I can’t believe it, but I’ve been writing A Wild, Free Life for over a year now. And I realized that I still don’t have a mission statement, a manifesto. What’s it all about? Why do I write (almost) every week?
Do you ever mean to write yourself reminders so you don’t forget what seems true and important and real? I do. And I always somehow seem to forget. Not just the reminder, but the writing down part (and I’m a writer!). So on this rainy day I thought, Why not now? And, Why don’t you write it A-Z so you don’t overthink it? Here’s what I came up with:
A: Ask yourself. Ask what? Everything. What’s your motive? Why do you feel this way? Or, my current favorite: Why not?
B: Baffle yourself. What’s the scariest thing you can think of? Got it? Now go do it. Whether it’s driving into San Francisco by yourself or bungee jumping, the fear won’t go away unless you try it. And once you do try it, you’ll wonder what you had been so scared of in the first place.
C: Care for yourself. After jumping off that cliff or parallel parking in the mean streets of the city, care for yourself. Get yourself a cup of tea or go for a walk. Curl up in a puddle of sunshine on your bed in the middle of the afternoon and take a nap (I just did this; amazing).
D: Don’t forget who’s in charge. And that’s you. You’re in charge. Of yourself and your life. You’re not happy with something? Change it. You’ve always wanted to do something? Do it. No one’s stopping you but yourself. Get out of your own way.
E: Evolve everything everyday. The only constant in this life is change. Lean into it, embrace it, go with it. It’s unsettling, but it’s also the only way. And like Cheryl Strayed said, “Don’t surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn’t true anymore.” Who you were yesterday is different from who you are right now. How cool is that?
F: Forget it. Forget that past idea you had about yourself. Forget the walls you built that had a purpose last year but serve no purpose now. Forget the openness you thought you had to maintain when it leaves you too bare. Forget the notions and the judgements. Just be yourself.
G: Go for it. Go for it with gusto. Go for the “weird” or “stupid” idea. Go for the “wrong” person. Go for whatever it is that you’ve been wanting to try but have put off because of laziness, fear, insecurity, inertia. The person who doesn’t look good on paper could be a kindred spirit. The weird idea, that poetry slam or the skateboard, could be your calling. Or it could just give you plain old silly joy. Either way.
H: Help out. Help out when you can, where you can. Help your mom on a Sunday even if you’d rather be eating brunch. Help your friend plant her garden even if your thumb is more black than green (like mine is. I somehow manage to kill every plant I touch). And the motive can be selfless or even a little selfish: so you feel better about yourself. It doesn’t matter as long as you do it with good intentions. Altruism for the win.
I: Imagine more. More than you first imagined. More than you thought you deserved. Imagine that you deserve everything and nothing. Imagine world peace. Imagine a friend. Just don’t let your imagination die.
J: Joke around. We all take ourselves way too seriously. What, are we curing cancer? And even if we are (props to you, you’re amazing!), life is silly and crazy and hysterical. Joke about yourself, tell stupid knock-knock jokes (just no racist jokes. I don’t care if you make them about everyone. We don’t need anymore of those).
K: Kill it. Kill the doubt, kill the fear. Kill it at your job. Kill it at life. Kill it = put your best effort in all the time, every time. Kill it = like you mean it. No half-assing. No wishy-washy. No maybe/maybe not. Just kill it.
L: Love. Love it all the way. Love something every day. Love your sneakers that no one else likes. Love that woman who just cut you off on the road. Love whatever seems like it doesn’t get enough love. Love that hateful guy spewing utter nonsense on TV because the world needs more love, less hate. Love the rain, love the sun, love the moon and the stars. Why not?
M: Meet. Meet someone halfway. Meet yourself where you are. Meet friends for coffee. Meet a new person whom you’ve never met and may not like. Meet the neighbor down the road who plays the loud annoying music. Meet someone new, meet someone old. The point is to connect. It’s why we’re here.
N: Nope. Say it more, say it when you’d say yes and regret it. A party when you want to sleep? Nope. A date with someone you’re not feeling? Nope. Say it soon and say it with integrity and respect. But say it if you’re feeling it.
O: Open-mouthed wonder. Shock and awe. Cultivate it, nurture it. The wonder and the curiosity we innately have as children seems to dissolve as we age; reverse it. Get more awe-ful, more excited, more imaginative. This planet is a magical, awe-inspiring thing. So why pretend like it’s boring? Why be too cool for school? That’s what’s boring.
P: Please. Say it. And Thank You. To your server or yourself or make your kid say it. People don’t say it enough. Please.
Q: Quit. Quit frowning all the time. If you’re pissed off, fine, but otherwise I don’t get it. Quit faking. Quit whatever no longer serves. Quit if you’re over it. Quit if you gave it your all and you’re tired of trying. Quit it if it hurts too much. Just give it 100% before you do or you’ll regret it. Or quit quitting everything. Quit quitting sugar and coffee and meat and dairy and cheese — unless you have medical issues (see this; I feel your pain). But if you don’t? Ask yourself why you’re quitting so many things.
R: Rest. Rest up. Rest easy. Rest. I’m sure you could go all night like the Energizer bunny. I’m sure you can hang, you can handle it. But burnout is real. And burning out is not fun, pretty, cool, practical. You burn out and you get sick. You get sad. You struggle. So get some sleep!
S: Simplify. Simplify your life, streamline the process. Clean out your closet or your car if that helps. Cut out the needless stuff that exhausts you, the people who sap your energy. Perhaps reconsider some of the “it’s complicated” relationships. Complicated does not equal stimulating. The drama and the arguments, the clutter and the mess; it’s gone. Doesn’t that feel better?
T: Tread lightly. It’s easy to get caught up. It’s easy to get carried away when you’re purging the closet, cutting out the a-holes, sweeping up the dust. Tread lightly when it comes to people’s feelings. Say what you mean and mean what you say, but don’t become an a-hole yourself. Being straightforward does not give you license to beat someone down. Including yourself. Would you ever call a friend fat? No? Then why would you say that to yourself?
U: Understanding. Attempt to understand what seems completely different or wrong or weird. Understand the motive behind your actions. Understand that even though you might not understand, you’re trying. Understand that everyone is the same but different. Understand that your experience is not necessarily mine or hers or his. Understand that this is okay.
V: Verify. Verify the validity of what that “guru” is saying. Verify the voices in your head and if what they’re saying is true. Verify yourself and your self. You feel like what you say doesn’t matter? Why? You feel like you know everything? Verify that. Is it true? Says who?
W: Wing it. Quit over-thinking everything and just wing it. Wing it with intention but wing it. Scrap the outline, toss the notes. There’s no blueprint for life. You plan and the outcome might disappoint you. You plan and pursue and then you get what you want and it looks completely different from what you thought it would look like. Loosen the reins a little bit.
X: X = 10. Think of ten things you’re thankful for. Doesn’t have to be every day. But think about it. Maybe you can only think of one thing right now. That’s something. But shoot for ten, roman numeral X. The first double-digit number. There’s something about the symmetry of the symbol that is perfectly complete, even. Round out your thankfulness.
Y: Yes. See letter N. Now think about what you always say no to. What you deny or avoid or put off because you’re scared or stubborn or judgemental. Now say yes and see what happens. Could be awful. Could be awesome. Try it and see.
Z: Zest. Zest for life. Hell, zest your salad while you’re at it. Add some flavor to your food, some excitement to your life. Enjoy what you can, where you can, when you can. Because life is fleeting. Because we’re here to feel. Because why the hell not? And how cool would it be to be remembered as the little old lady who “always had such zest for life”? I want that on my tombstone.
I wish you a wild, free life.