This morning I decided to write at the table on my patio, while enjoying my morning coffee and the smells of the summer day before the heat sets in. It occurred to me that before the Encore Voyage I rarely took the time to just be observant about sights and sounds around me. The Encore Voyage is changing us...Jeremy and I are choosing to live our lives more intentionally. We get to decide what to make of each day. The other night, while enjoying a glass of wine, we made a list of those things in our lives we really value. Here's our list:
1. Our marriage - We both agreed that this is number one on our list. Our number one priority is each other. Jeremy once participated in a leadership training seminar where the speaker instructed the participants to take a sheet of paper, fold it in quarters, then write the things they valued most in each of the four quadrants. After that was done, participants were instructed to tear off the least valuable thing and throw it away. This was followed by the next least valuable, and the next, until each person was left holding only one quadrant. The eye-opening part of the exercise is that people in the room threw their kids, God, their wives in crumpled wads onto the floor...because they thought they should value "becoming a vice president...."
So often we hear that "marriage is hard." Call me crazy, but I've never found this to be the case. There is nothing hard about being kind, being thoughtful, putting the other person first - it's just that over the years we grow complacent, and forget the person we married in the first place.
2. Developing soul - enhancing relationships - OK, I must admit that I have stolen this lovely expression from Erika over at All Things E, because she is spot on. At first, we thought the important thing was our family members...but then we realized that while we will always try to support "family members," the label of 'family' is not what counts. We have many people in our lives who are closer than family (gal pals, you know who you are). More importantly, there are people whose relationships we wish to nurture because they add such a fulfilling quality to our lives. So whether it be relationships with God, with siblings, with family members or with acquaintances, it seems important to intentionally decide how and with whom we spend our time. Thanks Erika, for putting that little tidbit into our brains.
3. Learning new things - One of the best parts of the Voyage has been the opportunity for us to take on new challenges. When I was teaching, I used to tell my students that they needed to learn something new every day, or they might as well have stayed in bed! We delight in the notion that there is an entire unexplored world out there and we can learn about anything we can imagine!
4. Building and creating - High on our list is the notion that we value our creative yearnings. Anyone who has seen my craft closet knows that I can never be tied down to one thing. I have stacks of PhD's (projects half done!) The opportunity to try our hand at new creative ventures makes us both thrive.
5. Exploring new places - It could be travel, it could be places in our own town. It could be a picnic in the local countryside. It doesn't need to cost money. There is so much in this world to see and experience. We value our wanderlust!
6. Reading Forever - Borrowed that phrase from Nook at B&N. So many books, so little time. Nuf said!
7. Appreciating and making music - Music has been important to both of us since we were very young. From playing my piano, to learning to play the sax, to enjoying the fruits of our local symphony, to good old rock and roll...we want our lives to have a sound track. Which brings us to number 8...
8. Supporting the arts - Shakespeare, local theater, dance groups and galleries, just to name a few - Life is about collecting experiences, and the arts provide us with some of the richest.
9. Health, physical activity and self-acceptance - We have been giving a lot of thought lately to our pursuit of good health. We eat a lot healthier lately, and I have logged hundreds of hours at the gym in the last two years, cycling and treadmilling to nowhere and challenging my muscles with weights. It has occurred to me that all those hours at the gym may not be the best use of time. What if, perhaps, we actually took a walk or went for a run or swim? What if we climbed a trail instead of the Stair Master? How about walking the golf course, climbing real stairs, parking at the far side of the parking lot? It seems to me that an intentional life would value more authentic types of activity.
With that in mind, I've also decided that I'm tired of searching for a different me. Yep, I'm a little heavier than I'd like to be - I'll keep working on it. But it does me no good to wish for the body of that college girl 30 years ago. And it is self defeating to keep saying, "Six months from now I'll wear a smaller dress size." So I'm committed to doing the best I can to keep this body healthy and strong, and to be OK with the woman in the mirror.
10. Good Food - Exploration for our senses! - Keeping in mind number 9 above, we decided that exploring good, real food is something we both value. We want to experience the flavors and combinations of different cultures and cuisines - from fresh tomatoes and lettuce that we grow in our garden to cheeses, wines and dishes from other countries. That's not an excuse to eat an entire cake in one sitting (again, see number 9.) It is, however, a statement that protein powders and tofu are just not going to cut it for us...we crave real, whole delicious foods creatively prepared!
11. Taking time for rest, relaxation and meditation - I used to go through life like a freight train. Now we have realized the value in taking some time to just be...time to think, to recharge, to de-stress and to let go. Oh, I wish so much that we had learned this value while we were working for others. Because we now take time for ourselves, the quality of our lives has improved ten-fold. You should learn. from. our. mistakes!
12. Gratitude and giving back - These days we pay more attention to how blessed we feel to be able to travel this voyage. We are thankful that we have 'enough.' In fact, we have more than we could possibly need. We've come to realize the importance of giving back and have found that greater selflessness is life enriching. And face it - It's not hard to look around and find a need to be filled.
When I look at our list, it's clear to me that none of this is about accumulating "stuff." A successful life isn't about money or possessions. Every item on this list is about how we act..those behaviors which enrich and give fullness to our lives. Yes, I realize that people, including us, still need to work for a living. For us, intentional living is about trying to make our actions fall in line with what we value. It's about paying attention to what we do, and determining if those actions fit in with our list.
So how about it...what do you value in creating an intentional life? Leave a comment - I'd love to hear!