Friday, February 26, 2016

Pillars of Living

Dear all,

I had a feeling a long time ago that I wasn't much of a planner.  Long-term goals, plans, desires...I always felt at loss at how to interact with these things, and unsure of how to answer to questions to this sort of tune when asked.  Furthermore, even if I was a planner, I feel like I'd be a wildly inconsistent one, as it seems like my emotions and ideas and goals shift and change all the time, and there's no way I could expect my ever-changing self to even want to do the thing I had planned for in the past.

I still don't have any grand plan, even one that goes beyond a few months.  I started graduate school on a whim but I think a logical one, since it seems I'm currently heading in the direction of teaching, but I don't believe it'll be the one thing that I do as work for the rest of my life.

I think plans are super great too!  And planners.  Lots of my friends and people in my life are planners.  I think this works very well for them.  And, I think they'd mostly agree that it doesn't seem to work great for me.  So, I've been looking around for other models of how to prioritize and order a life in a way that seems to jive more with my inner heart.  Because, the fact that I'm not a planner, doesn't mean that I don't also crave order, and meaning in my life.  I don't want to bounce like an errant electron all over the place in a chaotic world!  No, I definitely crave a harmony to my decisions.

And, then I found it!  Something that resonated completely with how I already order my life internally.  And I should say that I don't think I, or anyone, needs a nicely-summed up and titled definition of the way that they live, just like an experienced yogi doesn't need to read books about the benefits and theories of yogic living, they just need to live it...but all the same, it made me feel validated.

This rad musician-feminist Kiran Gandhi coined the term "Atomic Living" for a life style that finds meaning in spontaneity.  You can read about it here!  http://kirangandhi.com/tedxbrooklyn-2013-talk/

I don't really like the term itself, something about "Atomic" rubs me the wrong way, but the sentiment is spot-on!  She says, "Instead of constructing a 10 year of 15 plan that prevents unexpected events from playing a natural role in life, Atomic Living suggests instead knowing what matters to you most, and accommodating various moments and opportunities in life according to those pillars." 

 If you always have about 4 pillars in your life, the 4 things that you wish to prioritize, then you will be able to make decisions that allow you to nurture any one of these pillars when opportunities present themselves.  For me, this was very helpful because this also implicitly means that you will know when to say "no" to an opportunity too, when there is no potential to nurture any of your pillars.  I am an indecisive person, and so framing potential decisions in this way, really helps me to prioritize opportunities that will nourish or benefit me over things I'm not actually interested in.  This way of living also accommodates for the very human phenomenon of shifting goals, passions, and priorities throughout life.  Who knows what they'll be like in 5 years?  I think we are always changing, and so we should allow our priorities and passions to also change.


Right now my pillars are:

1. Family and Friends
2. Mindfulness
3. Creativity
4. Social Justice

These are very broad categories.  Under "mindfulness" could be anything from meditation to biking.  Under "creativity" could be anything from playing the ukulele to learning new languages.  Under "Social Justice" could be anything from teaching to being aware of privilege.  And they overlap and blend together at some points too.  I hope that when confronted with an opportunity or choice, I'll be able to think about whether I'll grow in any of these areas, and have an easier time making a decision.

Love and indecision,
Ilse