When I walked out of my house this morning, my neighbor greeted me with a customary, "How's it going?"
The proper answer should have been the typical, "Fine, thanks, and you?" However, I inadvertently blurted out "Surviving." Whoa, where did that come from? Granted, I hadn't eaten my breakfast yet nor had my first cup of coffee, but still, this felt serious.
I mean, I live in a first world nation, I have a roof over my head, a car to drive to my job (albeit a boring one). I have my health, full use of all my limbs and I eat three square meals a day (and sometimes a 3 a.m. breakfast at Denny's on the weekends).
But still I searched for why today my butt was dragging and my answer to "How are you?" wasn't a super-fabulous all in caps response of: "SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS!"
Here is what I found. My mother passed away barely two months ago, so I might be eating three square meals a day, but I think that was a traumatic enough life experience to warrant a funky morning. And then add to it a challenging financial situation that has lasted well over three years (fear can destroy you), and the fact that both my significant other and I were interviewing for new jobs at the same time, definitely put the pressure on.
It is a blessing to have the opportunity to go on a job interview, but the process of searching for jobs in this climate -- I mean a job that pays well and doesn't make you unhappy -- requires a tremendous amount of energy and resilience. Especially when you are struggling to pay the bills.
The process of searching for a magnificent job, to me, is akin to anyone who has ever tried to find Mr. Right on an online dating site. The one you think is perfect for you and totally into you never calls you back for another date. The one you really don't like but keep around just in case you need to get out of the house, contacts you incessantly. And the one you feel has potential is emotionally unavailable, but you don't shut the door on him completely, because he just might be Mr. Right now.
Added to the stress of selling yourself to potential employers, you want to get out of the house and interact with people, not mope about, even though you barely have 40 bucks for happy hour. So you get out and talk to people, you interact with a friend, meet new people, exchange ideas. Then the next day the guilt sets in: "How could I have spent that money, when I need to pay that bill?"
This is what I lovingly refer to as our "self-whipping culture" where we use every possible angle of our lives to punish ourselves for decisions we make, no matter what they may be. Spent 40 bucks on beer and mozzarella sticks? Triple flogging for spending money, drinking and eating crap. Congratulations, the lingering genetic code of our puritanical culture has just put you in your place.
A few months back, before I had even started reading Arianna Huffington's book Thrive, a friend of mine texted me and said my voice had entered his daily meditation and it said, "I want more from life! I don't want to just survive, I want to thrive!" So now, what did that mean to me today?
I guess, today, it means doing something I love and enjoy, something I am passionate about. I want to make a good financial living, but I also want to be engaged in my work and feel like I am making a difference. I don't want to worry about paying bills, and I want to have social hours with friends without the guilt. I want to have plenty of savings in the bank, so I don't have sleepless nights worrying about what might happen. I want to continue to have the courage to reveal my story, even when it's not pretty. And, I want to give myself permission to answer with "surviving" when asked how I am doing on a tough day, because at least that answer is real.
I'm not quite sure how I will get from surviving to thriving. Life didn't exactly provide a road map. But I assure you, I am still breathing, and therefore will continue to try. Maybe tonight I will give my significant other a hug instead of a lashing. And maybe, just maybe, we can use the whip for something more fun than self-deprecation.