Monday, October 24, 2011

to live deliberately

"I went to the woods because
I wished to live deliberately.
To front only the essential
facts of life.
And see if I could
not learn what it had to teach
and not, when I came to die,
discover that I had not lived." -Thoreau

As we tripped our way through all the former haunts of famous literary figures in New England, I constantly found myself thinking about creativity.  About inspiration and quiet, nature and art.  About what it must have been like to be among the first people to be classified as "American" writers, poets, artists, and what that meant in the grand scheme of the world at that time.

We visited Concord, home to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, and Henry David Thoreau.  We drove past Sleepy Hollow.  We walked around Walden Pond, and saw the site where Thoreau spent two years living by himself in the woods; where he penned Walden.  We traced the steps of Robert Frost on a trail in the Green Mountains, close to Middlebury, Vermont.

Whenever I return from traveling, I feel this nagging sense of unease.  Doesn't everyone?  I've just opened myself to new experiences, absorbed beauty, met new people, learned new things.  Then I come back to my life, and it is as it was when I left.  I always feel this pull to start changing things.  A resolve to bring some of that sparkle of adventure into my daily life.  To start living more deliberately.

The thoughts usually start with a kind of recurring minor regret from my past in which I think, "If only I had... *studied literature and creative writing instead of music, gone to a small East coast liberal arts college, read more books, kept writing for the school paper, focused on something and gotten myself into a Master's program blah blah blah,* ...I would magically feel different and more fulfilled right now."

"If only"s are so tricky, aren't they?  That's where I always start, until I realize that I have control over my thoughts.  Then I adjust my mental course.  I remind myself that the sheer fact that I haven't done all the things I want to yet doesn't mean that it's all over and I've missed my chance.  Girl, please.  That's nonsense.  Also?  Also?  Just because you can't stay ahead of the laundry and you would rather eat cookies than work out most days and your bathroom's not that clean does not make you a failure.  No it does not.

So I will take those rankling thoughts and turn them into hopeful action.  I'll start working on the idea for a novel that popped into my head as we wandered through a lighthouse in Maine.  I'll remind myself that life is not settled at 25.  And I will read more, write more, imagine more.  I'll seek out every opportunity to be fanciful, whimsical, and inspired.

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