Living vs Life

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

– Mary Oliver

I wish I had the entrance essays I wrote to get into the university I decided to attend. I believe those sadly passed away with one of the laptops I clumsily destroyed? Or, they passed away with the prehistoric PC I used during the ages of dial-up? It is hard to remember that detail. Either way, they are no longer in my possession. What I do remember about them, that peaks my interest, is Mary Oliver’s above-mentioned quote served as the basis for one of the prompts. I am curious what I wrote in response – especially since, ten years later, here I am still pondering the question Oliver poses.

What is it I plan to do with my one wild and precious life? A simple answer is that I plan to truly LIVE it. I put an emphasis on “live” because, while I have been alive for 27 years, I cannot say I have spent those years truly living. Sadly, I do not feel alone in that. A reality is many people in today’s society are moving through life merely existing, some of them on what could feel like a never ending search for happiness.

Living encompasses much more than being alive, and happiness is not a destination.

During my recovery journey, I was introduced to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, also known as ACT. ACT primarily focuses on identifying core values, and making choices that align with those values. Furthermore, it emphasizes how living a values-driven life fosters happiness. I have done a lot of work around values, and through that work I clearly identified connection, specifically human connection, as a core value of mine. When I feel connected to my people my soul fills with a true sense of happiness.

With where I am currently at in my life, essentially out of the house from 7:00 AM to 8:30 PM during the week, juggling a full-time job, an intensive outpatient eating disorder treatment program, and outpatient therapy, all while trying to stay on top of other life happenings, I get some quality connection but overall feel a fair amount of disconnect. That disconnect can bring me to a lonely place. Fighting to connect with facts supporting the reality that I am not as alone as I can sometimes feel helps to lift my spirits when I find myself in such a place. My schedule is not going to ease up as soon as I would like; I need to be intentional about staying connected to my people, as well as connecting to other things I find fulfilling.

To revisit Oliver’s question – I want to create a life for myself that is filled with an abundance of meaning and joy. Life is far too precious to let it pass by, wandering aimlessly in a state of existence.

The Thief of Joy

Comparison is the thief of joy, and I want to be joyful!

When I hear or read Theodore Roosevelt’s quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” I automatically follow it with, “and I want to be joyful!” Aside from the fact that I want to be joyful, why is that? Well, an awesome woman who worked at an eating disorder treatment program I was in frequently exclaimed that rendition of Roosevelt’s quote… and it resonated with me.

Comparison is a prominent struggle in today’s society, and it is one I especially find myself currently facing concerning accomplishment.

As a result of my eating disorder growing incredibly strong and spending many years seeking intensive professional help to claim my life back from it, I am very far off track from accomplishing all that I intended by age 27. Comparison likes to find its way into my mind and highlight the accomplishments of others against my lack of desired accomplishment. What can I do with that? I can choose to buy into the comparison and dwell in a state of feeling like a failure, or I can choose to embrace where I am at in my life, allow myself to connect with gratitude for all I have, and take a step back to really examine what accomplishment means beyond the definitions and timelines society constructed surrounding it.

My message to comparison is: BACK OFF!

Continuing to fight for full recovery is what I need to prioritize, and the rest will fall into place. I need to be patient. I am exactly where I am meant to be and I have a whole lot to be grateful for.