Acceptance

I haven’t been posting as much as I used to. Partly it’s because I’m busy, but I’ve also begun to accept.

The past month or so has been excellent at work. I’ve begun to knit together a group of people who I respect, and who value me. I feel like I’m productive, making a good impression on people whose opinions I respect. I’m working on projects which interest me, and my hours aren’t quite as long as they were in January.

My life, now, is not a life where I have a lot of free time. It’s not a life where I have a lot of leftover energy. I will be working, for a few years at least, so I might as well enjoy where I’m at. Or, barring that, I might as well accept it.

Partly, I’ve let my discipline unspool, like a fisherman playing the fish on the end of his line. Not that I was ever particularly disciplined about spending, but I used to feel such guilt over spending $2 more per day on food. Does it really matter if I spend $2 more per day on food, if it makes me happy? Does spending $20 or $30 more on quality clothing that will make me look more professional mean so much? I think I’m a happier person when I do so. Those $2 per day mean I can eat better food, or don’t have to worry about cooking it. Or it could even mean I can attempt a new recipe and not worry if it doesn’t turn out great.

I live my life according to a handful of maxims. Sure, I can guarantee that I don’t obey them faithfully. They’ve served me faithfully, though. The first is “Know Thyself”. The second is “Everything in Moderation”. Alert classicists might recognize these as inscriptions from the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.

I spent a bit over a year pushing my boundaries, in terms of frugality. Then, beginning last November and December, I started to feel like I was seeing diminishing returns. So, following the maxim, I’ve moderated this tendency, and like clockwork, the strategy has paid dividends.

As for “know thyself,” part of accepting where I’m at, is accepting that how I’ve spent the past few years, and how I will spend the next few years, has a place in the story of my life. As it says in Ecclesiastes: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” There is a time in my life when I will journey, adventure in the wilds of Nepal, drink a beer in Bruges, sail across Polynesia, tango in Buenos Aires. So too there is a time in my life for solving difficult problems and exulting in hard work. If, when that time passes, the number in my bank account will finance the next phase, that’s wonderful. If it doesn’t, so be it. I’ll simply have to work again.

Attitude is entirely mental. My mentality was “Look at all this work I’m doing! Doesn’t it suck!” That accomplishes nothing except make me feel self-pity. A curiously addictive emotion, and pernicious. It’s better to lean back, take a deep breath, and accept for a moment where you’re at.

Sisyphus had a boulder placed in front of him. He had to push it to the top of the mountain. It had to roll back down. I think Sisyphus could accept this, take pleasure in the light ease of walking back down the mountain, take pleasure in squaring his shoulder against the stone, take pleasure in getting stronger each trip, and take pleasure in overcoming fear of the boulder. I can imagine Sisyphus happy.

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1 Comment

  1. Matt

     /  March 1, 2012

    Nice post. I’ll have to add that book to my reading list, looks interesting!

    Reply

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