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InnerNet Weekly: Inspirations from ServiceSpace.org
 


Get a Life
by Anna Quindlen

[Listen to Audio!]

There are thousands of people out there with the same degree you have; when you get a job, there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.

People don’t talk about the soul very much anymore. It’s so much easier to write a résumé than to craft a spirit. But a résumé is cold comfort on a winter night, or when you’re sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you’ve gotten back the chest X ray and it doesn’t look so good, or when the doctor writes “prognosis, poor.”

You cannot be really first-rate at your work if your work is all you are.

So I suppose the best piece of advice I could give anyone is pretty simple: get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you developed an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast while in the shower?

Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dunes, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over a pond and a stand of pines. Get a life in which you pay attention to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger.

Turn off your cell phone. Turn off your regular phone, for that matter. Keep still. Be present.

Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work.

Get a life in which you are generous. Look around at the azaleas making fuchsia star bursts in spring; look at a full moon hanging silver in a black sky on a cold night. And realize that life is glorious, and that you have no business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around. Take the money you would have spent on beers in a bar and give it to charity. Work in a soup kitchen. Tutor a seventh-grader.

All of us want to do well. But if we do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough.

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Latest Community Insights New!
Get a Life
What does getting a life mean to you? Can you share a personal experience of a time that you noticed the grandness of life all around you? What has helped you to "get a life" that is grand, generous and shared?
Ken Elkind wrote:  Music gives life meaning!  By creating it, it becomes something that can be loved around the world.  Simply playing a drum gives us intellectual, physical, & social strengths,&nbs...
Jagdish P Dave wrote:  How to live a life is a choice making journey. The bottom line as I understand is to make choice that that makes and keeps my body healthy, my mind calm, clear and creative and my heart caring,...
david doane wrote:  All that is is one and is sacred, and that includes each of us.  To me getting a life means to realize that and live accordingly.  It means seeing others and every being, animate and ...
Rebecca McCarty wrote: Recently a person commented to me, "Life is what happens to people, while they are making other plans."  This is true for many people today, which begs the questions: How has this happened? Can ...
Rebecca McCarty wrote:  Thank-you for sharing your inspiring observation. ...
Rebecca McCarty wrote:  Everyone suffers, there is no escape from it. How we respond to suffering, is a different matter. Some people prolong suffering unnecessarily, wallowing in self pity, resentment, anger, self ri...
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Back in 1997, one person started sending this simple "meditation reminder" to a few friends. Soon after, "Wednesdays" started, ServiceSpace blossomed, and the humble experiments of service took a life of its own. If you'd like to start an Awakin gathering in your area, we'd be happy to help you get started.

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