An invocation at the Greek society where I belonged in college (is that mysterious enough?) includes the phrase, “So be it,” purportedly in the Jean-Luc Picard sense of “Make it so.” As I’ve never been able to take simple phrases at face value (c.f. my double-reading of Jenny Holzer) nor, I suspect, was this one intended as a single-entendre, I always interpreted it as, “Go and be what you mean to be.”
I keep thinking about how remarkably simple an idea it is, to respond to desire with action, and yet that seems to be one of the biggest challenges many people face. I’m fond of overusing a saying that my friend Kevin had as his senior yearbook quote, “A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.” (I only just learned the source is Charles Kettering when I checked to make sure that Kevin was accurate and that I haven’t been vicariously quoting David Duke or Hitler or something all these years.) This idea is beautifully straightforward, in that most of the time when we express desires they contain intents, or at least the kernel of the solution in the initial expression.
Here is a fun (maybe?) game – see if you can state the immediate and obvious solution to the following wishes:
I wish I were better at communicating with my friends and family.
I wish I exercised more often.
I wish I spent more time in nature.
I wish I could speak French.
I wish I made time to meditate more regularly.
I wish I took more photos of my neighborhood.
Easy, right? It’s just, “So go…[blank].” Aren’t other people’s wishes simple?
Over time, and with the help of several art and chemistry professors who taught me to ask better questions, I’ve gotten pretty good at phrasing my problems so I can jump straight to the, “So go…” phase of taking action. Instead of making lists of wishes, I now have the habit of making prescriptive to-do lists. And as long as my wishes are reasonable, it’s just a question of focusing time and energy on the changes I want to make or the new habits I want to develop.
Where it is slightly more complex are those amorphous wishes like, “I wish I supported myself fully as an artist” (in progress, more on that soon) or the particularly troubling, “I wish I could meet my soulmate and start a family.”
The HR consultant at my last job was a big proponent of “Strategic Attraction,” sometimes phrased as “The Science of Positive Attraction,” and which I think is related to Law of Attraction meditation. The idea is that by focusing your energy and visualizing the specifics of who or what you’d like to attract, the Universe draws you toward it. I’m paraphrasing, but the example she gave me was when I was looking for a new apartment. She suggested I write out all the specifics of what I wanted in terms of location, size, light, noise level, neighborhood, and so on, and then move beyond the basics and non-negotiables to how I wanted my life to be in this new apartment, “I am looking for a home where I sleep peacefully,” or “I’d like a home where I enjoy being creative in my free time.” The more detailed my description, the better prepared I would be in apartment-hunting and the more clearly I could find exactly the right apartment to match what I’d envisioned. Not surprisingly, she was totally right, and I found the absolutely ideal home in the Bronx, which only continues to get better now that I’m making my life closer to how I want it.
When I think about the soulmate thing, it’s not as easy as making a list of “must enjoy hiking,” “preferably likes Italian food,” or “ideally willing to go sailing and loves it.” I may be muddling the sentiment with too many drinks, but at dinner with my beloved cousin, she shared her husband’s belief that love is about three factors coming together just so: the right person, the right place, and the right time. You can compromise on it a little, but there is a sweet spot of those three for both people that makes for a lifetime of happiness together.
At times I think I may have found the right person at the wrong time, or been in the right place with the wrong person, but if only through tautology, it can’t have been the love of my life if we didn’t, in fact, fall in love for life. Another double reading, which may be part of the “time” factor, is that you have to be the right person yourself, in a place in your life when you are open and ready for your love as you are. I don’t know how many genuinely good-hearted, awesome people I’ve met over the years when I was so across-the-board miserable that I didn’t truly consider happiness an option. I wouldn’t even want my soulmate to have been attracted to the person I’ve been, and in some ways I’m relieved I didn’t have someone to cheer me up most of the time because it allowed me to be honest about the big things in my life I needed to change. So I am focusing on becoming the person I mean to be, making my life the way I want it, and I’ll leave it to the Universe to blindside me with the right person when I’m ready, if that’s in the cards. Of course if someone kind and outdoorsy with soulful eyes wants to fall in love with me now, I suppose that’s okay too.
The biggest of the things I’ve been focused on is switching from working for other people to working for myself. I promise I will have a lot more to say about all that soon, but I had been treating it as a mysterious, secret process, like the Underpants Gnomes from South Park:
(By the way, I think I have sung the Underpants Gnomes song in my head pretty much every day I’ve ever left my home to go to work, and I sing it out loud now whenever I walk into my studio. This is but one of my many attractive qualities.)
So the project is:
- Be an artist. Make art and make it available for sale.
- Profit / happy life
I suspect the secret is that there is no secret. You state the thing you want to do, and then you keep doing it. You treat yourself kindly, with a generosity of spirit and gratitude, but also with perseverance. You don’t give up or stop trying until you’ve achieved the first thing you mean to, but you don’t beat yourself up if it takes a long time or makes you stretch beyond what you thought you were capable of doing. You take Anaïs Nin’s line to heart, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom,” and you unfurl your petals.
Or more succinctly, you know what you want to be, “so be it.”