Living Out Loud

Balzac wrote, “We are here to live out loud.” This statement has the potential for as many subjective interpretations as there are people who will read it. It means several things to me: that vibrancy and joy are the hallmarks of a well lived life, that with attention (and intention) even the most ordinary day can become a sacrament, and, that each of us is capable of having a passion filled love affair with our life. I know many people who move through their days at surface level feeling estranged or disenfranchised. Those people I know who have learned to ‘live out loud’ in this sometimes messy, harsh, imperfect but wonder-filled world know they belong here and feel a connection with all that is.

I have always felt that each of us has the ability to cultivate wonder. I am  drawn to those folks who pay attention to the strange, boring, moving and hilarious events of daily life. There is no time with more potential for wonder (and fun) than the present moment. It is prudent to remember that a road map or a few guidelines are always helpful as we begin seeking and leading a life of authenticity and wonder; without them the chances of getting lost along the way or sustaining some bodily or psychological injury greatly increases. For me some of these personal ‘rules’ include: being invested in or working hard at whatever I’m doing…trying never to hurt someone intentionally…being truthful with my feelings…working on seeing myself reflected in everyone I meet…doing stuff that makes me madly happy and doing it with great enthusiam… not ever giving my happiness away to someone else to be responsible for, and  reminding myself about the things I used to love to do as a child and reinvite them back into my life.

I think a good place to begin in the quest to amp up the “loud-level” of our life is by working from the inside out, beginning with learning to cultivate some greater depth. Now as a longtime gardener, I can tell you than there is no depth to be had without getting into the dirt. I try to make certain I have my love-eyes in for myself (and others) and take a hard look that goes waaaaay beyond external appearances.  Since we know that all digging involves dirt, we should not be surprised that personal exploration is no different. Peeking into the unseen and sometimes undone parts of ourself is hard work. This is blood, sweat and sometimes even tears work. It is the work of a lifetime. Many times it will not feel so fun to dig into those parts of us that hurt, make us tired or push us to the limit. I can speak from personal experience here and tell you that after you spend some time with that kind of digging, the dirt actually feel pretty precious and holy and becomes more like buried treasure being released from the dark and held up to the light of day. The pain of digging will be a part of this digging story, but you are not wasting your time here, you will not be bored while you dig, and I know that you are always enough to deal with whatever needs to be dug up and looked at. I pretty much guarantee that the whole scene will make you laugh, cry and blink a lot. Oh–it will also make you an even MORE interesting(and, yes, deeper) person in the end, who has an expanded range of vision with a greater capacity for wonder- seeing and, for living out loud. I like this little quote:

‘earth is crammed

with heaven and

every common bush afire with God;

and only he who sees

takes off his shoes

the rest just sit around

and pluck blackberries.”

e.b.browning

There is also something mysterious and compelling about beauty in all of her guises and those wild off-the-beaten-path places in this world that contribute to our introspection and healing. I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, the North Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. We have the Olympic Mountains, the Pacific Ocean, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, countless lakes and wild rivers,  old growth forests and lush coastal temperate rainforests. These places of beauty always move me and I feel at home with the many greens of my state, and  with its damp and secret places. I love the scent of high alpine air, pine sap and the tang of salt water off the Strait. The occasionally lower ceilings of our NW sky provide a backdrop for my world.  My other love is the desert. When I am there, I feel like I am looking at the bones of the earth. No coastal fogs or light defusing mists here; the air is sharp and clear and you can see great distances. The shadows are knife-edged and water is a treasured resource. The colors of this world are reds, ochre, browns and yellows. The greens are the muted greens of sage and cacti, all under the big blue bowl of sky. It is an ancient landscape, bold and timeless. I often find myself wondering if any words that I might speak could possibly improve the great silence of these open spaces.

I have been thinking today about our human capacity for wonder (or being interesting). Many people seem to think that you either grow up to be interesting (ie: one who lives out loud) or you do not.I feel that no one is predestined to grow up boring  and that everyone has the capacity to be as interesting as they want to be. I also think there are a few tried and true action steps to get us going :

Number one thing is to cultivate a diverse group of acquaintances. If everyone you know seems to be exactly like you, then it is time to branch out. If you only stay with like-minded humans you are well on your way to a comfortable but possibly dull life. If, however, some of your pals are quite different from you (pro-wrestler, personal chef to the stars, tight-rope walker, etc) chances are that your life is pretty darn interesting and you’re living out loud. The balance trick is to surround yourself with many different kinds of folks while you do the digging work to find your very best self, then find some ‘worthy work’ (whatever that is to you, either for money or volunteer) and always give it your best shot. Take a few risks. I think that many times striving to ‘keep the peace’ while going to great lengths to avoid change, inner work and occasional conflict can be destructive and soul-sucking beyond our wildest imaginings. We need to be brave enough to take sides once in a while and have serious opinions that may buck up against other people’s serious opinions. *For me this works as long as I remember to be kind and generous-spirited. (see my Rules of Engagement)We need  passion and to learn how it feels to have an erotic love affair with our lives. Yes, erotic. Luscious, juice filled and REAL for us.

Some years my life seems to take a lot of right-angle turns. I am going along just fine and BOOM–out of the blue, all of a sudden I am heading off in another direction, unexpectedly with some big energy coming along for the ride. What I have come to learn, albeit very very s l o w l y, is that each of these turns is offering me a teachable moment to practice my flexibility. Somebody recently told me they thought I was as flexible as a blade of grass. Well, this is a skill set I am still learning, but each time I remember to lean into these turns, I feel braver, freer and more indestructible and more like my “real-deal” self. This is what I call going with the flowing of the river of life. Learning to put the welcome mat out for each thing that comes before me is my lifelong practice, for there certainly have been those times when anguish has camped out in my heart. Alain de Botton wrote, “It is in dialogue with pain that many beautiful things acquire their value.”So it is… It helps me to reflect on the natural cycle of things; seasons, tides, cycles of the moon, then I can remember with wonder (and interest) that spring always follows a winter, that light always succeeds darkness and the tides will reverse their flow again. It is in the full spectrum of our experiences that we can taste , as Diane Ackerman said, “that hot-blooded, soaring intensity in which being alive is a joy and a thrill” and really live out loud.

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