Friday, December 31, 2010

'Choosing Easy World' ...

I'm a big fan of "easy."

In college, I dropped pre-med and completed a degree in English because pre-med was hard and English was easy. Pre-med required massive textbooks for classes I didn't care to take and hours of studying. English required that I read interesting books and write papers that garnered comments from teachers and professors such as "Absolutely grrrrrrreat!" and "The best sentence I've read all day" and "May I please have a copy of this for my files?"

Screw you, inorganic chemistry.

I tried pre-med. I really did. (If you're so inclined, you can read that story here.)

If I may quote myself from that post: "Somewhere in my DNA, I believe that anything worth doing must be difficult. Writing has always come far too easily for me to consider it 'real work.' "

Damn those Puritans and their work ethic that had somehow seeped into my genes.

But over the years, I came around. Slowly. Very slowly. I made progress, but I continued to struggle to figure out my life, to find the answer, to find that key piece of data that would unlock the mystery to my one true calling. And then I finally realized that that is an entirely futile pursuit.

There is not one answer. I suppose that that is true for most people. No one is just an accountant or just a cellist. But most people seem to land in a place and do a job and earn a living and live a life.

And maybe they're entirely unhappy. Or maybe they're entirely content. I've never asked them.

But for me, myself, there are too many things I want to do, too many things that call to me.

Earlier this year, I was out with my friend Steve. We were sitting at the bar at Bandera, having some a couple of glasses of wine before dinner, and I told him about my editor at Chicago magazine, Joe, who had told me, of choosing an emerging career path, "You can do a lot of things. It's going to be really hard for you."

"Or really easy," said Steve, without skipping a beat.

Or really easy.

In 20 years, I had never thought to look at that statement from the other direction. I never thought to just flip it around.

Easy, Beth. Let it be easy.

Like I said: Easy? I'm a big fan.

Still, when my friend Rick's wife, Julia Rogers Hamrick, wrote "Choosing Easy World," my latent Puritan genes bristled.

But I was intrigued. And I like supporting authors, so I bought the book.

And then it languished on my bedside table.


Didn't I want to find out how to choose Easy World? Why not?

Turned out, the answer was "habit." Pure and simple.

I, just like just about everyone else, has grown up with loop playing in my head that life is hard, work is hard, anything worth having requires hard work. Hard, hard, hard.

And since our thoughts create our realities, since what we focus on is what we see, we literally make things hard on ourselves.

But if we can make things hard on ourselves, we can make them easy, just like Steve said.


But no. It can't be that simple, can it? Just letting things be easy?

Um, yup. It really can be. Better yet, it really is.

Not "can be."


It just is.

If you subscribe to the notion that all realities are happening simultaneously – and I do – then Difficult World, as Julia calls it, and Easy World co-exist. They're just on different frequencies. Like TV stations. Easy World, of course, is Channel 1. Difficult World is Channel 2. Her point is this: If you're watching Channel 2, you can't see what's happening on Channel 1. You have to select Channel 1.

So, select Channel 1.

Of course, difficulties will still arise, but when you change the way you perceive a situation, the situation changes. If you view the loss of a job as the single worst thing to ever happen to you in the history of your existence and you're sure that you'll never find another job and you'll lose your home and lose all your friends, well, those things may very well happen. It's pretty hard to find a job when you're sure you'll never find another job.

But if you view the loss of a job as a sign that you were in the wrong place and that you've now been freed to pursue something you were meant to do? Well, that's a lot more appealing, isn't it?

"Um, Beth?", you may be thinking. "What about paying the bills?"

Yep, I've been there. That panic that comes of not knowing where the money is coming from? Check.

But what good can possibly be created in a place of desperation?

As impossible as it may seem initially, the key is to trust that everything is unfolding just as it's meant to unfold.

If a person who can't swim finds themselves in water, the immediate reaction is panic. But flailing about, struggling, is fruitless. As impossible as it seems in the moment, the best thing to do in that situation is to relax and float.

The same goes for a car that's gone into a skid. Most people end up overcorrecting, and then when the car regains its traction, it's heading in the opposite direction. But steering where you want to go will ensure that you're headed in the right direction when the car recovers.

I have a slew of sticky notes in the pages of Julia's book. I can cite near-endless passages that resonated with me. But those are the passages that resonated with me. What resonates with you may be different.

You can peer into the book on Amazon – and then buy it, I hope. (You can also sign up to receive sample chapters here, but Amazon allows you to glimpse later parts of the book.) You might wonder how she can sustain her premise for all those pages. I did. And the first few chapters all seemed to be saying the same thing. So I thought I could stop reading.

Don't. Read the whole book. It's a quick read. You can pick it up today and have it read by tonight. Or, if you're free tomorrow, settle in with it then. What better way to kick off a new year than by choosing to live it in Easy World? Read it and get the lay of the land.

Then read it again. Make notes in the margins. Underline passages. Yes, the premise is simple, but most of us have a lifetime of conditioning to overcome. Let the message really sink in.

Trust in the process.

Learn to float.

Come on in. The water's fine.


Blogger Tom Erdman said...

There's a quote from Henry Ford that is on my blog page. It says, "If you think you can or can't, you're right." The basis for all of our successes and failures lie within us.
I was a history and journalism major. Now I do furniture. Once I did trucking. In fact, nothing I've done in my professional life is related to my education. But, I love opportunities and the challenges that appear right in front of me. I don't think about easy or hard, but can it be done?
I wish you a fabulously successful and happy 2011. I'll keep reading.

4:02 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

That's one of my favorite quotes. And I have a lot of favorite quotes.

Most of my journalism knowledge came from working at newspapers, not from school. College is just a formality for liberal art-type folks. I suppose engineers and the like learn applicable skills, but writing and other arty pursuits are largely left to the doing of them.

A fabulously successful and happy 2011 to you, too! I'll keep writing!

4:07 PM  
Anonymous Alison said...

This entry was interesting to me, because the easy thing turned out to make my life harder; in choosing to teach English in France, I made myself sick. So while I'm all about easy, at least in this instance, The Road Less Traveled would have served me better.

Perhaps we could discuss this book privately. I trust your recommendation, but the Amazon reviews leave me wanting.

Happy New Year, Beth. :)

12:19 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

My e-mail's always open to you.

Happy New Year to you, too, Alison. :o )

1:21 AM  

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