Daily Prompt: A life well-lived

This is my first time using the daily prompt.

When I read the prompt, it scared me that I did not right away come up with a real answer to the question ‘what is a life well-lived to you?’

The first thought I had was about Patti Smith: I just finished reading her memoir Just Kids last night.  As one of those life-changing books, it hit me hard.

In it, she delicately, candidly, poetically writes of her fascinating life: she is/was not only a rock and roll persona, but a poet, visual and performance artist, spending much of her early 20’s around the Chelsea Hotel in it’s heyday.  The story centers around her relationship with artist/photographer Robert Mappelthorpe.

The way that she experienced her (and his) life, art, that love, and the way she has managed to express, build and share her life via creative processes – that is meaningful to me.

The book is written with such absolute presence and clarity that you feel like you are in her shoes, in her head, in her world.  She writes from her innermost soul, and at the same time  manages to be outside of her own head and heart.

Through her story, a procession of vivid moments both inspired and inspiring, the reader can’t help but understand (her) life as the fantastic human experience that it is.

I think the thing I love the most about this book (and about the way she presumably lives her life still today) is that the whole time, she is just free.  Freely creating her life, being herself, doing her own thing, focussed on expressing and sharing and baring her soul every chance she got.  No apologies, no looking back, no regret, always inspired, always helping others, and writing about it all as her truest self.

So, I think a life well-lived means giving yourself the freedom to share real experiences, to create, express, connect, feel, love, be.

Never apologize for who you are.

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If A Butterfly Flaps it’s Wings in Vancouver…

It was broad daylight, a sunny day, and I was running some errands at lunch.  I was near one of the busiest intersections in town, a very urban area with a lot of trucks and buses running through.  Then suddenly, amongst the harsh, grey backdrop of the city (not even near or around any bushes), I noticed a large brown butterfly flitting around near the bus stop (something like the one in the photo but this was not actually it).  

This is pretty unusual in the middle of November in Vancouver.  I wondered where it came from, where it was going, if it were lost, how long it would live, if it was going on some sort of secret adventure, if it would ever find a mate, if it had a family, how many others saw it, this strange and gentle thing of beauty that seemed was so out of place in it’s surroundings.

Although I was feeling pretty good that day, I felt that I could relate to it.

As the days have become shorter and greyer, I find myself bittersweetly sinking (back) into single life.  There are a lot of good things about this, and no matter what I stay grateful for the health and love of my friends and family.  But my head still swirls as I fight the loneliness.  I sometimes find myself exhausted just wandering about, taking care of myself and trying, trying to work through/drop my woes and be good to others.  I’m not sure I’m always the best at it, but I try to look outside of myself.

It’s amazing what you notice when you walk with open eyes and an open heart.  About a month ago, in fact, I found George Stroumboulopoulos (someone I greatly admire, not only for his looks ;)) wondering around by himself, lost, at my little community college campus.  He wasn’t supposed to be there, and there was nothing going on that day, but he stopped me asked for directions, and I eventually helped him find his way to where he was going.  It was strange and so unexpected, since he lives in Toronto and spends the majority of his time there, not Vancouver.  I wondered what the heck he was he doing stepping into my little routine workworld, as I headed two 3 floors down to the cafeteria to get coffee, just like I do every day.  It wouldn’t be unusual for me to purposefully cross his path, but he crossed mine instead.  I mean, what are the chances?

The other day on the way to a party I noticed an owl while passing through a dark park with my best friend.  I looked up and there it was, silhouetted, perched on a low branch.  I thought at first that it was one of those fake ones they use to scare pigeons (I’ve been fooled by that before) until it turned it’s head, then slipped silently over to another branch.  I’d never seen an owl (in the wild) that close up and it was a special, fleeting glimpse.

This weekend I connected with two other beings that unexpectedly crossed my path.  I experienced these moments that were so intense.  I may never see them again, but I’m glad I said yes, because it reminds me that there are just so many people out there and – well – you never know.

I don’t know I believe in synchronicity per se, or if I’m just (naturally) observant and metaphorical, but these are some small moments of late that were big to me.  Despite a (sometimes dreary) 9-5 routine, and the slog of the wintery greyness, and the new found alone-ness, I’m remembering why it’s so important to notice and embrace the unexpected, to observe, assist, connect with, and experience the things and beings that cross your path.

These are the things that make life interesting, that spurn connections, that can change your own course, that inspire poetry and art.  These are the things that remind us life is fragile and fleeting.  These are the moments that make life life, and remind us of how small the world really is.