My dog, Mocha. She has shown me the beauty of the simple life. How to be more present in the moment. How to find the joy in the ordinary. Hell, the joy of just being alive. And because I follow her example I find myself less stressed. Less anxious. Less worried. A lot more rational and honestly, I do a lot less dumb shit. And that hasn’t been the case for most of my life.
She revealed to me how scattered my attention was and now I’m conscious of it and can identify my distractions. My wife, my dog, my students, reading, cooking, hiking, exercising, good movies, and my family. This is what I prioritize now. That list used to look completely different and would vary depending on the day. It took me a while to figure out what was most important in my life because I was always so distracted by shit that didn’t matter. And the shit that didn’t matter governed my life. It played a critical role in my thinking and how I spent my time. It’s kind of like my values organically manifested given my circumstances. I really had this notion that what people thought of you was important. Living up to other people’s expectations. You can say I was slightly obsessed with constructing an image worthy of acceptance. It had to fit the mold. The mystique around who I was portrayed to be had to be true, not who I actually was. And this created a mask behind all of the human things I struggled with. What’s crazy is that I didn’t even notice when it happened. This exhausting upkeep forced me to repress how I really felt and sucked the life out of me. I had no energy for the people that meant the most to me because it was spent pleasing strangers. It took me away from the important things. No agency over my life and lacking any type of self control, my existence was a performance. Going through the motions.
A little bit more aware now, I realize: We’re all just imperfect creatures trying to do the best we can in this complex world. I started to learn more. And when you know better, you do better. I discovered there was a hack in all of this craziness. A way out of this tiresome living.
When you simplify your life it gives you a lot more space in your head. A lot more time to actually think. Solitude gives us that one on one time with ourselves that we so desperately need in this noisy world. Feelings and experiences you’ve repressed start to arise because they aren’t being drowned out. And I get it, life isn’t easy. People have wronged us, we feel shame about a particular situation, the list goes on and on. Some things in life are just really hard to face. But I didn’t like my life so I gave myself no other option.
The things in life that distracted me have dwindled and keep dwindling because now I value solitude. Solitude forces me to dig. Digging and digging; deep inside myself. Taking that scary trip inside my mind that sometimes still swallows me whole. But I keep digging and discovering gold nuggets. Answers to the test. I found what was important by digging. I discovered what I wanted for my life and what I needed to focus on. I found that you don’t have to live by anyone else’s rules except yours. There’s freedom in that but, beware. Freedom ain’t free. Give yourself that structure and discipline and you can do whatever you want to do. Damn, thank God for dogs..
“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our minds.” -Bob Marley