This weeks prompt is to write about our thoughts on the difference between living and existing. I encourage you to visit yesterday’s post by Gil Gonzalez and to check Random Writers on Friday to check out Lee’s take on the topic.
Have you ever known a person whose only world view was black or white? Maybe you’ve worked with a bookkeeper who couldn’t accept a concept that didn’t fit within an excel spreadsheet. Or had a boss who was so Type A that everything was either right or wrong? It seems to me like I have been surrounded by these types throughout my life.
They’re the kind of folks who are so focused on “keeping it between the ditches” that they miss out on the good stuff. Or at least, the good stuff, as I see it.
In my mind, these folks are just “existing”. Those who are living are the ones accustomed to climbing outside of their comfort zones from time to time, experiencing new things and making new memories. Those that are existing are so caught up in structure, rules and routines that they often miss out on the good stuff that life is really made of.
I wish I had some grand story to illustrate my point here, but all I’ve got is my experience, so bear with me, if you can.
I grew up in a pretty strict and structured household. I was “grounded” for most of my teens for a plethora of petty offenses though “grounded” wasn’t a word anyone in my life at that point in my life would have used to define my persona. I had little sense of self and gave little thought to my future. I was existing, simply trying not to disappoint my parents too terribly much and trying to do what was expected of me.
It wasn’t until my divorce that I began to really see how the rest of the world lived. I became more aware of what my friends were doing and accomplishing and began thinking, “huh, i could probably do that, too”. What had kept me in my box for so long was fear of failure. I’d felt like a failure in many ways to my parents, and wanted to stay in my comfort zone for fear of further disappointment.
With the demise of my marriage being the ultimate failure, I suppose I began to realize that I had nothing left to lose.
And, step by step, I began stepping out a little bit more into the gray area. Disposing of many expectations that had girded my potential for many years, I began to fear less, love more and became more aware of my surroundings. These days, I rarely say “no”. I’ve:
* been skydiving
* had a few crazy weekends in Key West with my girlfriends
* taken off to concerts by myself
* worn a wig
* run a half marathon
poorly attempted snowboarding
* swam in the Atlantic at 2 a.m. on an evening lit by only the full moon
* sailed through a thunderstorm
* loved when there was nothing in it for me
* and taken on the presidency of a non-profit board of directors.
None of these things would have happened when I was just existing.
I was too AFRAID.
Did you note the wig comment? My old self would not have had the hysterically funny adventure in the wig shop with two of my best friends that has become one of my all time favorite memories, because I seriously FEARED someone thinking I looked silly! Get a grip, dear child!
While this may be a sweeping generalization, I think that many of those black and white, type-A souls are afraid, too. I think this is why so many people fall into the trap of just existing. They’re afraid of debt, afraid of weight gain, afraid of scandal, afraid of accidents, and most of all, afraid of making a mistake. But we all DO make mistakes!
Maybe, just maybe, REAL LIVING starts when we accept the fact that none of us are immune to failure and encountering errors. Maybe, when we get real with ourselves and stop taking ourselves so seriously and begin embracing fear we really begin living.