I was just looking at this website of people who are the 99% of the American people, the ones hurting because of the wanton ways of the 1%. I am part of that 99%. I could make a list of my grievances, as we all could. My list would be legit, and it would be daunting. So is yours, I imagine. Reading this website I suddenly felt very, very bummed.
But then I thought of this Carlos Castaneda quote: ‘We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.’
As long as I feel totally bummed and disempowered by how lame certain things about my life might appear to be, the 1% is winning. So I’ve decided to sit down and remember all of the things that are going right, really really right, in my life. To make a list of Things That Don’t Suck About My Life. This exercise might smack of hysterical positivity, the type published by SARK, but I’m going for a steady metaview of life-affirming, life-giving abundance that is basically everywhere I look, if I’m looking to be affirmed. So, excuse me for the positivity bomb, but the point I’m trying to make is that I bet we can all contribute to it, no matter how woeful things feel on some level.
Why is this post on State of Formation? Because I think claiming the Things That Don’t Suck About Your Life can be an act of radical activism in a pretty negative, victimized, bummed out, frustrated world. This exercise is my attempt at self-transcendence, or my attempt to experience transcendence. It’s my call for radical awareness that the good not only balances the bad, but it outweighs it by virtue of our being here to experience the whole spectrum of aliveness. That’s a spiritual summons, but it can be a religious one as well. Religion does lots of horrible and wonderful things, but one of its generally more redeeming functions is to call humans to a greater perspective about their problems and to assume an attitude of gratitude for what is going right, even and especially amidst what seems to be going wrong.
Without further ado, here is a list of Things That Don’t Suck About My Life:
1) I am typing on a laptop I bought with my student loans. It’s pretty nice.
2) My heart, lungs, eyes, and brain all seem to be in great working order.
3) People donated enough money for me to finish my 9th album.
4) I made 9 albums! How did that happen?
5) I love this new album.
6) I’m back in touch with an old friend from college who is really delightful and helps me remember that I’ve had good people in my life all the way through.
7) My family is funny and loving and we are all on good terms right now.
8.) I live in a great city for bike commuting and every day I get to feel the air on my face and hear crickets on a riverbed.
9) On a daily basis I recognize that it took me many years of making tiny and then extensive changes to the way I was eating, moving, thinking about life, and addressing myself inside my head…and that it’s all really paid off and I’m a pretty fulfilled person now. It was really hard to turn the ship around but now I can’t stop the tide. And I’m so grateful for the grace that enabled me to do so.
10) My PhD program is kicking my butt, just like I like hard and rewarding experiences to do, and I’m totally into everything I am reading and writing about. I’m totally on the right path.
11) Check out what I ate for dinner: collard greens sauteed in garlic sesame oil with crushed red peppers; shrimp glazed with lemon; miso soup; a squash/carrot/parsnip concoction drink; and three fresh figs. MMMMMMM!!!!
12) I live in an adorable little townhouse in a quiet flowery Boston neighborhood where most of my neighbors have Irish accents and the local deli sells Vegemite and these delicious moist bready things called potato farls. Now doesn’t that sound cute and Irish?
13) I think I have around $120K in student loan debt, maybe more maybe less, but it doesn’t keep me from walking around, meditating on eternity, being friendly, or having hope for my and everyone’s future.
14) Some painful reality checks in the last few years have trained me to base my hope on what I see and accept the conditions that unfold before me, so I am feeling generally pretty measured and centered when the shit hits the fan. This is a handy mode.
15) I’m turning 33 in a coupla weeks! That seems both young and wise to me. A very nice age.
16) Today is my dad’s 70th birthday. He is a robust, life-lovin’, happy dude who really knows how to choose Yes over No. I am descended from very strong and honorable beefstock. You know what he did for his 70th birthday? He went for a 70-mile bike ride with my 67-year-old mom and all his funny friends. How cool is that?
17) I am working with an acupuncturist to deal with some ongoing discomforts and reading a lot about Ayurvedic healing for school, and these undertakings are radicalizing my body awareness.
18) Last semester I took a class on Vipassana Buddhism and it radicalized my psychic awareness. Pretty cool, yo.
19) In another two months, grace willing, I’ll have three years off the sauce.
20) Two weeks ago one of my best friends married a guy who is really perfect for her. One of life’s joys is seeing fine, fine people make a good match.
21) Another one of my dear friends is fighting her postpartum depression with a naturopath and discovering that she has a ton of resources if she just asks for help. We all have safety nets we can’t even imagine. It’s gonna be okay.
You hear me? It’s gonna be okay. Things are really okay right now and they are gonna keep being okay. Better than okay. Like, totally full of collard greens and new albums and bicycle paths and loving friends and safety nets and good growing pains.
I could keep listing things in life that are good. You probably can too. Try it! After listing 21 things about my life that don’t suck, I feel better. I feel hopeful and I feel satisfied. I see a world that is full of quiet, slow-moving, radiant beauty.
Honestly, I think that’s the way to beat the 1%.