We use words like “empty” and “full” to judge qualities of life —
“Oh, he’s amazing, he leads such a full life!”
“Wow. I feel so sorry for her when she leaves to go home, she looks so sad, like her night and life are so empty.”
…But how much of those “full” lives is filler? And how much is just arbitrary because of choices made earlier? Who or what is the standard for measuring weightiness or completeness of existence?
What’s St. Peter gonna say at the gate? “Oh, sorry, another 3.7 activities per annum and you might’ve led a “full” life, but, no, you don’t squeak through, even. I’m afraid we’re filing you under “adequate” life. Better luck next tim– Oh, ha, yeah. That’s our little joke here. Too bad you weren’t Buddhist, eh?”
I don’t have a full life, not by any stretch of the imagination or anyone’s definition. I could be volunteering, but I don’t. I could see friends more than I do, but I don’t. I could be little Miss Adventure all the time, but I don’t.
And YET I don’t feel empty. Less filling, tastes great, maybe, but not empty.
And YET I feel like my life is jam-packed. Not necessarily in a good way, or even acceptable.
I’ve spent months now filling my life with activities, obligations, people, and places that I didn’t really have the time for, didn’t really know why I was doing them/seeing them, and YET.
We do this — we clutter our lives with “shoulds” instead of wants. We do things because we’re expected to, because of obligation or status quo. We do things because it’s the “right” thing to do for others, the proper way to act or the most beneficial for our friends or lovers or spouse or boss.
But what if we stopped it?
What if we suddenly decided which of our obligations wouldn’t end the world if we just… stopped? What if we chose to turn off the cellphone, or start unsubscribing from emails? What if we stopped with all the promotional events we delude ourselves into believing are essential for our careers? What if we learned to say that what WE want is more important than what THEY expect? What if this myth of selfishness and time alone being horrible things was finally exposed as one of the worst social constructs out there?
What if we stopped cluttering our social calendars with events we’re obligated to attend? What if we stopped feeling like we need the approval of others when it comes to what we do with our time?
What if we made choices? What if we could live with with those choices, live with less? What if everything was slower, easier, less demanding, if only for a while? What if we could finally see the life that’s racing past us day after day?
Wouldn’t that be swell?
I worry about this as I try to slow my life down judiciously. I want to be social and have friends, but I don’t want a lot of them. Unfortunately, I’m getting kinda visible and more people seem to think getting to know me is a wise idea (fools) and I’m not sure I want that. I want a dozen friends, okay? That’s about it. 10, 15, 20 cool people to know, that’s all I have the time for — if I even have the time for that. I don’t want people trying to ingratiate themselves into my life if they’re not my type, and that’s the situation I’m sort of faced with as I start “making friends” through the world of social media.
So I’m starting to think, how can I impose boundaries? I don’t want to be considered that “uppity bitch” or anything — it’s not about that. I get overwhelmed with obligation easily, and the more people in my life, the more I ultimately feel I’m failing them all when I make protectionist choices about my time and space and become Loner Steff for weeks on end.
Plus, I don’t know where the scientific facts are that back this up, but I’m pretty sure it’s REALLY HARD to be a loner when you have oodles of friends.
I come cut from that cloth that dictates five good friends are all someone needs for their lifetime. I got about 3 already, I think. A solid 2 — my Dead-Body Removal Crew. I got lots of acquaintances, don’t worry, but I know who to call about corpses these days. Over the years, I thought I had a much larger body-removal crew, but my standards for friends are high, and few live up to them longterm. That’s okay… because any standards I hold for others, I hold for myself. I’m a good friend to have. I’m not always “there”, but I’m ALWAYS there.
I don’t need filler in my life. I don’t want the society-approved “full” life. Keep it. ENJOY. I’m happy as-is, though I do want more than what I have, but I want quality times with quality people, and my definition of “quality” is far more select than most folk’s. Those people are out there, but I need to turn away scores of peeps to find the diamonds, and I know it.
As long as I remain the person I am, with the values I have, the loyalty I possess, and the generosity I share, my standards will remain high and my life, I guess, will remain appearing “emptyish” to the casual observer.
And maybe to you, to them, it is. But when I fall asleep with contentment in mind and wake up satisfied each morning, I’ll know I’m fuller for my lack of filler.