Monday, January 25, 2010

For the New Year, Live Your Own Life

This is one in a series for a column I am writing for our local newspaper, the Hendersonville Times-News.

“Every human being is unique and special unlike any who has ever existed before or will ever exist again. But when we become captives of culturally defined roles and behaviors – stereotypes – we interfere with becoming all that we can be. We must learn to draw on our inner resources, to define ourselves in terms of our own internal valuing system, rather than trying to fit into some stereotyped role.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Death: The Final Stage of Growth

Kubler-Ross was a pioneer in death and dying, yet here she is advocating living our lives: an authentic life, one in tune with “our own internal valuing system”.

That’s a large part of our individuality, our discovering how to create and live a hand-crafted life.

I’ve been thinking a lot about core values recently. The first time I was aware of focusing on defining my core values was in my mid-20s when a business acquaintance told me I’d need to clarify my personal values before I could determine my professional goals. At the time I thought he was nuts. How could I know what I wanted until I knew what I could afford? Today, I am amazed at that naiveté. How consumer driven I was! Our culture encourages that mentality: earn and spend, borrow and spend, desire and spend. While chasing the money trail, we really forget to walk our own path.

Since then, I’ve passed that advice along to others. And I’ve noticed that when I am happy with my life, I seem to choose to buy less. It is as though when I’m unhappy or frustrated with life, I buy more things, as if I am trying to fill some kind of hole inside. When I’m content with my life, I am filling my inner well on my own through my choices and actions.

One of my favorite books (and movies) is Out of Africa. Karen Blixen (author Isak Dinesen) was a courageous woman who, when asked on which side of World War I Denmark would stand, she responded, “On our own, I think. We have a history of that.” Blixen was Danish through and through and stood on her own for her lifetime. While she dearly longed for a happy marriage, someone she could “call my own”, she never attained that. This was in direct contrast to the independence that her lover, Englishman Denys Finch-Hatton, desired just as fervently. Their insecurities clashed against each other, and were cause for many conflicts. Finch-Hatton once said to Blixen, “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and realize I’ve lived someone else’s.”

Isn’t that true of all of us? When we get to the end of our lives, no one regrets that they didn’t work more weekends. They regret not following their heart, spending more time with loved ones, listening to their Muse, or slowing down to smell the flowers along the way.

It is a new year, a new decade. How about celebrating it by taking the time to think about what part of yourself you would like to express, explore, or create. That’s what a hand-crafted life is: something we make of ourselves, for ourselves.

What might your hand-crafted life look like?

I hope you have a day filled with a vision of living your own life.



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