Three things happened to me this past week that were a wake-up call:
- I overheard a volunteer at my work refer to me as a “lady.”
- A younger coworker commented that I “looked tired.”
- I wasn’t carded when I ordered a wheat beer at a restaurant.
All of those things were true. I’m not a girl; I’m a lady. I was tired. I’m not twenty-one; I’m thirty.
So why did I feel bad? Maybe because I’m not at the point in my professional life where I thought I’d be at this age? Maybe because life hasn’t exactly played out how I’d anticipated it would? Maybe because society pays attention to (or objectifies) younger women while ignoring older women? Or maybe because I have a husband who still gets carded when buying video games?
Rather than sit in the muck for too long about this, though, I turned my attention to Wabi Sabi. If you are unfamiliar with Wabi Sabi, it’s a Japanese philosophy that states three principles:
- Nothing is perfect.
- Nothing is permanent.
- Nothing is complete.
In short, it’s a reverence for the transience and imperfection of life. Wabi Sabi philosophy believes life is all the more beautiful for its continuously changing state. The bumps, cracks, and rough edges of Wabi Sabi objects make them all the more beautiful. You can find Wabi Sabi in a patched dress or a cracked mug that has been repaired.
We can also find Wabi Sabi in ourselves. We are all imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Rather than having that be a source of stress, it can be a source of beauty. The cracks and bumps we acquire, inside and out, can make us all the more beautiful. The wisdom we have accumulated over the years shows up not only in our minds, but can be seen on our faces. I think that is a beautiful thing, and something worth celebrating.
I was recently helping a six-year-old read a book. The book was entitled Alive or Not Alive and went through an array of people, animals, and objects, categorizing them as either “Alive” or “Not Alive.” I.E. “The man is alive. The hat is not alive.”
The boy I was working with took one look at the book cover and closed his eyes thoughtfully. “Oh man,” he said. “You gotta live! I mean, you really gotta LIVE!”
I tried my hardest to keep from laughing as we worked through the remainder of the lesson. Later, I shared this humorous moment with a few friends and coworkers.
Slowly, though, what started as a funny moment in my day became a new mantra.
Friend was worried about taking time off? “You gotta live!”
Husband worried about splurging on something he’s been wanting for a long time? “You gotta live!”
I’m worried about spending my Saturday relaxing instead of tackling my to-do list? “Stacey, you gotta live!”
It’s too easy to get caught up in the the day-to-day drama, the stress, the never-ending list of things that could be done. But- living with intention means we have to be deliberate about stepping out of the rat-race every single day, even if just for a moment. It’s an exercise that takes practice. It means learning to swim against the current. It means prioritizing our dreams.
Life is short. It’s even shorter when we forget to live it.