The thing I’ve missed most of all because of this is spontaneity: a sense of naturalness and light-heartedness
Someone asked me a question the other day: ‘What are you missing most because of this? Name just one thing.’
Immediately, hundreds of answers began whirling around in my head. So many feelings, emotions, moments, memories, regrets, hopes and desires – but to choose just one thing? Turns out that is quite the challenge. Eliminating seemed easier than selecting. What I quickly realised is that doing it this way would enable me to work out not just what mattered most, but which things mattered more. It would create a hierarchy. It could be fun. Or dangerous. Or both.
As you begin ranking things, you shed the easy pounds first – just like a diet, but with feelings and thoughts. In a practical sense it’s easy to purge the stuff you’re not missing at all.
But it’s challenging in another way, because the process scythes through your little habits and quirks – even people, places, friendships, traditions and sources of guilt. It’s liberating, too, of course. Because you realise there are things you no longer have to do out of fear of appearing rude – like making sure you greet everyone you see at a drinks party you don’t need to be at, or enquiring about their plans when you really don’t care or need to know.
You no longer have to spend time in crowded spaces, go to late dinners or get on a plane for any old meeting. The superfluous is surprisingly easy to identify – it floats to the surface like a bloated fish. Habits and entrenched behaviours that have outlived their utility can be adapted. Useful ones that have faded away can be renewed.
And, bit by bit, you start to build the framework for a more honest, fulfilling way of life. The process is tough. In the long run, though, it could be helpful. And this is helping that. If you still need to be persuaded, think of Christmas just around the corner. The tradition has been commercialised – prostituted, even – at the altar of consumerism, mostly through the manipulation of any child who has access to TV or the internet.
That’s passed on to parents, and the consequences flow from there. How much angst has been caused by the perceived need to chase down the must-have toys, the right dress, or the latest fad? Or by the dread of knowing you’ll have to slave away in the kitchen for three days? Or by the inlaws flying in again, just because they can? So, maybe this Christmas, this will make us focus a little more on the people and things that really do matter most.
Maybe you’ll miss some of the banter and drama. Maybe the inlaws will be relieved not to have to make the trip after all. Maybe you’ll drink less. Then again, maybe you won’t. Whatever happens, you’ll be more relaxed about it all – and you’ll end up living and experiencing those moments more fully, more truly. Maybe, just maybe, it will be the start of something to embrace fully rather than to regret. And with that fresh attitude, bring on 2021.
If you’re still wondering, the answer I came up with – the thing I’ve missed most of all because of this – it’s spontaneity: a sense of naturalness, light-heartedness.
This is trying to remove it from us, but it will only succeed if we let it take away our freedom to adapt and innovate.
We have thrived on this planet by evolving to changing environments and new constraints, by finding renewed creativity, artistry and joy. We have survived all its challenges so far. And we will continue to do so – unless we manage to destroy it first, of course.
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