Do Scary Sh*t
I'm in Athens today and I'm scared. I saw a police officer in full riot gear on my Uber ride back to my Airbnb last night. My driver seemed to slough it off like it was no big deal as he said that "this here is the anarchist's area." Umm...Cool.
I realized that I'm doing a lot of scary stuff lately. Scary for me anyway.
I left Chicago last November and traveled for six months. Since returning in May, I have been all over the eastern US and northern and Southern Europe. I calculated that over 80% of my days have been spent in a bed other than my own. I woke up in the middle of the night a couple of weeks ago with no clue what continent I was on. I was in my own bed.
My changes in Chicago may be the scariest. I ended a long term relationship and set out on choosing singleness for a period of time in my life. This is scary for me because I've rarely been single. I'm what you would call a serial monogamist. Since the age of 16, I have had a significant other for all but 9 months of my life. I have no idea what to expect from it but I can tell you that it feels damn uncomfortable.
In a typical life, we run into the same things, the same roads, the same foods, the same relationships—all with an occasional step into the unknown as we meet a new friend or take a new path to work. In this new reality that I'm creating for myself, however, every day, every moment, can be an adventure.
There are good reasons why most people don't do this.
Mainly, our brains crave efficiency. Efficiency means safety—safety means survival. When we don't have it—when you wake up with no clue where you are—anxiety is not too far away from terror.
So why do it?
"If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten." ~Jessie Potter
As I was walking down this nondescript street in Athens yesterday, I had a thought, "I've never been down this road before." I said it to myself again—I've never been down this road before. I said it out loud, "I've never been down this road before." I kept saying it. What passed over me was a wave of relief—a wave of self-understanding. I get it! This is why I've been anxious, this is why this thing has been hard. My whole life lately is going down roads I haven't been down before. Literally and metaphorically. Of course I'm anxious, of course, this is hard, of course, I don't know what to expect, of course, I feel lost, of course, of course, of course.
A little over a year ago, I asked myself what would I do if I made my purpose my highest priority. The answer came to me as clear as day: travel as much as possible. I didn't really understand how that would serve my purpose but the internal call to travel was as real as could be.
My purpose in this life is to learn, live, and teach real love. That's what all this is about. My old patterns of "loving" were far from that. My old patterns were like hand-cuffs on my heart. I couldn't even see how unloving I was in moments because I was so familiar with it all.
Traveling has been like one of those paint shakers. My heart in this metaphor might be like an old paint can you keep in your basement. My habits, my daily ways of being kept my the colors from being truly what they were. Stirring with a paint stick wasn't going to do the trick—my soul needed a shaker machine.
So, I'm here in the soul shaker. For me, it's leaving all that is comfortable and living on the edge of my anxiety. I'm curious about you.
1. What is your purpose?
2. What would you be doing right now if you made your purpose your highest priority?
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The Death of the Living
When someone dies
When you truly lose someone
Your grandmother becomes dust
Your father can no longer wish you a happy birthday
Your sister isn’t going to walk through that door
Your lover will never hold your hand again
When the old me dies
I truly lose someone
I won’t live that way again
I see life differently
My thoughts are new
My behavior changes
I celebrate death every day
The death of my approval-seeking self
The death of my rage-filled self
The death of my victim view of life
The death of my hero complex
They each hung on for so long
Grasping for threads of survival
And I keep celebrating
Tomorrow is a new
I'm not the me I was yesterday
By Ken Carlson
More poems by Ken Carlson here