Is Extraordinary Living Selfish?

Since my initial concept of this blog began to form, there is one major challenge I have wrestled with constantly.  Am I putting myself first too much in my attempt to live a Rare Existence?  The fact that you are currently reading this blog means that I have decided the answer is no. But still, it is a question that requires some thought, so I’m putting my musings out there.

There are 3 main reasons I do not believe extraordinary living is selfish.

1. Your role in the world matters.

Yes, I do believe that loving the world around you and giving of yourself to humanity as a whole are key elements to a well lived life.
I do not see living an extraordinary life as being in opposition to that life model, in fact I think they go hand in hand quite well. I believe that people’s talents, experiences, weaknesses, strengths, genetic predispositions, etc. all make up one whole unique person.  And it is my belief that each one whole unique person exists to fill certain holes in the world in a way that only that specific person with that specific makeup can fill. That said, I believe that if you are doing something that you are not fit to do or living as if every person were meant to do the same things, then you are going to be unsatisfied and potentially inhibit the world around you from living up to it’s full potential.
The main reason I think everyone should be living the destiny they are made for, is because I believe it is the main thing that will make their life beneficial to those around them.  I definitely agree that living your life for the good of others is the number one priority…  I just happen to think that living the life you are meant to live is one of the best ways to do that.

 2. Sacrificial love isn’t always what it seems.

Yes, life and love require sacrifices. It’s not all sunshine and roses and it’s not all about pursuing things that make you happy.  Sometimes you do things you don’t like for the sake of others.
The problem arises when people define themselves by these sacrifices.
It is so much easier to play the victim.  So much simpler to not push yourself in life because you simply assume your position holds you stationary.  No, life doesn’t always go as planned, no life is not all about our happiness, and yes sometimes love does require more sacrifice than we want to make.  But within all that we still have choices, and no one choice has to define us for the rest of our life because we still have choices after that.  Many people let the sacrifice phase run their entire life so that it no longer can be called a phase, but rather…well, it’s just called their life at that point. Spending your entire life sacrificing what you are meant to be doing with your life for the sake of others has consequences to not only you but to those you believe you are sacrificing for.
The good intentions behind our sacrifices can quickly turn into excuses to avoid our fears.
When this happens, we begin basing our life decisions on fear disguised as love and this is of benefit to no one, no matter how much we want to believe it is.  We are telling ourselves that we are living the way we are for the sake of another person, when really that person/situation can go on just fine without us.  But we are incapable of acknowledging that because that is going to require more self-examination and change than we are ready for.  When we get to this point, we are in the danger zone because there is a good chance that we are doing more harm than good by what we are still calling a “loving sacrifice.”  It’s important to constantly ask yourself “are my past sacrifices still necessary or am I just stuck in a bad routine that I have been afraid of questioning?”  Knowing when to make sacrifices for others is just as important as knowing when to move forward with your life within that sacrifice, or when to let go of the sacrifice entirely.
 I fully believe that you can commit to truly loving others in life and still pursue an extraordinary life.
Sacrificing for others doesn’t have to mean giving up your dreams and loving people doesn’t have to mean you don’t get to be happy yourself.  In fact, for many people, living an extraordinary life is all about giving up their comforts to enable them to love others better (as in the story of Kelli that I featured awhile back).  I also believe that love, happiness, filling the role you are destined for, and selflessness all fit together very well and often create a circle where each aspect feeds and strengthens the others.

3. Your loved ones will thank you.

Anyone who is drained of passion, hope, and joy is not going to be of much use to people around them.
If you are a mom who has become a complete martyr for your children and do not have a single ounce of self-esteem or personal identity left in you… what are teaching your kids about life?  If you are a husband who uses every ounce of energy you have to just survive every single workday long enough to be able to make it home and zone out in front of the TV… what kind of love are you able to give to your wife and what kind of example are you being to your kids about how to love people?
Sick people can’t make others healthy because disease spreads.  Push aside your fears and be willing to constantly ask yourself what needs to be done for the greater good of others… you might be surprised that it requires that you be healthy and happy so you can love others well.  Make the choice to be a healthy person who can lead others to health by example.

The bottom line is that though extraordinary living is focusing on yourself and your own life while pursuing changes that might result in your own personal happiness, that doesn’t make it selfish; because it is those very changes that will most likely result in positive changes in the lives of those around you. If doing what you are meant to be doing with your life makes you happier (and it’s likely that it will) that does not automatically make you selfish. Happiness does not have to equal selfishness. If you are pursuing your own happiness IN SPITE of what’s best for those around you, well then that’s another story. But extraordinary living is not about finding what you WANT to do with your life but what you are MEANT to do with your life and I don’t believe what you are truly meant to do with your life is something that will be detrimental to your loved ones, but in fact beneficial to them… as well as to yourself. As long as your happiness comes from things that are good and true then it is a gift from God and can be one of the greatest sources of the love that you extend to others.

Why you should watch a movie that might make you want to kill yourself

“Who made these rules anyway?” screams a frustrated, 11 years post Titanic, Kate Winslet at Leonardo Dicaprio (who looks about the same a decade later, except that his tux and tails have been replaced by late 50’s era swanky suits).

If you haven’t seen Revolutionary Road, see it.
You may hate it, many people do. I mean REEEAAALLY hate it. It does have the depressing factor, but to me it is full of truth and beauty. Yes, there are some morally questionable scenarios that I’m not sure which side of the fence I’m on and there are many different ways to interpret what happens and who’s to blame… but the multidimensional factor of the story and the characters is what makes a good movie (or book as was Revolutionary Road’s initial form) right?

My take on Revolutionary Road?
It’s a story about what happens when you choose to live a life you are NOT meant to live. It’s what happens when you choose comfort over risk, when you choose to believe the lies, when you choose to see problems and your own fears as insurmountable. It’s the story of what happens when you let life win. Basically you rot from the inside out… and your rot spills over onto the people around you until you and all your loved ones are completely miserable. You are dead inside and eventually, you die on the outside. This is Revolutionary Road. Wonderfully uplifting, isn’t it?

If you are currently in a marriage that makes you feel trapped…
…DON’T see this, it may make you suicidal. In fact, the people who I know who truly hated this movie with a bitter, burning anger, were people who were in that situation. So in that case, I don’t necessarily recommend it. I could be wrong though, so see it at your own risk.

If you feel trapped in any other way…
…then maybe you should see it or read the book. It will show you what at least one of your potential outcomes could be and it’s probably something you need to see, as painful as it may be.

If you’ve already seen the movie or read the book and you hated it…
Then maybe give it another shot with the perspective I’ve offered in mind. Or maybe not. Maybe you still won’t like it. I do, but you don’t have to and I would totally understand why you might still hate it. It’s disturbing no matter how you spin it and it really is a very complex movie with lots of different ways to interpret. My early apologies if you end up wasting yet ANOTHER 2 hours of your life on a movie you hate the second time around just as much as you hated it the first!

A couple of my favorite quotes from the book by Richard Yates:

“If being crazy means living life as if it matters, then I don’t mind being completely insane.”
-April Wheeler

“No, Frank. This is what’s unrealistic. It’s unrealistic for a man with a fine mind to go on working year after year at a job he can’t stand. Coming home to a place he can’t stand, to a wife who’s equally unable to stand the same things. And you know what the worst part of it is? Our whole existence here is based on this great premise that we’re special. They we’re superior to the whole thing. But we’re not. We’re just like everyone else! We bought into the same, ridiculous delusion. That we have to resign from life and settle down the moment we have children. And we’ve been punishing each other for it.”
– April Wheeler

“I want to feel things. Really feel them.”
-Frank Wheeler

“I wanted IN. I just wanted us to live again. For years I thought we’ve shared this secret that we would be wonderful in the world. I don’t know exactly how, but just the possibility kept me hoping. How pathetic is that? So stupid. To put all your hopes in a promise that was never made. Frank knows what he wants, he found his place, he’s just fine. Married, two kids, it should be enough. It is for him. And he’s right; we were never special or destined for anything at all.”
– April Wheeler

“We’re gonna be okay.”- Frank Wheeler
“I hope so. I really hope so.”- April Wheeler

See the trailer or rent the movie here.
Buy the book here.

Remember Why It’s Worth It

In case you haven’t decided if you’re ready to make the necessary sacrifices for your extraordinary life, or if things have been getting a rough lately and you just need a little encouragement to remember why you’re doing it, let me tell you a little about what has changed in my life since I began pursuing a Rare Existence. You need to know that the concept of extraordinary living is not just a pipe dream, but that it is an actual reality for many, and it can be for you too!

You can work from anywhere.
In fact, I am currently sitting on vacation in a cute little workspace at a stunning log cabin in the forest of Northern Arizona, listening to the beautiful rain.

You can work whenever you want.
Hence, it being the middle of a weekday afternoon and I’m enjoying my time writing, not working at my main job.

You can have a job you love.
I get to be creative and work with people on the happiest day of their lives.

You can have the ability to move wherever you want.
I have always wanted to live in Los Angeles and now I do live in Los Angeles.

You can have a beautiful marriage.
I now get to really live the majority of my life with my husband. We share in the same excitements, hopes, dreams, etc. that come from having many common goals in our work together.

You can be a stay at home parent.
When we have kids, I now have the ability to not only be a stay at home mom but to have my husband stay home with us as well… stay at home parents raising a family together!

You can live debt free.
We have no obligations, fears of bankruptcy, foreclosure, bills we can never pay.  With this comes much freedom and peace.

You can take 1 month, 2 month, or even 3 month vacations.
In this past year we went to Hawaii for 3 weeks, Mexico for 3 weeks, and Venice, California for 3 months (before we made the decision to live there).

You can live your life in a way that prioritizes relationships over all else.
When people call to hang out, we have the choice to go whether it’s late at night or right smack in the middle of the day. And we live in the kind of community where that happens almost daily!

You can live a life that matches up to your values.
We now have the choice where we what to put the majority of our time, energy, and effort.  We now just have to focus on continuing to choose well!

You can do something meaningful with your life.
We have big dreams, and we are doing everything we can to make decisions that will set us up to accomplish those!

 

I’m not kidding. This is our life.  Seriously, write out your dreams and start taking those crazy, scary steps towards accomplishing them (revisit the discipline of dreaming post)! We had to do it… we had to take the risks and walk on some shaky ground, and we continue to push through challenges as a result of our choices, but the end result is so SO worth it! Do it. Start dreaming and doing now. I’ll see you soon on the road towards extraordinary living!

 

Is Los Angeles the place where my dreams will come true or where my children will get stabbed?

Lately I’ve been finding myself in all sorts of mental conflicts.

Work or sleep? Re-read “Hunger Games” or jump right into “Intro to Being a Better Human Being and Fixing Everything in Your Life Through Painstaking Work and Exhausting Effort”? Go out and make new friends or decide to sit at home feeling fat instead?

You see, life is a pickle! Decisions, decisions, decisions!

I think I have decision-block.

I’ve had writer’s block lately and I think that it has to do with the fact that the very thing I write about is the very thing I’m blocked about. I’m re-thinking my decisions, which for me means questioning whether I’d rather spend my days relaxing on the porch with an extra large glass of sweet tea and my 3 legged old dog while we watch the fireflies land and count our days by how high the tulips grow in the front yard? Or by laying on my horn in traffic as I rush late to my next meeting, while trying to cram a meatless, gluten free, double fiber stick of something or other down my throat and yelling into my speaker phone about the ice cream cake I’m picking up for that thing tonight, while trying to learn Mandarin on my iPod and squeezing my glutes for added toning at the same time. (Think Michelle Pfeiffer’s lawyer character in “I Am Sam” who survives on handfuls of jellybeans and non-fat lattes).

Why is the answer to that question even a question? Oh right, because I’ve actually chosen the awful sounding second one.

Yes, I have moved to Los Angeles, California. It’s the land of concrete and smog where the green grass only grows up between the sidewalk cracks and where when you hear someone say the word crack you think about either Charlie Sheen’s tiger blood or Brittany Spears’ coin slot before you think about the sidewalk.

Here I must compete, always. I must make more money to stay afloat, always. I must know how to enter a restaurant with no visible sign or apparent, always. I must hurry, always. I must know all about Ryan Murphy, Ryan Gosling, and all the future famous Ryans who aren’t even born yet, always. I must look good, but try not to look like I’m trying to look good, always. I must know not only what they are, but also 10 different ways to prepare and ingest kombucha, kale, or kimchi, always. I must avoid walking alone at night, always. I must carry quarters on me for parking, laundry, and bums, always. I must work out 3 hours a day, 10 days a week (yes, 10), always. And people will continue to ask me what I was thinking when I decided to move here, always.

But I know why I moved here.

I moved here for the ocean, the community, the culture,The Chelsea Lately Show, the art, the potential, the bike rides, the entertainment, the celebrity neighbors, the abundance of french bulldogs, the old Hollywood history, the diversity, the great weather, the walkability ratings, the chance to see my front yard on my favorite TV show, the inspiration, the excitement, the creative collaborations, and- let’s just admit it- the white truffle aioli sauce with candied bacon, creamy burrrata, and lemon zest had a little something to do with it as well.

I know why I’m here right now, but the new question I’m asking myself is- do I want to be here forever?

Do I know that I want to raise my kids here? Do I know how I will juggle my freeway captivity and Botex injections with my kids’ Pilates and french cooking classes? Maybe having my kids skateboard to school while I Feng Shui up the house isn’t the lifestyle I want for my family. Maybe I’d rather have my kids walk home from school with their friends while I await them with a plate of fresh baked cookies and a Bible story to tell them that I heard in my knitting club. Having time to play, garden, relax, sleep, talk, and go number two isn’t such a bad thing is it? Maybe moving to small town USA where I’d just go to a regular old job and my kids would come home from school to a regular old mom in mom jeans, and going to regular old church potlucks on Sundays and listening to old Uncle Joe tell that same story about the cat with angina for the hundredth time isn’t such a bad thing? Why do I feel the need to fight it and do the opposite?

I found out why when I was visiting my dad’s small, mid-western hometown.

As I watched people have time to enjoy life and found myself longing for some of the small pleasures of the simple life that they had (mostly the lard), I met a young girl who had a different kind of spark in her thick black eyelinered eyes. Even though she didn’t say it out loud, everything about her and about the things she DID say out loud, just screamed to me that she was going to leave this place one day, this place with 4 generations of her family all living within 5 miles from each other. It’s not that she hated it, it’s not that it was bad. It just wasn’t HER and it wasn’t what she was meant for. And I saw myself in her in more ways that I could count.

It was at that moment that I realized, this thing about destiny is so much bigger than my own finicky desires.

It doesn’t matter where I want to live or what I want to do because I know that what I want more than anything is to do what I’m meant to do with my life and I’ll live wherever I need to in order to accomplish that. So even though a small town sounds kinds of nice right about now, it’s just not where I’m meant to be… just like I can tell that young girl is meant to leave one day. Maybe I’m meant to end up in the middle of a corn field one day… but for now I KNOW I am right where I need to be. Right in the middle of the action, the opportunity, the thrill, and the challenges that come with LA.

I don’t know if my kids will be the ones with thick black eyelinered eyes who are meant for LA…

…or the ones with an affinity for growing crops and wearing Carhart overalls who are meant for a small potato farming community in Idaho (or in Ireland if I’m lucky, because then I can visit them in Ireland instead of Idaho). It all goes back to extraordinary living and how by definition of it, we all have different sorts of lives we are meant to live. I don’t know if LA will be best for my family. Some of you just choked on your corn chip when heard that I’d even consider that LA might be best for my family! I DO think there actually are benefits to raising your kids in the big city- like how they can always find a hotdog stand when they are hungry! Of course I know there are many downsides as well- like how they can’t sit on benches because the homeless people pee on them. I kind of like the drive and desires that a fast pace competitive city can put in you… those are the kinds of things that can lead a child to grow up and change the world. I also like the down time and support system that a slow paced small town can provide you with… those are the kinds of things that will allow a child to grow up investing into things that are extremely meaningful like relationships and helping other people.

There are pluses and minuses to both sides.

You just have to decide which you believe is best for you, your child, your family, your partner, your dentist, your therapist, your dog walker, and all the other people who stand to be affected by your decision. And even if you make yourself crazy trying to decide (as I do every night at 1am when I go frantically re-reading and continually re-commenting with my non-nonsensical night time thoughts on Teresa Strasser’s blog post related to this), you’re still pretty likely to be wrong in the end anyways! So my final say on the matter is that I am where I need to be now in order to live my extraordinary life, but when I have kids, I will re-consider, weigh my options wisely, and then make a decision that I will stick to- until my husband tells me I’m wrong, or until my kid ends up in college or prison, at which point I will find out whether or not I made the right choice.

Slowing the pace to enjoy the race

I recently realized that our values went awry somewhere along the way.
We moved to a little place a block away from the beach in the most fun, entertaining neighborhood that I’ve ever known. We then proceeded to unpack. Work. Unpack. Think about going to the beach. Unpack. Work. Think about inviting new friends over for dinner. Work. Work. Long to go swimming in the ocean. Work…. you get the picture.  We moved here for the lifestyle. Yet we are too busy trying to pay for the lifestyle to be able to enjoy it!

The solution (aside from becoming independently wealthy through passive income in the next month)…
… is to work on the discipline of rest. Like a sabbath. That’s right. A good old fashioned, Biblical sabbath. Everyone’s definition (i.e. life and death dogma) about this issue is different so let me explain what it means for my husband and I.  It means no appointments, no to- do list, and above all, no guilt for that. It’s a day of rest. Basically we will refuse to feel guilty for being unproductive and we will enjoy the gift of life.

“But I can’t take a day off, I’m too busy!”
And you will never not be too busy so you need to stop waiting for “someday” when you finally have time to rest and enjoy life and you need to start living NOW. We have a tendency to believe that productivity is next to godliness and we all too often ask  “can I fit this into my schedule?”, when really we need to be asking “SHOULD I fit this into my schedule?”. These are the things we’re taught and we live by, even if we hate it. And now this is what bosses, spouses, friends and any other person you come into contact with expects of you. You must reply to my text or email NOW, you must squeeze me in this week, you must work late… and the guilt piles on as we get further behind and feel even more pressure to perform.  It’s time to give up and realize that you will never get it all done no matter how hard you try and the “someday” where you have limitless amounts of time might not come until the last 5 years of your life (if ever) which means you will already have missed most of it! Taking stress pills, sleep meds, caffeine inhalers, while continuing to have chest pains, ulcers, and emotional breakdowns anyways is not a way to live. It’s not worth it. A day off every week is EXACTLY what we need! No matter how hard it is to come by! It’s amazing how prioritizing time for rest can rejuvenate you for the rest of the week to be even more productive. And it’s even more amazing to realize that you still get just as much done (or not done) as you did before you started taking a day of rest. Don’t waste your life just trying to make it through the stress while ignoring all the joys around you.

“But I can’t take a day off, I get too bored!”
Of course you’ll be bored, you’re going to sit down for a full minute straight! It’s sooo different from your day to day life! That’s not a reason to not take a day off, in fact it’s the very reason you need a day off… you’re incredibly unhealthy! Even if you are just a high energy person, you still need to take time off to do nothing. I read somewhere that it takes a full 5 days of doing nothing before you relax and adjust to the pace (so screw 7 day vacations by the way, unless you plan on it being one of those fun, action packed ones that leave you more exhausted than revitalized when you’re done).

“But… oh wait, I’m out of excuses”.
Right, so give it a shot. One full day off a week. Or even one day off every other week if you have to work your way up with this!  A day of rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. It could be spending time with others or by yourself (I know you can come up with a solution about what to do with the kids when a particular sabbath requires much needed alone time).  It’s one day with no performing, impressing, or pleasing on this day (doesn’t that sound AMAZING?!). No to- do lists, chores, or working on things you’ve been putting off.  It’s a day to sit back and be grateful while enjoying the fruits of your 6 day a week labor.

Start keeping a list of what you’re looking forward to doing (or NOT doing) on your next sabbath. That way when you have a few seconds to spare, you don’t panic because you don’t know what to do with them (you’ll get better at not panicking once you’ve had practice with this discipline of rest by the way). So when you find yourself hitting snooze on your alarm clock more than once, write down “sleep in” as what you’re going to do on your sabbath this week.

Here’s what I did on the first full day off I’d had in over a month and a half…

  • Read for 2 hours in the morning (not productive reading, just an Elizabeth Taylor biography that had more pictures than words- real brain food you know).
  • Went to Starbucks and got a tasty drink with REAL sugar in it!
  • Went to the beach with my husband (FINALLY took time to enjoy our surroundings!!).
  • Started cleaning out our side yard that I’ve been dying to fix up and make usable. Yes this was productive, but it wasn’t something I’ve been procrastinating on, it’s something I’ve been dying to have time to do and it was very relaxing!
  • Watched a movie (Grand Canyon from the 80’s. Really intense and interesting/weird movie!)  I have been DREAMING of watching a movie and I just haven’t had time!
  • Went to bed early. No working until 2 am on this day!

It was such a GREAT day and I couldn’t believe how positive I felt about my life for the rest of the week! Life felt enjoyable and I still somehow found the time to get the same amount of work done that week…. maybe because I was rested and ready to go for the next 6 days of work.

Two giant questions to ask yourself

Now we’re going to talk about something that is going to be frowned upon no matter which side of the fence I stand on. So I’m going to attempt to stay in the middle. No, seriously, I promise that is really where I stand on it!

The question of debate here is: are some dreams too big for some people?

If you’ve ever watched the first few episodes of an American Idol season then I expect to hear a resounding “YES” coming from your direction. The other side of this argument is usually something about how Michael Jordan didn’t make his freshman basketball team but he still decided not to quit… or how everyone told grant hill he was too short for the NBA (sorry but for some reason my relationship with sports began and ended with basketball in the 90’s). You could even mention what’s his name who grew in YouTube fame because of his awful American Idol performance. You could point out how no one would know his name if he hadn’t pursued his dream despite his obvious lack of talent (if only I could remember his name now).

I could go on and on with analogies from both sides of the argument, but I think you get it. My point is that while I will encourage you to climb every mountain and swim every stream to reach your dreams, I will also encourage you to choose those dreams wisely. There is such thing as pursuing a dream you are not meant to have, and I think it is much better to decide if you are doing that before you are already waist deep into it.

These are two of the hardest questions you will ever face in your pursuit of an extraordinary life.
1. Is this the extraordinary life I should begin pursuing?
2. Is it time to give up this particular path of extraordinary living and find a new one?

Of course, the tricky part is that only you can make those decisions and only you will find the real answers. But whatever stage you are at on you journey, I think it is very important to stop and ask yourself these two key questions… no matter how difficult it may be to hear the answer.

 

What do you think? Are some dreams too big for some people? Answer by commenting here or on Rare Existence’s Facebook page!

 

Trying to partner with you partner

If you haven’t noticed, I say “we” a lot.

This is somewhat out of habit because my husband and I do spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week together. But some of it is because it’s pretty much impossible to talk about my life journey as a solo enterprise.  It’s done as a we so it makes sense to talk about it as a we.

It is going to be pretty difficult to choose a lifestyle, any lifestyle whether it’s extraordinary or not, if your life partner is not on board. If you’re the kind of sold out fan who’s waving extraordinary living flags in the air, taping quotes to your refrigerator, and making up sing-songy mantras to get you through your day… but your partner only rolls their eyes and prays this is just a stage… you might have a problem.

I hate to tell you this, but I actually have no idea what you’re supposed to do.

Every person is different, every relationship is different, and every situation is different. I can’t just throw out the magic potion to make this all better. You’re going to have to work through this the same way you work through any other disagreement in your relationship…. wait, I don’t mean using the silent treatment or withholding sex so maybe I should clarify that the right answer here is “COMMUNICATION”.

I believe that everyone has an extraordinary life that is waiting to be lived.

I don’t care how put-together, straight-laced, or practical your spouse is, I fully believe that they still have things in their life they feel pulled to but are afraid to do, everyone does.  And fear has lots of awesome costumes it uses to disguise itself.  Some of it’s favorite masks are logical thinking, self-sacrifice, and financial wisdom, along with many other things that are all just excuses. Don’t get me wrong, I whole heartedly believe in paying attention to all these factors when they are real issues. I’m talking about when these are not as big of a problem as people have chosen to believe they are… these are the times when fear is the real issue.

Fear is a pretty big deal! 

Fear creates passivity (complacency which leads to depression), the need to control things (comfort which leads to lack of freedom), and often times anger (frustration which can lead to relationship problems).  And this messy emotion, that tends to ruin everything, is in all of us.  So first of all I’m saying that if your partner is hesitant, give them a break!  Your fear may manifest itself in different ways than theirs does, but you still have some form of detrimental fear that is just as real and just as scary as theirs!

You never know, maybe the reason you feel called to live an extraordinary life is because you’re also meant to help your partner find theirs!

…no matter how resistant they may be at first!

From the moment you begin these conversations with your partner, just remember that both of you do have fear of some sort and that puts you on the same team from the beginning.  This is not a “you against them” battle. Just because your partner is afraid, doesn’t mean they don’t want an extraordinary life deep down, they probably just need help getting there.  You can be there to help them recognize their fears, break down their true obstacles, and find the freedom they crave to do what they’re meant to be doing with their life! What an amazing thing to be able to work through together and help one another with! Your job as partners is to help one another grow… this is just another piece to that.

Stay humble and open.

Remember that neither you or I (yes, I can admit it) have all the right answers. This is where humbleness kicks in (and I’m feeling the pain of that kick already). Just because your partner has an extraordinary life in mind, doesn’t mean it’s the same one you are thinking of. This is going to be one of many issues you’ll need to work through together. Start by each doing your own dreaming and then coming together to find the common points. Just keep in mind that your way may not be the right way. Your destiny does involve the person you chose to seek out your destiny with. So whether your decision to partner with them changed the course you would otherwise be on or not, you are now on this course so your job is to find a way to make it work for both of you.

When you start discussing these major life changes with your partner, it’s imperative that you really, truly listen to them, not just to get that part out of the way, but to really try to hear and understand where they’re coming from. So put down your sword, relax your defenses, and just sit down for a minute. This is more of a Mr. Miyagi kind of moment… a time that involves calm wisdom and listening which will lead to enlightenment over violence.

Stay patient and compassionate.

How well you’re able to listen to, value, and truly weigh and  consider your partner’s differing opinions says a lot about the kind of person you are. And the level of patience you’re able to have with your partner’s speed of growth and with the speed of your extraordinary living progress says a lot about how successful you will be in this endeavor together. If you’re mustering up all the compassionate, patient, loving, respectful, and humble bones in your body (and then going after the muscles, sinews, etc, etc) then I think you guys will be able to figure this one out.

So this is where you need to start… step by step with many slow, long conversations.  This involves much, MUCH listening from both sides.  You both need to feel the freedom to express your fears, your needs, and your desires.  Once you both feel heard and respected then you can start to see things from each other’s point of view and it’s only at this point that you can expect to move forward as a collective unit in whatever direction you are truly meant to go.

Hopefully one day, you’ll look back and smile fondly at these conversations that once occurred a whole other lifestyle ago.

 

Trying to partner with you partner

If you haven’t noticed, I say “we” a lot.

This is somewhat out of habit because my husband and I do spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week together. But some of it is because it’s pretty much impossible to talk about my life journey as a solo enterprise.  It’s done as a we so it makes sense to talk about it as a we.

It is going to be pretty difficult to choose a lifestyle, any lifestyle whether it’s extraordinary or not, if your life partner is not on board. If you’re the kind of sold out fan who’s waving extraordinary living flags in the air, taping quotes to your refrigerator, and making up sing-songy mantras to get you through your day… but your partner only rolls their eyes and prays this is just a stage… you might have a problem.

I hate to tell you this, but I actually have no idea what you’re supposed to do.

Every person is different, every relationship is different, and every situation is different. I can’t just throw out the magic potion to make this all better. You’re going to have to work through this the same way you work through any other disagreement in your relationship…. wait, I don’t mean using the silent treatment or withholding sex so maybe I should clarify that the right answer here is “COMMUNICATION”.

I believe that everyone has an extraordinary life that is waiting to be lived.

I don’t care how put-together, straight-laced, or practical your spouse is, I fully believe that they still have things in their life they feel pulled to but are afraid to do, everyone does.  And fear has lots of awesome costumes it uses to disguise itself.  Some of it’s favorite masks are logical thinking, self-sacrifice, and financial wisdom, along with many other things that are all just excuses. Don’t get me wrong, I whole heartedly believe in paying attention to all these factors when they are real issues. I’m talking about when these are not as big of a problem as people have chosen to believe they are… these are the times when fear is the real issue.

Fear is a pretty big deal! 

Fear creates passivity (complacency which leads to depression), the need to control things (comfort which leads to lack of freedom), and often times anger (frustration which can lead to relationship problems).  And this messy emotion, that tends to ruin everything, is in all of us.  So first of all I’m saying that if your partner is hesitant, give them a break!  Your fear may manifest itself in different ways than theirs does, but you still have some form of detrimental fear that is just as real and just as scary as theirs!

You never know, maybe the reason you feel called to live an extraordinary life is because you’re also meant to help your partner find theirs!

…no matter how resistant they may be at first!

From the moment you begin these conversations with your partner, just remember that both of you do have fear of some sort and that puts you on the same team from the beginning.  This is not a “you against them” battle. Just because your partner is afraid, doesn’t mean they don’t want an extraordinary life deep down, they probably just need help getting there.  You can be there to help them recognize their fears, break down their true obstacles, and find the freedom they crave to do what they’re meant to be doing with their life! What an amazing thing to be able to work through together and help one another with! Your job as partners is to help one another grow… this is just another piece to that.

Stay humble and open.

Remember that neither you or I (yes, I can admit it) have all the right answers. This is where humbleness kicks in (and I’m feeling the pain of that kick already). Just because your partner has an extraordinary life in mind, doesn’t mean it’s the same one you are thinking of. This is going to be one of many issues you’ll need to work through together. Start by each doing your own dreaming and then coming together to find the common points. Just keep in mind that your way may not be the right way. Your destiny does involve the person you chose to seek out your destiny with. So whether your decision to partner with them changed the course you would otherwise be on or not, you are now on this course so your job is to find a way to make it work for both of you.

When you start discussing these major life changes with your partner, it’s imperative that you really, truly listen to them, not just to get that part out of the way, but to really try to hear and understand where they’re coming from. So put down your sword, relax your defenses, and just sit down for a minute. This is more of a Mr. Miyagi kind of moment… a time that involves calm wisdom and listening which will lead to enlightenment over violence.

Stay patient and compassionate.

How well you’re able to listen to, value, and truly weigh and  consider your partner’s differing opinions says a lot about the kind of person you are. And the level of patience you’re able to have with your partner’s speed of growth and with the speed of your extraordinary living progress says a lot about how successful you will be in this endeavor together. If you’re mustering up all the compassionate, patient, loving, respectful, and humble bones in your body (and then going after the muscles, sinews, etc, etc) then I think you guys will be able to figure this one out.

So this is where you need to start… step by step with many slow, long conversations.  This involves much, MUCH listening from both sides.  You both need to feel the freedom to express your fears, your needs, and your desires.  Once you both feel heard and respected then you can start to see things from each other’s point of view and it’s only at this point that you can expect to move forward as a collective unit in whatever direction you are truly meant to go.

Hopefully one day, you’ll look back and smile fondly at these conversations that once occurred a whole other lifestyle ago.

 

Our first choice between the ordinary and the extraordinary

The first choice between the ordinary and the extraordinary (i.e. between freedom and security) came for us before we were even engaged. I have already mentioned how one of my greatest fears was to end up with a passive man.  It seems to me that passivity in men rears it’s ugly head the most when they are exhausted; and nothing exhausts an American man more than a tiresome job.  If a man’s using all his energy to maintain a career, he has very little left for his family, or anything else in the rest of his life.  The career IS his life…. whether he likes it or not.

When I met Scottie, he was working about 75- 80 hours a week doing very difficult, physical labor.  When your boyfriend falls asleep in the middle of 1 out of every 3 dates… you have to wonder how awake he’d be throughout a marriage.  I knew I wanted a husband who would try to meet my emotional and intellectual needs as much as he tried to meet my financial needs.  If one of those areas is unbalanced, you can’t expect the others to thrive.  So I agreed to marry Scottie, provided that he quit his job because I was getting married so I could have a HUSBAND, not a nice house.  Scottie was happy to finally have something push him to quit since he didn’t like the monotony he saw in his future any more than I did, so he did it and we found ourselves a few months out from our wedding hoping that we’d be able to figure out how to make the free coffee I got from my part time job at Starbucks, in the cardboard box house we were going to have to live in.

Well guess what, we survived being poor.  I know, money is a huge cause of conflict between couples, but I really do think it’s a different story when make the CHOICE to be poor.   We had our stress from it, and we still believe in being wise with money so we’re definitely not preaching recklessness as the moral to this story.  The point is that we chose freedom and relationships over money and we continued to make that choice time and time again over the next few years as we struggled to make ends meet… but had lots of time to have fun together in the process.  Riding your bikes through the sprinklers at midnight is WAY better than a date at the fanciest restaurant that has to be over by 7pm so you can go to bed early and get up for the job you hate the next day.  We’d discovered the beauty of choosing freedom over security (which is what living an extraordinary life means for us)… and we were never going back.

So we had survived our first choice between ordinary and extraordinary… and in a move that has been repeated many times since, we chose extraordinary.

(Thanks to Terence Young for drawing this as a visual depiction for this post. My favorite part is actually what he said about why he drew this. He said, “The thing that entered my head as I read your post is that you’ve found a relationship that sets you two apart from the rest of the world, in some way you’re on your own little planet that you’ve created.” So sweet isn’t it?!  I loved this picture even more after reading that!)

Unfortunately you don’t get to ride off one good decision for the rest of your life… you have to make new decisions every day.  We still battle the pull of comfort and security on a regular basis (just so you know we live in a small apartment in a low income neighborhood… and almost everyday I think about how much I want a house).  We still battle all our fears (the first few days in Mexico we hid in our safe condo and didn’t meet anyone or experience much of anything), and we still cringe when we know we’re about to take a risk no matter how small it is.

The bottom line is that we’re still weak, cowardly, flawed human beings who are seeking to be extraordinary.

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.