Human Doing or Human Being?
Life has been weird lately. Not because anything’s happening, but because of the opposite.
Nothing is happening.
For the first time since an early-20s gleefully unemployed phase, I don’t have anything to work on, I don’t have to scramble to find something, and nobody is waiting on me for anything.
I’m just here. Being.
Or trying to be.
But here’s the thing:
It’s so easy to be a human doing instead of a human being.
The root of this, if I had to guess, is money. Money just loves to be a root, doesn’t it?
And just like a root, you can’t really see what’s going on down there. You don’t know how much it’s actually working, how much it’s actually supporting, and how much credit it actually deserves for the whole shebang’s functionality.
But one thing is for certain: I spend a lot of time “doing” because I want more of this mysterious money stuff, and because I have a deep—if inexplicable—fear that some horrendous occurrence will someday, somehow, leave me homeless and desperate on the street.
I say this not to cast a negative light on the cheese that spins the world, but just to cast a light at all. It’s a world spinner, a wheel turner. A wheel of cheese that makes us do, if you will.
(and I will!)
Yet, money is the reason I’m allowed to take this time off from hustling and do-ing. The reason I’m allowed my current style of be-ing. I’m not rolling in it—not by a long shot—but I have enough to float on until my next project begins (ghostwriting a super interesting book).
Should next project proceed as planned (which, let’s be honest, it probably won’t), I’ll earn and learn enough so that when it’s over, I can chill yet again.
But … the project is behind schedule and we haven’t even begun. The client’s waiting on 3rd-party contract stuff.
I’d usually be worrying about something like this. I would take this time of waiting and fill it with frantic searches for interim income and interim reasons to fret. I would fear complete project dissolution and brace myself for the doom of “it was too good to be true.”
And frankly, that doom may well happen.
But this time, I’m choosing faith. I’m choosing to believe I have enough money (because mathematically, I do) and choosing to believe that the book will happen when (and if) it’s meant to.
And guess what?
I’ll be just fine if it doesn’t. I’ll find something else. I’ll figure it out.
More than anything, that’s what this life of following instinct, pursuing creativity, and choosing the road less traveled has taught me: life works itself out.
If I act in good faith and do the best I can, I’ll figure out issues as they arise, safe in the knowledge that I haven’t done anything “wrong” leading up to said issues. As long as I stay true, I’m just doing the best I can with the information I have—how can I chastise that? How can that be wrong?
“Some things are up to us, others are not. Up to us is opinion, pursuit, desire, avoidance; in a word, our own actions. Not up to us is body, property, reputation, power, and, in a word, anything not our actions.””
-Epictetus, The Enchiridion, self-translated
Even now, when I’m doing nothing professional to speak of, I’m doing the best I can at it. I’m helicopter-momming all my plants, I’m sanding and staining our deck, I’m writing creatively for no reason at all, I’m organizing papers long decaying in the to-do-when-I’m-free-someday file, and I’m just sitting in this little life garden I’ve made.
But hey—don’t let me over-romanticize—every day I am hit with the pang of anxiety that says:
- You’re not doing enough.
- You’re not producing anything society can measure.
- You shouldn’t be relaxed.
- You should be hustling.
- You don’t deserve to be calm.
And every day, I do my best to let those thoughts pass.
(sometimes I even succeed!)
Because what is the point of pursuing a life on my terms if I can’t appreciate the thing I want when I have it?
“…It’s not things that upset us, but how we think about things. Stuff happens. We then make judgements about what happens. If we judge that something really bad has happened, then we might get upset, sad, or angry, depending on what it is … All these emotions are the product of the judgements we make …
The paradox … is that we have almost no control over anything, yet at the same time we have potentially complete control over our happiness.”
– John Sellars, “Want to be happy? Then live like a Stoic for a week,” TheConversation.com
I began this creative pursuit as a means of finding freedom. Schedule, financial, and emotional freedom. I’ve been a human doing with the hopes of finding my way to human being.
Here, right now, is an opportunity for it. Nobody at my door (save anxiety), and no tangible reason to worry about finances (for the next couple months). This is exactly the thing I’ve dreamed of: freedom. A life designed.
It’s being given to me now—when I didn’t expect it—but I am glad to see it as just as much of a personal growth opportunity as any measurable option (like finishing a book, creating a show, growing my “brand,” or working on some other project).
The mental determination to get through it has been just as demanding, but the effort feels good, like aching muscles on an ocean swim.
It’s a mini-retirement, a lacuna, but not one of escape or cessation. I’m simply pulling back for a moment, trying to get lost on a trail leading everywhere.
“You will hear many people saying: ‘When I am fifty I shall retire into leisure; when I am sixty I shall give up public duties.’ And what guarantee do you have of a longer life? Who will allow your course to proceed as you arrange it? Aren’t you ashamed to keep for yourself just the remnants of your life, and to devote to wisdom only that time which cannot be spent on any business? How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end!”
– Seneca, On the Shortness of Life, via Maria Popova @ Brainpickings
Here, in the nothingness, could be everything.
Your thoughts? I’d love to hear ’em below (leave a comment!) … Oh, and get an email when I post something new.