I know, I know! That sounds extreme, but it's true. It absolutely did change my life.
It went like this: I listened to Elle Luna (whom I'd never even heard of!) speak on Friday afternoon of Alt Summit. Then I proceeded to read HER ENTIRE BOOK, and do all of the exercises and reflections on the flight home Saturday evening. And then I realized something: Up until that point, I had been trying to recover from the bad decision to go to Minnesota. That had been a mistake, a misstep, a failure. When I say "go to Minnesota," what I'm really saying in fewer words is: taking a huge leap of faith and crashing into the reality that we never should have left Zurich; then making the choice to leave Minnesota and not waste any more time there once we realized we'd made a huge mistake; then making a major move for the second time in less than a year with a baby and toddler; then going through the hell of unemployment; and, finally, finding ourselves completely unmoored with what seemed like nothing but each other - THAT was the big failure, that was the mistake to come back from. Right?
All of that misery I just listed off is not the good part, of course. But in her book, Elle examines the idea that we all reach a point in life, or perhaps again and again, when we are forced to confront the choice between that which we must do and that which we should do. The things we must do are art, passion, living a life that is filled with that which we love. The things we should do are duty, obligation, playing it safe and saving face.
I'm sorry to say that if we hadn't been thrust into our current reality, we never would have chosen it.
Being unemployed is scary. Particularly when you have two little children to care and provide for. Having no job is humiliating, because in America, we are what we do to generate money. Elle suggests a different model when she examines Picasso, who famously said, "It's not what an artist does that counts but who he is." And yet, Picasso turned his own idea on its head through the way he lived, because in his biography, written by Ariana Huffington, she can only capture him by writing simply "What he did was what he was." He was his art. He wanted to live nobly and be separate from it, and yet he had become one with his art. It was his true passion.
Elle finds early on in her journey that she must paint. Of course it's only in retrospect that she sees that this was her own personal crossroads of should and must. She chooses must and it takes her to wild and wondrous places.
Let me just say that throughout our life together, J and I have felt a lot of callings to our passions, but we have always stayed in our comfort zone. That said, our comfort zone is pretty broad. We have lived abroad and traveled and done so many adventurous things together. But, at the end of the day, comfort is comfort. It's not until we step outside of that comfort zone that things get interesting, or take off completely.
So that is exactly why going to Minnesota (you know all that that encapsulates now) was the best thing that ever happened to us. All of a sudden, we were thrown right out of our comfort zone like a shot from a cannon. It was loud, it was dramatic, it was painful. When we landed, there was nothing to hold on to. Nothing, except what was within us. And what was within us turned out to be the things we must do. We were pushed up against it and finally had no other choice and for that I am so grateful. I am blogging and writing like never before. J is stepping into his place in this world like never before. We are happy like never before.
When I heard Elle speak and then went through the exercises and roadmap to must in her book, two things happened. One is that I reframed the way I had been choosing to look at our journey up until now. Secondly, it affirmed all of the choices we've made along the way. We opted for less money (just enough to not be reckless!) in favor of more time together; we opted to follow our passions in favor of seeking safety in something that doesn't satisfy us; and we opted to believe in ourselves. In short, we chose must.
This is the full, nearly hour long video of Elle's talk. If you have an hour to devote to it, I absolutely think you should. And then you should read the whole book and do the exercises. It might just change your life, too!(Photos via Elle Luna's Instagram and Buzz Feed)