep our job. We will be forfeiting our independence of time, independence in how and where we use our energy, and perhaps our ability to remain entirely sane – all for the sake of “financial independence”.
(Note, I’m not saying “work is not important or necessary”. Work is both important and necessary. Just making observations here.)
From My Favorite Quotes, a piece I wrote back in September:
Over the past few months, I’ve been learning that independence is an illusion. Money cannot provide true independence, because we’re always sacrificing something to get that money (like time, energy, sanity, identity when working for someone else). We are always a slave to something, or someone. (Sorry, depressing thought.) We just have to choose what we’re willing to enslave ourselves to, and what things/people just aren’t worth it.
And that, right there, is the essence of my point. We can’t avoid being slaves to anything. But we should consciously make the choice of where, to what, and to whom we will be enslaved, and in what areas we’d rather be “free”.
Generally speaking, working harder will eventually lead to burnout.
Of course, this all depends on how hard one is currently working. A person who’s not lifting a finger might benefit from working harder. 🙂
But for the workaholics out there, I’m here to tell you that there is (generally) a better way.
And also: working at something which fits with your talents and abilities, and which caters to a need you’ve identified in the culture/market. Essentially, passion/interest + skill/talent + need/demand.
Many people are working very hard – supposedly to “live their dreams” – by doing something they don’t even love or enjoy. Or worse, something that they hate and which also violates their conscience in some way. Either way, this is a recipe for poor performance and burnout.
I made this mistake. For two and a half years, I worked at a place that wanted me to market something I didn’t even think was a good idea (where “good” equals “beneficial to and safe for the consumer”). I felt so slimy, almost wicked trying to sell people an idea/thing that I didn’t trust or value that much, just to keep my job.
Needless to say, I quickly became pretty stressed, and suffered emotionally, mentally, and physically during my stint with this company.
(There were other reasons for the stress as well, but this dissonance between my sentiments/views and actions/words was definitely a contributing factor.)
Yet I stayed with this place for two and a half years!
Granted, I learned a lot of valuable lessons working there.
Furthermore, many people have a mistaken idea or no idea what their “dreams” actually are.
A lot of us seem to be after promotions, money, power, or prestige – when this is not even what we really want or what will satisfy us long-term – rather than spending time doing what we love, and giving to the world around us in a meaningful way with our unique combination of talents and passions.
We find our sweet spot when we combine our gifts, passions, and the world’s needs.
And I’m not saying that “following your dreams” necessarily means giving up on a decent income, nor that you should just throw your job out the window today to start basket weaving for a living.
But often (though not always), doing the thing we love results in other rewards as well.
But I realize that, like, you’ve got bills to pay. And sometimes you just have to grunt through a job that’s not the best fit – at least for a season – in order to make ends meet.
And the beautiful thing is, even in these jobs, you are still likely using many of your abilities.
Maybe it’s your creativity. Analytical ability. The gift of gab. Personal charm. A knack for encouraging others. An eye for detail. Spatial intelligence or another form of intelligence. An ability to focus and not be distracted. Or an ability to multitask.
These “micro”-abilities are often overlooked and underappreciated. And no matter where you are and what you’re doing, you’re probably using at least some of them.
I tend to think that we are where we are in each part of our lives for a reason. Maybe you’re working the night shift at some soul-crushing, cold, dark, lonely “dungeon”, with just one other person. And maybe you’re there for that person. To encourage them, befriend them, teach them something, learn something from them.
All is not lost.
All is not wasted.
In whatever season you find yourself, there is purpose.
I’m just saying, don’t lose vision. Cultivate your gifts and talents, and don’t throw them away. Even if you have to do something “on the side” for a while – rather than making it your main gig – don’t discard or forget the superpowers and gifts you were given to share with the world (whether that’s the online world or your local community or family/friends or someone else). 😉 Your stunning photography, engineering prowess, gorgeous handmade quilts, your killer baking skills. Share them. Or if that’s not a viable undertaking right now, at least try to invest a bit of time in honing those skills. Forge masterpieces in the secret kiln of your own home. And perhaps one day, the time will come to share them.
And don’t work at a place that forces you to violate your conscience. No amount of money is worth it, and your mind and body will eventually pay the price.
To be wealthy in one thing is often to be poor in something else.
If you work long hours to become wealthy, then you will be not only poor in time, but also potentially in energy, fellowship, and health.
Conversely, those who are wealthy in friendship, community, and love are often those who have chosen to make a sacrifice in other area(s) of their lives.
A parent or spouse with a rich family life may have made the choice – cognizantly or not – to be an average, mediocre, or “good rather than great” professor, physician, or engineer.
They may have chosen to go for being an 80% efficient/dedicated lawyer so they could be a 90% present, effective, and loving mom or dad.
You have to choose for yourself what’s worth having, and what’s worth sacrificing. But realize this: there will be a trade-off. Somewhere.
Any time that you give to one thing is less time that you can then give to the other thing – and therefore less time you spend becoming efficient, effective, useful, helpful, or skilled at that thing, be it parenting, performing surgery, or playing on stage.
And maybe you can get creative and combine or overlap some of the spheres in your life (like bringing your kids on stage while performing? Idk.). Please do not try combining the parenting and surgery spheres. The results could be…messy. 😨
Perhaps you’ve evaluated the pros and cons, and decided to heavily prioritize career over community.
Okay then, cool. It is your choice to make.
But looking down the road, to when you’re seventy or eighty – ask yourself: what will you want to be able to say for your life?
Might your priorities be different then than they are now? If you could do it all over, would you do it differently? Hard to imagine now. Hard to know. But maybe you can get a glimpse into that time.
Do you see yourself having regrets? What sort of regrets?
For all that you’ve accomplished and realized, in what ways will you be poor?
Just some questions to chew on.
Bottom line: Somewhere, a sacrifice will be made. Don’t let it surprise you. Don’t let it choose you. Be the one to decide what that sacrifice will be. Count the cost, and then go forward boldly, in whatever you do.
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
in any direction you choose.
You’re on your own,
and you know what you know.
And you are the guy
who’ll decide where to go.
– Dr. Seuss
One doesn’t recognize the really important moments in one’s life until it’s too late. – Agatha Christie
On that depressing note….
I’m gonna wrap it up here for now. In case you’re wondering, I’m not planning to make all my posts quite this gloomy and dismal. 😛
‘K. Till next time, my friends. <3
Please see disclaimer.
© 2017 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2017-2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved