Beginning to Define it For Yourself

What?! You’re not me?! Really? Are you sure? I could’ve sworn…

Your definition for an extraordinary life is unique.

If everyone’s definitions were the same, it would just be called “ordinary living” and I definitely wouldn’t be wasting so many of my youthful years telling you about it (I have mountains to conquer and dragons to slay you know). You can’t compare your definition to that of others (unless of course yours is way better than theirs), and you shouldn’t stop reading Rare Existence if your definition is different than mine. If you have kids, your extraordinary word isn’t freedom, or you’ve worked hard to find yourself at the top in a very demanding career that you love….then you haven’t committed any terminal sins that prevent you from living an extraordinary life, you’re just not me (but you might want to try it because being me is AWESOME)!

I’ve met plenty of people who’ve known what they wanted to do with their lives since they were 5 (no, I didn’t say “what their PARENTS wanted them to do with their lives”, that doesn’t count) and some of those paths that they are SO excited to head down, don’t naturally involve much freedom.  But as long as they’re doing what they truly love, they probably won’t care much.  For them “success” might be their word and freedom could be their ordinary word and I wouldn’t think anything less of them. Besides, life isn’t all about your career, whether you put the word “extraordinary” in front of it or not.

No excuses are good enough.

While I just said that this isn’t all about your career and I’m alright with the fact that your career choices will probably be different than mine anyways… I take back all of  it if you are really just using your career as an excuse for why you aren’t pursuing your extraordinary life. Not cool man, not cool. I can see right through you… and so will everyone else when all your real goals and dreams come crashing down around you to reveal what you should’ve been doing all along. Your career is not an excuse.

The same applies if you have kids. Please, PLEASE do not let that be your excuse!  I’ll tell you right now, it’s not a good one!  A unique challenge maybe, I’ll give you that. But an excuse, never. In fact, I believe that the very reason you absolutely need to be living your extraordinary life is BECAUSE you have kids and they need a healthy parent who is a good example of how to live with passion and joy (didn’t you read my Emma Pillsbury quote at the end of post #4?).

I know plenty of families who have lived very extraordinary lives together. Since you might not believe it from someone who doesn’t have kids yet (me) I am going to hope I can convince you by enlisting plenty of help from extraordinary parents I know who seek to live extraordinary lives right along with their kids!  Just the other day I just met a man from Holland, who lives in Mexico, and sells Argentinean food.  He has two kids and he moved to Mexico with is girlfriend in search of freedom and a home on the beach… it can be done!

It’s OK if you have NO IDEA what your definition for an extraordinary life is!

I think it’s pretty normal to feel clueless.  Any discovery process is complex, confusing, and can be quite overwhelming.  That’s why we’re doing it together… and we’re starting out slowly.  These first few posts are just to get you on board with the concepts I’m talking about here and we’ll dive more in-depth into some pro-active steps for you to work on soon enough.

Perfection is not required.  Complete clarity in your identity is not needed.  Inexplicable, mysterious, or magical talents are not a pre-requisite for this course (but if you do have some of those, please tell me so I can proceed to steal them… Brewhahah!!).  All I’m asking from you at this point is that you’re ready to start thinking. And I’m hoping that you’ll eventually be ready to start acting on your thinking.

So wherever you are coming from, wherever you are at… it’s time to start moving towards where you want to go…. whether or not you even know exactly where that is yet.

 

 

The Ordinary Word

The yin and the yang. The black and the white. The light and the dark. Perez Hilton and Vin Diesel. Our world seems to keep it’s balance through opposites. And it’s no different when it comes to extraordinary words.

For every extraordinary word there is an anti-word… an “ordinary word”.

The ordinary word is the one that sits on your other shoulder, taunting you and your goody two-shoes extraordinary word with his pitchfork, evil sneer, and sarcastic tone. I hate to tell you this, but if we’re going to pursue our extraordinary word, we have to forsake our ordinary word.
So what’s the opposite of my extraordinary word, freedom?  Are you sure you want to know…. it really sucks to hear.

The opposite of freedom is security.

Ew I know! Why does it have to be like this?  Why can’t they just be causal friends who only see each other on Christmas and Easter? At the very least they should be Facebook friends! Really guys, you should try to work something out here for those of us who don’t want to take sides. We want to hang out with BOTH of you, it isn’t fair that we have to choose!
But alas, it’s the truth. The more freedom you have, the less security you have, and vice versa.  As much as I want to stick my fingers in my ears and pretend I never heard that,  it’s true.

This is my great struggle in my pursuit of an extraordinary life.

If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning, you know that my Achilles heel is fear.  And in an attempt to fight the things I’m afraid of, control is my weapon of choice.  Fear and Control are definitely blood relatives of Security. On Christmas and Easter they all get together in Security’s giant house and eat the feast that their buddy Paycheck brought them. Freedom isn’t invited because he’s off sun-bathing in Tahiti with his friends, and besides they’d rather gossip about how foolish and irresponsible he is than actually talk to him anyways. Meanwhile, I’m just sitting at home praying for peace on earth so that we can all go enjoy Paycheck’s meal together!

This is the reason that every time I come to a crossroads in my life, a major battle ensues.  On the one hand… Freedom, waving his late bedtimes and quality relationships to tempt me.  And on the other road, Security is taking me on a tour of a beautiful new house that could be mine and reenacting for me the fictional story (that I once believed strongly) about how I can have complete control over my life.
Don’t be surprised if my head explodes from all of this one day.  And when that happens, I’m sure Freedom will just shake his head in disappointed sorrow that all of this could’ve been avoided if only I’d chosen right from the beginning.  And Security will just come and apathetically sweep up the messy remains that were once my life… which is the exact same thing he’d planned to do as soon as I joined his side anyways.

(Thanks to my brother, Paul McDaniel, who drew me this picture as a visual representation of this post!)

One of the reasons I’ve started this blog is to show people that we’re not magical, we’re not special, and we don’t have it all figured out.

I say that because people are always telling me how jealous they are of our freedom.  I do know why and I am very grateful for the benefits my job brings… because I know there are a lot of them. But it’s important that you know that we don’t have special powers. I promise, we don’t even have Spidy senses; and we definitely don’t have sticky, disgusting spider webs that shoot out of our fingertips (poor spider man got all the stupid powers).

We have the life we do because we’ve chosen it… and you can choose it too. But you WILL have to sacrifice things you may not be willing to give up. You’re going to have to leave behind your ordinary word. Maybe not right away of course,  it’s OK if you’re not ready for that.  But you’ll probably be asked to do it at some point, so steal one last kiss and start saying your goodbyes now because this train is leaving, Baby.

Ordinary people live by ordinary words. 

They can’t see past their deep-rooted fears long enough to reach for that intangible future. So they don’t.  They hold on tight to their ordinary word, often completely unaware that it is exactly what’s keeping them from clinging to their extraordinary word and the extraordinary life they’ve always wanted that comes with it. There’s a reason this existence is rare. The sacrifices are great, but the blessings from it are limitless.

Choose your words wisely.

Post #5: Your entire life in one word

Everyone has a single word that defines them.

At least that’s what Elizabeth Gilbert told me in “Eat, Pray, Love”. And the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve begun to believe her.

She begins explaining this concept by naming various cities and what their words are.  For example, New York is ACHEIVE, Los Angeles is SUCCEED, Stockholm is CONFORM, and Rome is SEX -or POWER if you’re talking about Vatican City (I’ve never been to Rome so I can neither confirm or deny these rumors).

So, do you know your word? Is it FAMILY, DEPRESSION, PLEASURE, FAITH, DEVOTION… etc, etc.? It doesn’t have to be a positive word, it only has to be true.  If your word happens to be one you don’t like then go ahead and name it, but make sure you add on to it the one you WISH was true… we’ll call that your “extraordinary word”. And that’s the one we’re going to be working on here.

So what is it? What’s your word?

I knew my word without hesitation.  When I asked Scottie his word, it didn’t surprise me that he answered with the same word without even pausing for a second.

Our word is FREEDOM. 

By freedom, I don’t mean that we lack disciple, rules, and boundaries.  I have those, I want those, and I need those.  The only difference is that I want to have a say in where to place them.  I want to set up my life so that I feel like I am always able to choose to do what I believe is best for me and my family, rather than to have an outside person or force choose for me. Time freedom, freedom from debt, emotional freedom, freedom to choose where to place my energy, freedom from addictions, freedom from unhealthy societal pressures,  freedom to choose a unique lifestyle for me and my family… all of those things (and many others) are small parts that go into this bigger picture of freedom for us. The last thing we want in the world is to end up in a place where all our decisions about those things have been made for us – without any regard to whether or not they are good for us – because we were too passive to care or too lazy to act.

We believe it’s our responsibility to make the rules for our life and that we shouldn’t rely on anyone else to do it for us; not society, the government, social norms, family pressures, etc., etc. It’s our job and if we choose not to do it, we have no one to blame for the results but ourselves.

 

Why is this level of freedom so important to us? Because we got tired of being hypocrites.

We continually found ourselves saying what was important to us, only to look around and see that our lives didn’t reflect those things at all.

“Relationships are our #1 priority.” Oh really? Is that why all you know more about the characters on the TV shows you watch while you work than you do about your best friends?

“Our marriage is our #1 priority.” Oh really? Is that why you just called your wife a Fatty-McButter Pants after a stressful day at the office?

“Helping others is our #1 priority.” Oh really? And the last time you did anything like that was….? It doesn’t count that you gave the neighbor kid a quarter because he was short for change at the soda machine.

I got so tired of feeling like I “had” to do things a certain way, because those certain ways made me feel like I was unable to do what was really important in life. So I started looking around to see if I could find other ways to do things. And I found that the answer was to seek freedom because that will be what enables us to do our best at what’s really important to us.  Things like, creating and maintaining community, being generous with any kind of resource we have (whether it’s money, love, knowledge, hospitality, etc.), living a healthy lifestyle (we still have a LONG way to go on this one!), traveling, pursuing our passions, loving endlessly, and experiencing overwhelming joy and beauty in life.  That is an extraordinary life for us, and the key to all of this (in a really long and complex way that is too much to explain in one post) is freedom. So freedom we shall seek.

So what is it? What’s your word?

Post #1: Epic journey’s are not just for hobbits

This blog is going to be epic. See, even the first sentence is pretty epic!  I considered starting off humble or humorously self-deprecating in a lovable Liz Lemon sort of way, but I prefer to be honest.  The fact is, I think we’re going to rock it up in here. Let’s just say, if this blog isn’t epic (which is not a problem we have to worry about, I’m telling you) then I’ve wasted the last year that I’ve spent writing and preparing for it… and possibly much more of my life if the entire concept is weak because I’ve been working from this particular world view long before I started writing about it.

Since living a “Rare Existence” and practicing “Extraordinary Living” is by definition the exact opposite of living in a way that is common and ordinary, you obviously can’t have a definition that is common or ordinary. Each person’s definition for it is unique. So no, you can’t just figure yours out by observing what others are doing or by writing the right answers on your arm (cheaters), it’s much more complicated than that and definitely requires you to wear your thinking caps as a permanent accessory (mine’s in black, so it goes with everything).

This is where most people (average Joes) stop… and where you (the rare and extraordinary) keep going.

Everyone knows what they DON’T want to do in life -and ironically it’s usually exactly what they ARE doing-but very few people know what they DO want to do in life.  The really ridiculous part is that when people finally get out of what they know they don’t want to do in life, they usually panic and scramble to get back into what they just got out of because they don’t know what else to do. How many people do you know who used every ounce of energy to get to retirement, only to take on a new job as soon as they get there? Exactly.

Extraordinary living isn’t all about what job you have, but my point is that it’s time we put in the energy and effort needed to really figure this stuff out before we find ourselves with a great opportunity to change, only to waste it by returning to the familiar and comfortable ways that we were so miserable in. Even more importantly, lets figure this out BEFORE we reach the age of retirement and realize that we wasted our whole lives being miserable or not doing what we were meant to be doing!

My purpose here is to help you identify what you DO want to do and to give you the tools and support you need to actually do it.

This is bigger than your career choice, or any individual choice you make for that matter. It’s bigger than day to day habits or schedule; bigger than all your ideas, decisions, and views… because it’s all those things put together. It’s everything that makes up you, being used with intention for the bigger picture. It’s the opposite of passivity. It’s living a life of purpose. A purpose that is decided based on who you are as an individual, as a member of your family, as a friend, in your community, and in the world.

Though the specifics of our definitions of extraordinary living will vary (remember, unique snowflakes), I want to have a common starting point for us all that we can use as a base to build our own specifics onto.

“Extraordinary Living” means living the life you are meant to live regardless of risk, difficulty, opinion of others, weaknesses, or failures.  This involves knowing yourself WELL, pursuing your passions, overcoming your fears, and working hard at all you do.

These are the kinds of things we’ll be working on together if you’re choose to embark on this with me. I know…it sounds really hard. It is. But it’s totally worth it. And it’s something we all need lots of support to do. Which is why I’m here and hoping you’ll be here for me too.

Part of my personal definition of extraordinary living involves living in community and sharing my life with others. So as my husband, Scottie, and I seek to discover what an extraordinary life looks like for us, as individuals and a couple, it is completely necessary that I involve like minded souls (or at least people who are just curious and are destined to become like minded souls) in my/our personal journey.

Plug your nose and hold your breath… we’re going in… together.