It’s that time of year again! As in, the time of year is nearly gone.
Tradition dictates that it’s time for folks like me to start sending out year-end reviews, top lists, resolutions, goals, blah blah blahhhhhhh blah. Don’t get me wrong, I like reading other people’s, but me?
I can’t be bothered this year.
I just spent 6 months totally upending my life and IDGAF about tradition right now.
But I do want to share with you a question that’s been shaping my plans for the new year.
Ladies and gents, behold: My guiding question for 2017 is………drumroll………
“Why not the best?”
That was my first reaction. I recoiled from mental images of caviar and Cristal and gold-plated Apple Watches. Yachts may have made a token appearance. #richkidsofinstagram
But then I let the question settle in and put its feet up and I realized: Wait a minute. Those luxury items aren’t really “the best.” They’re just the most extreme. And are often used as a proxy for the best when people have no idea what they really want out of life.
The best isn’t about riches or luxury, jockeying or appearances.
Then what is it?
The best is the opposite of settling and making do.
The best is the right fit for you: Things that make you stronger. Healthier. More expansive. The things that build you up, or help you build yourself up. Things that challenge you in all the right ways.
Your best environment. Your best people. Your best choices. Your best work.
That’s the best.
Are you in the best right now?
I SURE AS HELL WASN’T!
IF IT SOUNDS LIKE I’M SCREAMING IT’S BECAUSE I AM!!
As I mentioned, I just spent 6 months totally upending my life. This summer, my husband and I had a revelation. In the car, of all places, driving home from the Poconos.
We decided to (metaphorically) screech to a halt and pull a full 180:
Downsize our office. Sell our house. Leave the city.
Not for the burbs — but the honest-to-god country. Ten acres, nestled in farmland. (And from an incredible 1740s rowhouse to a rambling 1970s board and batten cottage. I said screeching 180°…)
We told each of our Philly friends in person, to soften the blow.
Here’s the kicker:
Not one of them was surprised.
What! <– my reaction to their non-reaction
I’d spent literally years telling everyone how awesome Philly was, and how much we adored our beautiful historic home. But my friends were too smart for me. They’d already seen what I had worked so hard to hide from myself:
I was fooling myself.
The thing is: I do love Philly. And I still love that house.
But the downsides I had told myself were fine — just part of the charm, ha ha — were not, in fact, fine or charming. Not for me. They were once, but not any more. And my friends saw the signs as clearly as the photos on my Instagram. Which, as my friend Amanda pointed out, were all of nature and outside stuff.
To me, everything seemed good enough until one day it really, really didn’t.
That’s the ironic thing about settling:
We always settle at the edge.
We stop just a little bit short. Just a few steps further, and we could have what we really wanted. There are good things, here! Maybe even things you love.
More importantly, there are things you could love. And so you set yourself to learning to love them.
You don’t settle where things are terrible. You settle where it’s pretty okay, right?
“This isn’t really where I want to be, but it’s close enough that I can pretend.”
Isn’t that just downside a hoot. Ha ha.
It’s even easier to tell this lie when you work really hard to get somewhere — only to arrive, and wish you hadn’t.
That’s where I found myself in late spring this year. Less and less enthused with what I had worked so hard to achieve, but still waking up every morning and putting on a smile.
“Everything good in life has downsides.”
And then I got sick.
After our conference, the stress of the year caught up with me. And I do mean caught. I caught everything: Sinus infection, ear infection, laryngitis, intestinal infection, horrible wracking phlegmy bronchitis, and pinkeye. All at once! I was sick for 6 weeks. Then I got better. Then it came back. Even the pinkeye.
I didn’t have the energy to put on a smile any more. One particularly shitty day I just sat on the sofa and cried and cried.
That’s when I had myself a brand spanking new Fuck This Moment.
The very next week, we went to see a beautiful antique stone house. Aka trying to repeat only half the mistakes we made in Philly… ha! progress! But after a night of deliberation, we wised up and saw what we were doing.
So a few weeks later, we put an offer in on this (not antique, not stone) house.
The intellectual part of me that settles was afraid I’d be bored or lonely out here… but my (poor, sick) gut knew it was just what I needed.
And it was right.
Moving here has changed my life. My health is so much better. I can think more clearly. The quiet, the space, the light, the scenery – I feel the peace settling in around me. I’m happier, and everybody has noticed and commented.
That’s the best.
I feel like a weight has lifted. Probably because I’m no longer wasting my precious energy on denial and coping!
That’s the best, too.
It’s funny — I passionately adored our extremely special historic home. I was always thinking about it, planning for it, protecting it. It was a dramatic love affair. This new place? It’s lovely and I like it a lot, but it’s just a house. Our relationship is much simpler:
This house just makes me feel good.
It doesn’t ask anything of me. It’s just a house. I can just be. I know that sounds weird but it’s real, and it’s glorious.
Yep — the best, again.
And, of course, countryside life isn’t perfect. It’s true: Everything good in life does have downsides. It works so well as a lie because of its truth. (Humans!)
But when something is really good for you, you don’t have to talk yourself into it.
Your heart doesn’t sink a little every day. You don’t need to spackle over the cracks in your façade with frantic activity: talking, spending, working, distracting, joking… Your friends don’t wonder why you won’t just quit, already.
The costs are simple: effort or time or money — not your heart or soul.
And the good stuff? It’s really good.
For me, the best means brighter, quieter, simpler, easier.
And in the end, the greatest cost was letting go.
So hell yeah, I want the best.
From here on out, before making a choice, I will always ask:
“Why not the best?”
Isn’t it worth the work?
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PS: FUN FACT: This question was apparently Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign slogan. Say what you will about him, he won. How about that!
PPS: I don’t know about you, but I have realized that so many of my life’s biggest mistakes have come from settling. Growing up in a harsh situation taught me that I should never expect too much, and to take what I could get and be glad for it. That habit is dug in deep. It’s tough to break. It seems, sometimes, like life will offer nothing better. But believe me, it will, even if you have to chase it down and tackle it yourself. (And you probably will have to. But that puts the power in your hands, and that’s a good thing.)
So if you read this and think, “Easy enough for you to say” — realize that it wasn’t easy for me at all.
But if I can do it, why not you?