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Friday, March 31, 2006

An Authentic Life?

"Are you trying to live your version of an authentic life, or have you thrown up your hands, daunted by the demands of daily life? Talk to me."

Interesting question, posed yesterday, by my dear “sis” Birdsong! I am trying hard not to throw up my hands today. I’m truly “daunted by the demands of daily life.” With life constantly careening off at the speed of light, it’s hard to find the time I need to be introspective enough to live my version of an authentic life. And it’s been a rough week. So here are my thoughts on your question, dear Birdsong. I hope they're a worthy reply...

Once I practiced yoga and meditation, was an ethical vegetarian, lived where I could grow a few herbs and vegies, tho’ not nearly at the level of self-sufficiency I’ve dreamed about. I was politically active.

Now? If I can find time to knit, I consider I’ve meditated. Knitting lace is best for that. I still do a bit of yoga, tho’ not enough. I’m no longer a vegetarian of any sort, tho’ I probably should be! Politically, I still vote, and I write the occasional letter to my representatives.

Birdsong’s use of the de Beauvoir quote is terribly appropriate for her. In another lifetime, I’d have agreed with that quote. Today I no longer do. I can no longer afford to live so deeply rooted in society and maintain my physical health. I try now not to get angry about things I perceive I have limited control over. Tachycardia is an unpleasant side-effect of having had a heart attack and by-pass surgery. It feels as if your heart will leap out of your chest, it is banging about so hard. Angry/frustrated/frightened = Tachycardia for me.

I do not like many things I see in our world today. I question much of what appears in the news. I am easily angered. I am easily aroused to a level of frustration that is unhealthy for me. I live at a precarious economic level. I am often frightened about the future, at a very basic level of survival. When I see the least of society being threatened at this same basic level, my pulse races, my heart pounds in my chest – I can empathize so clearly. So I work for a non-profit social service organization in an attempt to make a difference. I hope we do.

And I try to maintain a fragile state of calm. Sometimes it boils down to something as basic as telling myself to remember to breathe...I even have a sign on my desk to remind me.

I am currently on a news fast. I stopped watching the 24-hour news channels after September 11, 2001. I try to control my exposure to negativity as much as possible, and I try to avoid the feeling of “on the edge hysteria” the news channels offer on a daily basis, about practically everything, not just events that truly qualify for hysteria. I listen to NPR, for the 20 minute commute each way on most days. I do not take a newspaper, nor do I read news blogs/websites.

The choice I’ve made is clear: I am determined to stay alive. Authentic life or not, I am determined to survive, to be here for my grandchildren. Because of my health issues, I have had to compromise on the things I allow to affect my emotions. Because of my economic issues, I work very hard at my job and my part-time businesses. Fortunately, I love my work. But ethically, it's a sad place for me to be. I feel that I've lost some of my power and that I’m selling out my values and my political beliefs by making this choice. Life seldom gives us easy choices, so I try not to agonize over it. So be it.

And thank God for the Birdsongs of the world.


Ruinwen said...

I too don't watch the news. I feel we are bombarded by so much negative junk daily that I get the gist of what is going on when I ride in the car to and from work.

There is so much electronic noise that just consumes us and I wonder how good it is. I've instituted a no TV, e-mail, computer use day every Thursday (except at work) and I think everybody slept better that night.

The world can be daunting but without great people like you; it would be an even sadder place. Never forget that you make a difference in this world! :)


suzann said...

You're wise to avoid the news. I do, too. Important news gets around, even without TV and newspapers.

And like you say, we have no influence over most of what goes on. One of my own authentic life realizations was that I must not feel responsible for all the badness in the world. Many people in bad situations need to save themselves, and it's better for them to do so.

Particularly in the U.S., I think we are expected to care deeply about everything. It took me a long time to understand, without shame, that I must preserve myself and my energy for my family and for doing the things I do best.

I admire your decision to focus on staying alive so you can be with the people (and kitties) you love. What a great reason to live!