Issue No. 17: Continuity
“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind's door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.”
- Joan Didion
I recently came across the above photo: Me, holding the largest zucchini I’ve ever seen and very deep in contemplation. I was surprised by how much joy I felt upon discovering this gem, how irrationally proud. Let me explain.
During my one year of living in New York City, I picked up an unassuming book titled How to Be Bored by Eva Hoffman (from my favorite little bookstore in Soho, McNally Jackson). Why would I pick up such a book? The answer is simple: I’m never, ever bored. But I know that breakthroughs can come from boredom and that we humans could use much more downtime. I felt I might be missing out. It turns out I was — and often am — but not in the way I thought.
Hoffman writes: “In our hyperactive lives, and particularly in our transactions with digital technologies, our experiences are all too often curtailed to the abbreviated moment — the minute it takes to send an SMS, or the few seconds to read a message on Twitter. By now, we have enough evidence to know that such habitual focus on the instantaneous moment diminishes cognitive memory — the capacity for recall of facts, events and people. But perhaps just as significantly, in the contraction of perception to the immediate moment, we risk losing not only the dimension of depth but of continuity — an understanding of the links between our personal past and present, of where we’ve been, what has formed us, how we have changed through time and where we may want to go."
When you’re focused on a task every waking moment, your story doesn’t have a past, a present, and a future. It only has a now.
Reading this was a bit of an "aha" moment for me. I realized why it’s all too easy for me to say to myself, “I’ve done nothing with my life. We never do anything fun. I’m such a loser.” when indeed I’ve done a lot in my 34 years, it seems like we’re always up to something fun, and I don’t really think I’m a loser. It’s just that in that moment, that now, maybe I’m feeling down about where I’m at or we’re having a quiet, unexciting day at home. If all I have is the now and the big picture is outside of my perspective, then such statements feel like the truth when they’re not.
So, what does this all have to do with a photo of me and the giant zucchini? Well, it took me out of the now and into the long view of time. I can see me in that photo: Yes, the me at three years old, but also the me at 34 years old. I’m reminded of the millions of big and small moments, achievements, and challenges in the 31 years in between that got me here to who I am today.
You may have guessed that I don’t look at photos very often. It’s true. My husband Matt looks at them regularly for this very reason—perspective.
If we all looked back to take in the whole story more often, to see all that we’ve done and all that we have, would we be less hungry, less unhappy, and less obsessed with always having and doing more? I wonder.
Living off of this Dhal with Crispy Sweet Potatoes and Coconut Chutneyby the wonderfully creative Anna Jones. (Really. We’ve made a pot of it at least once a week for the past three weeks.)
Immersing myself into the world of "plantluencers." I think it's safe to say that most of us could use more nature in our lives.
Still amazed at how quickly I devoured, Becoming, Michelle Obama’s memoir. A friend perfectly described it as “a long chat with an old friend.” (Thanks, Jenna!)
Opening my eyes to alternative ways of running and growing a business with Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson’s It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work.