(I was asked to answer the question “What do I need to celebrate?” for The Celebration Series blog crawl project put together by Annika Martins. I’m one of the 10 writers Annika asked to blog about making space in our lives for celebrating. See what the other bloggers had to say and get info on how you can join in at The Celebration Series.)
A while back, I wrote about how we don’t celebrate often enough. And I talked about how we need to celebrate the small achievements in addition to the large ones, because if we’re not celebrating along the journey, we are much less likely to ever reach the final goal or to know how to enjoy it when we do.
But what if we didn’t need a reason to celebrate at all? What if we let the qualities of [+celebration][+fun][+play][+joyfulness] inform our days, rather than the other way around?
Yes, what if?
And so the extended dance metaphor begins…
This past weekend, I was at a techno contra dance, and one of the things I love most about contra is that it always feels like a party, or a celebration, if you will. However, there is absolutely nothing to celebrate except that we’re all there, together, with bodies that function and some good music. Styles of dance and styles of dress both vary widely, but nobody cares. We have fun and we move; that’s all that matters.
I’m not proposing that we should all contra dance 24/7… for one, my legs couldn’t handle it, and for two, that might not be your thing… but there is something to be said for celebrating existence.
The extended dance metaphor continues, courtesy of Alan Watts
Take a few minutes to watch this video (which I have been watching repeatedly since Therese posted it in her blog) and then let’s reconvene.
Aaaaaaand, we’re back.
From the beginning, we’re lead through life with a carrot dangled in front of our noses, and by the time we finally start to wonder why the heck we’ve been following this carrot around for our whole lives, we’re so deeply invested in the system that we don’t know how to begin to change our patterns. If only we had realized the whole time that the carrot was… well… just a carrot… we could have been dancing through life or baking a carrot cake or something and having a grand old time.
Achievement Vs. Existence
As I can see it, there are two possible paradigms. There are probably actually 37 million, but right now I’m simplifying this down to two to make a point.
We live in a world built around achievement.
Get somewhere. And once you get there, get somewhere else.
But I think we secretly want to live in a world of existence… if we weren’t completely terrified.
The Existence-Monster Under the Bed
Terrified? Yes. I think we’re all terrified that if we didn’t have something we were striving for, we would just become couch potatoes and sit around all day watching television.
I have a friend who retired early from her career to find out if she is a woman of substance. I think it’s brave that she even was willing to ask herself that question; many of us are too afraid of what we might find.
I know I used to have a similar fear. I started working with a life coach because I couldn’t answer the question of what I would do if I won the lottery. I thought I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. I worried that I would be left living a life with no real meaning, sitting on a beach drinking piña coladas forever.
Okay, that piña colada thing actually sounds really good right now.
But the point is that the vacation would get boring after a while. And without the milestones we are so used to, most of which are built around career, money, and family, I wasn’t sure what kind of substance I would find.
And yes, I may be the only person in the world who has ever “worried” about winning the lotto.
Learning how to dance
Lucky for me, I got a good taste of carrot at 27 years old – early enough to realize that it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
For five years after graduating college, I worked in theatre as a Stage Manager and Lighting Designer. By 2008, that career was really taking a toll on me, so I decided that it was time to get a “real job” and “settle down.” I went from, “I want to live around the world,” to “Eh, Stamford, CT is good enough for me.”
And I did settle down. I got my own apartment in Stamford and got a real job with a good salary, health insurance, some level of “security”. I started watching TV shows almost every evening because… that’s what you do, right? I was becoming a normal person. I went out drinking with my friends on the weekends and occasionally during the week too. I even went on a few dates. Totally normal life of a 20-something.
And then, through a long a complicated soul-searching process, I realize that the thing everyone is so excited about and literally waiting their whole lives for?
It kind of sucked.
It was just a carrot.
Seekers vs. Settlers
Let me stop here and share a theory told to me by my holistic health practitioner (An older version of me is rolling her eyes and gagging right now because I just admitted on the internet that I’m working with a holistic practitioner. But really, she’s amazing, and all versions of me like not having allergy symptoms. But I digress…)
Anyway, the theory is that there are two kinds of people in the world. Seekers and settlers….fairly self-explanatory, right? The settlers are happy settling and the seekers need to be seeking. I don’t necessary believe people are as clear cut as that, but let’s run with it for now.
Settling brings up a whole lot of bad connotations for me, such as Not doing your best work in the world, accepting something less than what you want, or making do with something that’s just “okay” because you’re scared to go farther. That’s a lot of stuff tangled up in one word.
And yet, I think I am truly a seeking settler. Or a settling seeker. I want a life filled with big things. I want to see the world, write books, working on meaningful projects, meet amazing people, jump out of planes, and do many of the achievement-oriented things. But yet I don’t want to always be seeking. Along the way, I want to stop and smell the flowers, and I want to dance to the music.
And furthermore, I want to believe that we can have it both ways.
So why don’t we just dance?
The other day I was stuck in stopped traffic, and I checked in on Foursquare at the traffic jam (yeah, seriously) and I used the hashtag #firstworldproblems. We joke about that all the time (or at least, I do) but if you think about it, what are first world problems other than constructs? All this, “stuck in traffic” and “don’t have health insurance” and whatever else… they’re all things we invented. They’re not naturally occurring problems. Two hundred years ago, there was no health insurance and no traffic. You got on your horse and went to get the doctor from the nearest village. And yet we have allowed them to become the things that stop us from dancing to the music.
I’m not saying I want to go live in the woods with no health insurance and never deal with this stuff again – I like my western medicine just fine – but at the same time, our society has created all these things for us to want and to strive for. Once you have the health insurance, you need the nicer car, the bigger salary, the larger home or the newest iPhone.
In other words, we’re constantly moving the carrot further and further away. Yeah, we’re living longer, but we’re not enjoying any of it because dammit, there’s that carrot waiting for us at 65 or 75 or 85 years old when we finally get to retire. And then we can spend time playing with our grandchildren or golfing in Florida and… well, that sounds rather carrot-y to me, truth be told.
Becoming a dancer…
So I guess what I’m saying is I want to learn to celebrate being here.
Rather than focusing on the things I want to do, I want to shift my focus to how I am living and what energy I am bringing to each moment while I am in it.
I almost wrote that I just want to enjoy the journey, but after that Alan Watts video, I don’t think I can talk about life as a journey anymore. It’s just what is.
It’s quite possibly all there is.
And we’re here.
What better reason is there to celebrate?
…care to dance?