Sunday, October 17, 2010


Have you ever once in your life reached out to touch infinity?

I read that query somewhere and it stayed with me... and got me thinking about lifestyle design. I learned about the term itself on Free Pursuits, but the concept has already been loosely canvassed by some of my favourite writers, such as Sarah Wilson, Elizabeth Gilbert (I watched Eat Pray Love this week and unashamedly loved it), Louisa Deasey and Penelope Green; and pioneered by Tim Ferriss, who wrote 4 Hour Work Week (which I also loved). Simply put, we can build our own lives - and our own happiness - from the ground up, starting today. The premise is that we don't have to put our lives on hold; we don't have to work hard now with the intention of reaping the benefits later, once we have retired. If we are willing to work smart, eschew conventional expectations and embrace innovation, we can, as Corbett Barr of Free Pursuits puts so succinctly, live the life we want, now

I guess the first step of this process is actually figuring out what we want. It's not that we have to painstakingly plan every little thing that we foresee in our future. It is natural that our dreams and goals will change, often drastically, over time, according to new influences, ideologies and the people who enter our lives. It is more like a rough map. This may be an obscure reference, but has anybody watched Six Feet Under? (If you haven't, you should - if only to witness the amazing breadth of Michael C. Hall's acting talent.) If you have, you may remember a story-line in the second season where Ruth is preoccupied with building her figurative house which is, essentially, a blueprint for her life. In the show, poor Ruth eventually gives up in the face of her endlessly disastrous family circumstances (and the whole concept is made light of as some kind of "cult" ideology)... but it is the idea of the "blueprint" that intrigues me.

I have explored and identified my "wants" in the past, through this blog, as well as the things I want to do in my lifetime. Although I have a pretty clear picture of all those things, I still feel scattered. I think that is because I don't have a good foundation upon which I can build those dreams. I need to figure out what I want right now, as opposed to sometime in the distant future. Taking tangible baby steps, as opposed to leaps and bounds of the imagination.

Right now, I am rereading Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I loved it the first time I read it but, because I am in a different place now to where I was then, I am finding a whole new level of meaning and relevance this time around. A memoir centred upon running may sound a little strange, but it is pretty amazing. I don't know if you have already noticed, but I am kind of into discovering kindred spirits, and I feel as though I am a kindred spirit of Haruki's. Everything he says, I get, no matter how seemingly odd or obscure. (Totally one-sided, of course). He is a Japanese, male version of me. Who likes running. Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that he writes:

"I am struck by how, except when you're young, you really need to prioritize in life, figuring out in what order you should divide up your time and energy. If you don't get that sort of system set by a certain age, you'll lack focus and your life will be out of balance."

That is exactly what I feel as though I need to work on. Prioritising, in order to achieve balance. Of course, it is the one thing I really struggle with. I think it is because I am still young, that I find it hard to commit to one thing without holding onto other options, just in case. I am too scared to dedicate myself too much to one aspect of life, in the fear of having to let go of other possibilities, even if I am not very attached or passionate about them at all. And so I stretch myself too far and end up not excelling at anything much. I think that once I embrace those things which I know to be most important to me (writing, reading, love, friendships, family... not necessarily in that order), I can create some order, a semblance of productivity and, ultimately, success. As I have heard Liz Gilbert phrase it, a ladder extending into my fanciful future, the castle in the sky.

That said, perhaps Jonathon Franzen was right when he said:

"Imagine that human existence is defined by an Ache: the Ache of our not being, each of us, the center of the universe; of our desires forever outnumbering our means of satisfying them."

So maybe dissatisfaction is an inevitable part of life. I would like to think that is not true. I would like to think that we can all achieve a state of being which involves pure happiness and fulfillment; one where we can take a moment to look upon our lives and heave a sigh of pleasure and gratification, unencumbered by any inkling of restlessness or discontent. The thing is, I don't think that disposition is a destination so much as a mindset, which can be formed at any point in our lives. I think the key is not to worry too much about how close we are to achieving our ultimate state of bliss but, rather, to enjoy the journey itself. After all, as Ned says in  Pushing Daisies:

"We wake up everyday with a list of wishes, and maybe we spend our lives trying to make those wishes come true. But just because we want them, doesn’t mean that we need them to be happy."

(Photographs via Sallskapdans and Pearled)

P.S. Reading back upon this post... wow, that is a lot of tangents. (See, I told you. Scattered!) Apologies.


Joni said...

Wow, Laura this is an amazing post. I, too, read a lot of Murakami and everything he says seems to strike a chord.

I actually have a link to a page with quotes from his books bookmarked in Firefox and go to that page whenever I am searching for inspiration or wisdom.

I'm 24, and being this age is tough in terms of making decisions, I think we're products of our generation in the respect that we want/want to be a million things in the shortest time possible.

I think Murakami's notion of "prioritising" is very helpful and I"m going to try and apply it more to the way I perceive the future.

Thanks once again :)

Laura Valerie said...

Hi Joni,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment :)

I agree, sometimes I think it is ridiculous for me to expect to find "inner peace" and "know myself", when I am only 21 and still discovering and learning about the world. It's something that is innate in me, however, to try to learn from other people's wisdom and expand upon it, in an attempt to make sense of what is happening around me.

I also agree with your point about Generation Y! I think that we have learned from our parents that we don't want to wait until we have retired to find joy and happiness. We want all of that now. Which is all well and good, but many of us are searching for it in the wrong places, like the pages of magazines, the gym, shopping centres. Of course, we don't need things (or to look a certain way) in order to be happy and fulfilled. I am still trying to grasp that myself!

Thank you again lovely,