Are We Having it All or Collecting it All?
A few years ago, we were coaching the ChickieNob through a social situation, and we suggested that we role play. First we had to explain what role playing was, and then we told the ChickieNob that I would pretend to be her and she would be the other friend so she could see how the conversation could go. But she was more mesmerized by this idea of pretending to be someone else for a moment and asked if we could sidetrack. She told me that she was going to pretend to be Josh, and she started miming him answering emails on a phone.
I snickered until she mimicked me. She started darting around the kitchen, muttering to herself. “I am so stressed, so stressed. Did you empty out your lunch box because I’m washing dishes in a second. And then I’ll make dinner. And then I’ll help you with homework. Crap, I have an article due. I am so stressed.”
That is sort of not how I hoped I appeared in my daughter’s eyes.
Not that I wanted her to believe that everything was so easy because that just sets up unrealistic expectations for her future. But who the hell wants to be known by the words, “I am so stressed”? I wanted to at least appear to be in control.
A friend told me about a book she saw on Galleycat by Katrina Alcorn that is about the concept of Lean In. It’s sort of the anti-Lean In, which is farther than I’m willing to go since I think Sheryl Sandburg makes a lot of valid points. We do need to be more assertive within reason. But Alcorn asks the question whether we’re leaning in so far that we’re falling. Because that scenario doesn’t really help anyone either.
Sometimes I think we’re just collecting it all: we’re collecting the degrees and jobs and board positions and awards. We’re collecting the friends and family members and partners and kids. We’re collecting the vacations and events and parties. We’re just collecting it, checking it off, recording it.
And that is very different from having it all, from possessing it all, from living it all, from being it all. From really experiencing and enjoying those experiences, not just getting through them.
I know I’m guilty of it: Of working through the vacation. Of racing from Point A to Point B to Point C, and thinking ahead to the next place while I’m still in the last one. Of constantly worrying about the next day while I’m still in the present; or even worse, worrying about the distant future before I truly have to worry about it.
It’s hard to be in the present, to remain in the present. It’s hard to sit with an accomplishment and say, “that’s enough for now. I’ll try for something again later after I’ve enjoyed this for a while.” Perhaps it’s because we don’t know if there will be a later and we’re constantly also reminded to carpe diem. If you really seize the day and suck all the marrow out of life, taking up every opportunity that comes your way and actively seeking more than that, you’ll be exhausted, you’ll be drained, you’ll be… stressed.
But how can you keep up with the Joneses if you’re not constantly moving? And not just moving; moving at warp speed so you too can look like a superwoman from the outside. The answer is to get off the merry-go-round as John Lennon suggested, but not all of us are comfortable with the concept of living our lives at that speed.
I guess somewhere between leaning in and leaning out and falling over is this wish that I could stop collecting and simply appreciate and sit with what I have for longer before I move on to the next big thing. But I guess I could only do that if I knew for certain that if I waited, if I paused, if I leaned in and leaned out in order to create that balance, that those next big things would still be guaranteed to be down the road for me.