Things I Do Not Do—

At Least, Not Often

Or: Things That I Have Learned (Usually The Hard Way) Don't Work

Jessica Macbeth

I don't. . .

Try to work out what I am meant to do.
I find that this just gives me a headache. And anyway, I don't really think there is a 'meant' about it. I suspect we have free choice, and all paths lead to enlightenment sooner or later. The problem with this, of course, is that some paths go over precipices, which could be considered very rough shortcuts, especially if we manage to practice flying a bit on the way down.
Automatically assume that other people's opinion of me matters—
Or even that it makes any difference to anyone but them.
Believe that someone else is going to make me happy (or unhappy)..
When you consider that people can hardly ever make themselves happy, it doesn't seem reasonable to suppose that they can make me happy.
Believe that having a thing is going to make me happy..
That just leads to an endless quest for more things—like just one more homemade chocolate chip cookie and then I won't want any more. Ha!
Be attached to outcomes or goals..
It's ok to have goals, but not to be so attached to them that I feel that life is not worth living if whatever-it-is doesn't happen. Or even that I can't be happy if it doesn't. Another thing about this is that I cannot recognize when my needs have changed and set out for more suitable goals if I am too attached to the old ones. Living focused in tomorrow means I don't really experience today, and the anticipation of joy is certainly not the same thing as being joyfully in the moment. To be painfully honest, this one still catches me from time to time.
Work all the time. .
Even though I love my work with a passion, I have learned (and the universe has really had to thump me to get this one across) that play is essential to physical, mental, and emotional health. 'Play' as in 'a purposeless activity, the only point of which is the pleasure that doing it brings'. This kind of goes along with the next one.
Be serious..
Humor, jokes, noticing the funny things in life helps to smooth the path. Mind you, sometimes it seems to smooth it to slickness - and I can imagine you imagining me slipping out of control and sliding off yet another precipice. Well, it happens. But think about how baby birds learn to fly. And that thing about 'angels can fly because they are so light hearted'.
Attempt to rescue people from themselves.
People do what people do. They won't change this until they decide to do so. Then (and only then) they can often be helped, very cautiously, very carefully. The helper has to be very clear that they are only helping to find possibilities, not taking charge of the process.
Strive for happiness.
I find that doing that is like trying to relax - an inherent contradiction in terms. Inner joy comes from inner peace, and inner peace (for me) comes from doing what is appropriate (often the things on the list of Things I Do[see Who Am I link below]) and not doing what is inappropriate, whatever that is in the moment. A tricky balancing act.

These are things (at least the ones I can think of at the moment) that I have learned—usually the hard way. But it doesn't necessarily mean they are appropriate for you at this moment. Only you can decide that. And that is not the least important of the things I've learned.
This was written in response to an email from someone who wandered aboard this electronic coracle and then disappeared again, leaving only a message. He was reading my 'who I am' page and came across the statement that 'wandering, watching, being, smiling' are some of the things I do. His comments prompted me to think about what goes on in me when I stop smiling.
Really, it's all about not pointlessly fighting either myself or the universe. (When there is a valid point to the fight, I find that there is still a smile, though it may be somewhat of a wry one.) When I am at peace with myself I find that there is a constant internal smile, which may or may not be visible on the outside. When I lose that, I know I'm doing something inappropriate again, and it's up to me to get it right.

Copyright © 1996 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.
This was first published in the Otherworld Arts, January, 1996.

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