For day two we are hearing from Alexandra Lutyens. Alex is a Wellington-based creative strategist who says she spends far too much time reading fascinating articles online. She loves the digital world because it makes so much available from clever generous people. Well worth a follow on Twitter where she always shares interesting and thought provoking articles, Alexandra likes to balance this brain fodder with long walks in Wellington’s green hills. You can find out more of what she does by visiting her on LinkedIn or Twitter @lutyens.
Living the everyday
Richard, thank you for asking me to write a guest post. Feeling flattered and in an effort to impress you all, I immediately began putting together a witches brew of the many insights I’ve been given over the years:
“Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing”
Macbeth (IV, i, 14-15)
But then I realised. It’s the Christmas month. What you want is the needle not the haystack.
So I thought I’d share with you something that’s been useful to me.
Since an early age and a reading of The Autobiography of a Yogi, I’ve wanted to be a good, thoughtful person. This isn’t easy. I have an exuberant curl in my character that doesn’t comb peacefully.
But recently, I came across an inspirational piece from Maria Popova at Brain Pickings (with further insight from Philip Patston) in which she talks about seven things she has learnt in her seven years. One line particularly resonated with me:
“…for, as Annie Dillard memorably put it, ‘how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.’”
Of course! So obvious, DOH! But also so hard to live every day as though its your whole life.
I’ve helped myself along with a simple practice. When I wake up in the morning I ask myself: “What do I want my life to be like today?” I check in through the day with “So how is life going?” and when I end the day I ask myself “So how was today as your whole life?”
I am sensing a change in myself.
I find myself focusing more on things that matter – people, especially family, friends and work colleagues, and how I want to BE with them. I think less about my personal gain or entitlement because, living this way, tomorrow doesn’t exist. I’m making braver decisions because I only have today. I’m finding myself truer to what I really want to be.
When I get to the end of the day and think about how my life has just been, I can see a little more easily what I want to change when I live my whole life again tomorrow.
This is not an existentialist exercise – it’s a very simple technique that is creating a habit of mindfulness in me.
It’s helped me think through two other points I mull over too.
Coming from a western upbringing, I have thought much more about what is unique to me than common to all. Admittedly, I find in observing why I do something I think learn how others think, but it still comes back to the truth that when we see others we don’t see them as they are, we see them as we are. Living each day as my entire life, connects me more strongly to others and their need to succeed – I begin to look more for the common and less for the unique. (Apparently our brains are wired to connect for common good anyhow, according to this interesting article). This thinking suits me as I move past the 50 year mark.
And of course as I’ve got older I’ve thought more intensely about what I want from my life. Do I want to make BIG change or small change. Big change is something dramatic like throwing in the job, selling the house (and family) and dedicating myself to a good cause. Small change is simply what I can do in my everyday.
I realise that actually I can do small change and still get a tremendous amount of meaning from it.
Thanks Annie Dillard.