One can’t exist without the other. I can just exist, and I’m alive, but I’m not living. I can really be living, so I’m not just existing. Very very Zen and very very philosophical for a Tuesday night at 11pm but I’m in the mood for some delving.
Let’s create two characters, each representing the constructs of “living” and “existing”.
Lady A is “living” and Ms B is “existing”- here are descriptions of their activities in a typical day.
Each morning, including weekends, Ms B wakes up to the buzzing of her alarm at 6am. She does not press the snooze button despite being exhausted, derobes and walks to the shower. She washes her hair with her left hand then washes her face with her right hand. She turns the hot tap off first, then the cold. She reaches for the blue towel on the rack (one of 7, one for each day of the week) and dries her hair. She then dresses in her shirt and pants and heads in the same number of steps to her dining table, where she eats her 3 Weet Bix, teaspoon of bran and half a glass of Original Orange Juice. From the same bowl and glass she’s used for the last 13 years.
Already, Ms B makes me think of routine, maintenance, task orientation.
She packs her lunch box neatly into her bag and waits for the 828am bus to the city, where she climbs on and sits on the right, third row from the driver, next to the window.She is concerned that the bus arrived at 831am. This means her walk to the office will at least have to be an eighth quicker. Adults and school children buzz around her. She drops a pile of paperwork as she exits the bus, right foot first as usual, and no one stops to help her. She picks up her strewn papers and angrily walks the 176 steps to her office chair, where she will sit until her first tea break at 1030am. She is thinking about the red apple and muesli bar she will eat for morning tea and it dawns on her that she hasn’t packed it. Her day is now ruined. This is what she was looking forward to for the morning- an apple and a muesli bar.
So now I’m thinking: passive, predictable, in control, inflexible
Once her work day ends at 5pm, she walks to the bus and sits down. She reads the daily paper, every page, and realises when she gets home that her recycling bin has accidentally been moved into a neighbouring driveway by mistake. This is no mistake to her, she is angry and full of vitriol. She was looking forward to getting inside and putting her frozen Lean Cuisine in the microwave while she watches the news from 5pm until 530pm, she doesn’t care for sport which extends the bulletin until 6pm. She sits staring into her bowl of tasteless pasta and frozen beans.
Ms B doesn’t like disobeying personal rules she has defined herself within the boundaries of her comfort zone. She makes herself invisible, as to stay within these boundaries and is not looking to extend herself. She isn’t reaching for the sky. She is merely occupying space and is looking for little things to live for. She has too much regard for consequences of not following routine, her life is safe in her eyes and is just being present. She is like everyone is before they really live-they are just existing.
Now onto Lady A. WOW! She took a risk on the weekend by hiking with her little kids and made the mistake of not taking enough water- but they survived. They got home to her parents place for dinner late, made no apologies and proceeded to waffle at a million miles an hour about how she cannot wait for her next hike into the wilderness. She talks of the promotion she is aiming for in her job and how she has researched what she needs to act on to be the best candidate. Her mum is beaming with pride! Her goal is to one day leave the office job she holds (where she spends much time dreaming of her favourite artists and songs) and how she will make a living for herself as the boss. She thrives on the idea of heading into the office and yelling out “I QUIT” and knows that everyone will miss her laugh, her silliness and her positive attitude.
She has always been in a leader in every venture she has embraced- she takes risks that pay off and even though she makes mistakes, she learns from them. She conveys truth when she speaks “I love my children but they annoy the heck out of me when they don’t stop waffling”. She cares about others as much as she cares for herself. She heads to work the next day and notices Ms B, who is visibly down. She asks what’s wrong and gets a long-winded version of how she left her morning tea at home and how she got up on time, nothing was “different” this particular morning and still couldn’t manage to pack her snacks. And that she is a failure. She offers a different perspective on this dilemma, that Ms B could go a buy a hot chocolate from the new vendor next door, she could even give her the change, they are offering a free muffin today but no, Ms B really wanted her apple and muesli bar. Realising that Ms B cannot be swayed, Lady A just passes her her morning tea and walks off with a smile. She doesn’t sweat the small stuff, yet doesn’t mind if other people do.
She gets home, slips off her heels (which look amazing, but give her excruciating pain) and turns the iPod dock up REALLY LOUD. She grabs her three-year old in her arms and dances a waltz. She is interrupted by her husband, who wants his dinner RIGHT NOW and stops him mid-whinge to grab him by the hand so he can join his girls in a waltz. She makes them proud and she makes her stressed-out husband smile and remember why he adores her. She makes him realize that life is about feelings and making a positive example of yourself. He is witnessing her journey- she’s working, raising a family, pursuing her passions and setting goals for herself. Whether she achieves them or not is clearly not the issue, it’s the journey she’s on.
She’s growing by learning from her mistakes. She explodes with new ideas every day at work and is known for her vitality. Everyone knows she cares and is a kind soul. Everyone feels her energy and her presence. Her life is a story and she is still tying together the sentences, she is nowhere near the end. Every day has meaning and every step she takes together with her children brings excitement and joy. She never compromises her true self, yet makes compromises with others to experience their joy. She feels powerful as a mother and as a woman of worth. Her husband feels he has an equal. She has made an everlasting impact on her work mates and more importantly, on her children. She existed before her children arrived- now she lives.
Can you really feel the differences I’ve described? Close your eyes and picture yourself as either of these women. Which one are you resembling more right now? There is nothing wrong with stability in life. Our children need stability. Everyone has some sense of routine they need for a bit of safety. But there is a lot wrong with just existing. We are born to live. To have attitudes, to express feelings and to fight tooth and nail for what is important, right and good. Being alive is the realization that you have something in your life worth dying for. Don’t waste all that energy inside you. Every cell is buzzing and wanting to be put to good use. You are blessed when you reach that pinnacle where everything in life is passionate, beautiful and enjoyable. Where you open your eyes and all is see is light and all you feel is warmth and love. We all have that pinnacle within reach at some point. Some just need to dance longer and turn the music up louder to reach it.