The Descriptive Self

What’s your response when someone whom you’ve just met asks you what you do? Do you tell him or her your occupation as if that’s who you are? Do you label yourself into a box with presumed connotations, false impressions, or negative or positive associations?

Ok. So we’ve been programmed to answer this question invariably to indicate a social status. There are lawyers, doctors, chemists, and the like who probably make a substantial income. But others who teach, perform, create, or keep books for a living are just as valuable even if our society may not place these in a desirable light for one reason or another. Take a look at the labels. If a person is a janitor, the connotation is negative. The word janitor is replaced with a euphemism, a more desirable name, such as building maintenance worker. The garbage truck driver is now a sanitation worker. Regardless, an occupation is just an occupation. It’s the society and culture that forces the label upon us. What our culture can’t do is take away how one feels about his or her work. A financial planner might feel she’s in a dead end job and cannot wait to find something different. A barista might feel incredibly satisfied with his work. It doesn’t matter what one does to provide the necessary things for survival.

Try something different the next time a new acquaintance greets you with the ‘hello’ small talk and asks that dreadful question. What do you do? Answer, I dream, I write, I play cards with my children, I enjoy plays, I skip rope, I camp in a tent, I sculpt, I run, I bike, I have fun taking classes, I enjoy my life . . .
Imagine, now, the look you’ll get.

Imagine, as well, that the new person would really like to get to know the real you, not the descriptive you.

Think about this . . . Your job or occupation does not make you who you are. Identity crises happen when one has been a piano player all his life, but is no longer able to perform due to arthritis. An athlete with broken bones from a devastating accident must find out who she really is is more painful than the cause of the debilitation. Holding onto that identifying position, or social status in life, can cause great pain if change occurs. And things do change in this world. Often.

You’ll recognize this guy:
Remembering the glory days is what he’ll be talking about. The high school game he won at the last second. Where is he 20 years later? Still trying to hold onto a description of himself that once made him feel he had accomplished something great.

Live in the moment of today. Find what you love to do and go do that. Don’t get caught up in telling others your occupation in order to fit in. You’ll eventually sell yourself short. With so many aspects to your personality, why stifle yourself or risk the possibility that someone will misread your potential and multifaceted capabilities and stamp a label on your being. There are no boundaries to what you can do, and no boundaries to who you have become. Set yourself apart from those who proclaim one small aspect of themselves. Be free. See the sky.


Can’t repeat the past?…Why of course you can! F. Scott Fitzgerald


And we do – often. Every time we allow our past experiences to creep into our present lives, we are arrested from living freely. This is not to say that past experiences haven’t a place in our lives. Some are useful. We learn many skills that help us to keep our hands away from a hot iron, or to remember how to behave in society. However, our brains can adhere to certain undesirable experiences which in return causes us to relive those moments whether or not we are conscious of them.

Jay Gatsby, in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, tried to recreate a fantasy with a different, desired outcome. What he aimed for was really just dust. The past doesn’t exist. Even with the wealth he created, Daisy would have none of it or him. When one grasps at the past, one grasps onto nothing. Kant says, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” For Fitzgerald to write about grasping at nothing, he must have had first hand experience. Gatsby’s tragic ending reminds us of a wasted life and how ridiculous it would be to live that way. Do we judge harshly?

What I’m getting at is basically this: Your past is past. It ought not have any bearing on your current life other than having learned from the mistakes you’ve made. Are we then just as ridiculous when a past mistake holds us back from becoming what we desire? Doing the things we like? Starting that new career? Sure, we may have failed in the past. Certainly the past teaches us lessons. Maybe we didn’t put in much effort the first time through. It’s ok. Try again. Aim to live in the NOW before it gets away from you.

For more inspiration on living your current life, read my post called “No. You Don’t Have Time



20190602_135222How many of us live with expectations that are rarely, if ever, achieved?

If you’re like me, you’ve probably imagined what your life could be like given all things you hoped for to come true for you. And chances are you have lamented not having lived up to the standards you’ve created for yourself, often called expectations. Expectations come in many forms. These are the “should haves” in life: I should have gone back to school, should have had that great job by age x, should have been married by now, should have purchased my own home by now, or should have started that business. The “shoulds” you place on your dreams may even lead to regret. Regret can often lead to depression.

If we take another perspective, we would see that the demands we make on ourselves are often too rigid, too constraining, and very unforgiving. It’s as if we have allowed the status quo to take over our belief systems. Aim not to give in to the ideology society has rendered the appropriate way to live. Instead, embrace your individuality.

Notice that while you might not have the ideal lifestyle you bought into, you can change if you so desire. You see, your life is your own and those who make up our society are individuals too who often don’t get it right. Do we really want to listen to them?

Plato (427-347 B.C) demonstrates humankind and its inability to see the truth from the shadows and what appears to be real in the Allegory of the Cave found in Book VII in his famed philosophical work The Republic.
For your reading pleasure:

When we only see the screened images of people say in tabloids such as People Magazine, Cosmo, GQ, Men’s Health, etc., the images stay with us. The message they send to readers is subtle but clear. Here are air-brushed pictures of “beautiful people” who are better than you, and whose level of perfection you will never reach. Herein lies the seeds of unrequited desire. You won’t have to look far for other types of magazines for a similar effect. Better Homes and Gardens will have you hankering for an old colonial with expansive gardens on your massive acreage, even if the style is not your taste, or perhaps the latest in furniture and appliances to go along with your newly remodeled kitchen or living-room. Basically, the images make us feel bad for being normal.

These tactics aren’t new. Remember the ideals summed up for us with the nuclear family? You know, the perfect family consists of a male and female parent set and two children, preferably one male and one female. I am sure we cannot predict our offspring outcome anymore than who our partners will be.

How about the American Dream ideology? The criteria here consists of that nuclear family, but not before you grow up in your own nuclear family, go to college for an excellent education, find work that allows you to purchase a home with a white picket fence, and an automobile for your garage. Did I miss anything? How many of us don’t fit this criteria? How strange is it to think we should possess and live these fantasies? Honestly, the farther we are from the ideology, the more American we become – the more normal we are.

What of a life of merely appearances? Shall mankind never be authentic? We are certainly not the clothing we wear, the place we live, or what vehicle we drive or do not drive. What is inside us is of most importance. Why not let your quality characteristics shine instead of the bling around your neck? Regardless of what you own, relationships and intimacy with others will find you out. Let go of all the external flairs and be genuine. Aim not to let others influence what they think you ought to possess, or where they think you ought to be in your life. Doing so only causes despair. The best relationships seek to know the real you. Be real and live well.


The deliberate life

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Henry David Thoreau


Are we living our lives with intention?

Years ago I discovered Thoreau’s philosophical piece, Walden, or Life in the Woods in a literature survey course. Mostly because of him, I’ve stopped wearing a watch. While that may be a different topic for another post, I had to mention it for the sheer humor of my response.

If you’ve ever spent time in the woods to reconnect with nature, you’ll understand the reason one would go there for self discovery. The sounds of nature calm us: birds singing, the rustle of leaves in the wind, small animals skittering across the ground. These woods are a place of silence with which to unwind from the stresses of the world. It’s an instant meditation in some cases. Your eyes and ears can seem to span miles. You breathe deeply and awaken your lungs. Smells of pine, grasses, perhaps a flower can bring your mind to a sense of inner peace so powerful you’ll wonder why you don’t return as often as you’d like.

While at Walden Pond, Thoreau paid close attention to the seasons, calculated the depths of the pond, and wrote about the wonders of that small space of the earth. Even though the book is written as if one year was spent, the duration was actually two years. Many of his recorded thoughts aim to teach us how to live as simply as possible, without the so-called luxuries that entrap us into thinking that without them we have no value. Now, I didn’t stop wearing my wrist watch because it represented a luxury, no. My reason is so much more in depth than that. You see, the train had made its way into Concord, Massachusetts at the time Thoreau was writing. It was the intrusion of the train that he wrote about. Yes, intrusion. Today we recognize the revolutionary advancements the train and tracks provided for our country. The transportation, the moving of goods, the letters it brought from afar allowed us more freedoms. Does it not seem odd that Henry would despise the train? At one point in the text, he exclaims that the daily routine had become obnoxious and irritating. Its sounds and entrances into town destroyed the serenity of the peace he had found in the nearby woods. The train had imposed such an unnatural rut in the fabric of the earth so timely one can set his watch by its arrival.

There it is, yes?

What is it we do by such rote that disturbs our inner peace?

What do we allow in our lives that keeps us from living simply? Is it a schedule that we feel we must keep to be popular? Soccer moms, how many activities are your children involved in? Do these activities obstruct a relaxed dinner time around the family table?

Shouldn’t relationships we build be more important than keeping up with preconceived notions of the possible grandeur of unnecessary things?

Think about the woods again. They thrive without man pushing his way through to be known to it.

“Live Simply”


No. You Don’t Have Time

No. You don’t have time. (3 of 3)

Not too long ago I was riding in the car with a friend who impatiently tried to nudge the car ahead of her when the traffic light had just changed and proclaimed, “Hey, the light’s not getting any greener. What are you waiting for?”
Similarly, Incubus lyrics suggest we are waiting for “A Certain Shade of Green.”

My last two posts have been about change and discuss what may be holding us back. I’d like to take a few moments to focus on what a dear friend said to me recently, when in passing I impressed upon her that I had time to do something I wanted in life. She pulled me aside. Having lost her husband of 50 years, Ilse made herself perfectly clear. “No. You don’t have time” was her response. Within seconds I’d realized the magnitude of her statement. She’s right. None of us have time. She thought she’d have the rest of her life with her loving husband. Unfortunately, life isn’t a sure thing for any of us. Now is the time to do the thing we hanker to do. “Now, now, now. . .” I can almost hear the opening scene to Shakespeare’s Richard III. Obviously, the context is different; nonetheless, he began to take action for the changes he wanted to make. I do not suggest we pine for greed or power. But what about that trip to Europe you’ve been wanting to take? How about that new business? Taking care of those pesky, extra few pounds? The thing you desire most that you’ve been putting off for one reason or another.

Sound familiar? We all go through it. The desire to be or do that thing just outside our reach. What are you waiting for? Certainly, you’re not waiting for permission. We talked about that last time. Are you waiting to be thin enough or have money enough or be good enough? Nonsense. You ought to do what you desire. You’ll find a way. Don’t provide excuses, more reasons to remain in your burning desires. Plan the steps it will take to bring on that trip, that new job or business, a slimmer you.

I understand changes aren’t easy. The reality is, some changes take a while to come to fruition; but even so, those steps will help you feel better as you move through your days knowing you’re on your way to having what you want. You might even become healthier performing the steps because you’ll move in the right direction toward your goals. Imagine the relief of paying off a credit card and saving for that trip. What a load off! Tiny steps to get over the mountain. In the meantime, follow the old cliche and take time to stop to smell the roses. This life is your journey. It’s all yours. Plan it as if you would your vacation. Remember though, there are no guarantees. The upside is while you aim for your goals, happiness seems to catch up to you prior to reaching those heights. No action keeps you where you are: self loathing and sitting with fears that you might not succeed.

Lucille Ball once said, “I’d rather regret the things I’ve done in life than regret the things I didn’t do.”

We ought to live on the edge of something we are about to create than repeat the same patterns to exhaustion.

I used to study ant behavior. One of the changes I like to do is to mix up my daily drive. Taking a different route helps to eliminate the etched trails we create on our roadways. Imagine what aliens, if they exist, would notice about our patterns. They’re not very creative. I’d surmise they’d think we have no purpose or clue what else to do. Of course the concept is silly; however, it makes sense to make changes and live the life we are meant to live. Funny, my auto-correct just changed my statement to: Live the life we are meant to love. I think I like that better. Love your life. If you don’t, determine what needs to change and take small steps to arrive at your place. Your “Ithaca.”

Here is a poem by Constantine P. Cavafy that may help you realize your journey.


When you set out for Ithaka
ask that your way be long,
full of adventure, full of instruction.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – do not fear them:
such as these you will never find
as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare
emotion touch your spirit and your body.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – you will not meet them
unless you carry them in your soul,
unless your soul raise them up before you.

Ask that your way be long.
At many a Summer dawn to enter
with what gratitude, what joy –
ports seen for the first time;
to stop at Phoenician trading centres,
and to buy good merchandise,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;
to visit many Egyptian cities,
to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.

Have Ithaka always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don’t in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.
Ithaka gave you a splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn’t anything else to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn’t deceived you.
So wise you have become, of such experience,
that already you’ll have understood what these Ithakas mean.
Constantine P. Cavafy

Carpe diem! Seize the day! And if you can’t do that, Carpe Punctum! Seize this Moment. Moment to Moment…