Since the best time to blog is when you're laid up with an injury, I thought I'd jot a few thoughts down on what I've learned and relearned from this whole thing.
1. Pain is not that big a deal.
When I was little, I was terrified of spankings and would cry when I fell down. Pain was horrific. When I was older, I would put up defenses against emotional pain - I ended relationships too soon, I invested in independence too much, I avoided failure and sought security (in my own way), I tried to be devil-may-care and mostly succeeded.
But as I get older and my sisters go through agonizing labor and I have more failures under my belt and there are more people who don't like me (though hopefully more do like me as well) and I've had the experience of financial losses (as well as gains), I realize that pain is not that big a deal. I used to say, you just have to suck it up, but it's more than that, more than resilience.
Pain is an opportunity. It's an opportunity to learn, to grow, to feel. It's a chance to revisit what is important and to connect with those you love in new ways, and maybe depend upon them. We love Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book Antifragile, which is one of the least edited and most brilliant books I've ever read. In his eyes, you are antifragile if you flourish from hardship. If you can manage to make hard things make you become better, you are indomitable.
2. Decisions, not speed.
With my sprained ankle, I've gotten really slow. At first, when I was thinking about how slow I would be, I was exasperated at the waste of time. I imagined myself laid up in bed.
I've actually been ultra-productive over the past few days, frankly probably more productive than I would have been if I hadn't sprained my ankle. And not because I've been laid up in bed being waited on hand and foot. I've been moving about, going to mail letters, lately running nearby errands, as well as working on my laptops. I've been ultra-productive because I've focused on making small decisions, i.e. "I will act," over and over again. I will put clothes in the washing machine, I will fill out that application, I will answer that one email.
There's something about being physically not well that focuses your priorities wonderfully. I've realized that lack of action or procrastination is usually due to slow or nonexistent decision-making.
In the world of innovation where I live, it's the decisions you don't make that slow you down, not the speed of your motions.
With the cluttered mental desktop that's so common these days, where other people you don't even care about are somehow allowed to pile stuff on, it's particularly the "I will not" decisions that are painful - "I will not answer that email," "I will not pick up that call," "I will not check that voicemail," "I will not take that meeting out of civility or duty," "I will not read my junkmail, "I will not keep my house pristine," "I will not put on makeup today." But that's how you make time for important things and that's how you clear your desktop to keep making good decisions, and decisions are what keep you moving forward and growing and human.
3. Love really is all you need. And food and shelter and health insurance and a few other knick-knacks.
The Beatles had it right. I've lived a grand old life and had never-to-be-repeated experiences of joy and wonder all over the world, and have no regrets. But I've come to realize that love and living don't really require very much.
I have mostly enough clothes and books to last me the rest of my life, an excellent bicycle with a basket, the washer and dryer of my dreams, a little house just big enough to have people over but not too big to clean in one afternoon, in the location of my dreams and near a Vietnamese grocery store, and I can cook just about anything.
I still want to travel and we have plans to live in (not visit) a few different places, but we don't need a lot. It has to make me wonder though why we work so much.. something to noodle on in this new year :) Happy new year!