A friend of mine told me that years ago her mother said to her, "Do things in life! You never regret what you did do, only what you didn't do."
I'm sure there are plenty of holes one could poke into that statement (What about that bad stock I bought? What about that person I disappointed? What about that extra drink I took that lead to a horrible hangover?).
But to me, it's the spirit of that statement that's inspiring. My friend's mother (who has since died) was looking back at her healthy, comparatively youthful daughter and telling her that life is to be lived.
Later, I came across this quote by Mark Twain that's in a similar vein:
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
That doesn't mean we will always be happy with every exploration or discovery. But it means we are fully living the journey.
Lately my mantra has been, "What good will come out of this?" When I'm not happy with something I turn my mind to that mantra. Recently, for instance, Dave and I were looking to move to Santa Cruz. After a lot of searching, we finally found a place we liked a lot. We measured where our furniture could go. We imagined what it would be like to live in that spot. And then the place was given to someone else. I was so disappointed. But instead of letting myself spiral down into feelings of frustration, I kept thinking, "I wonder what good will come out of this?"
And here's the good that came out of it:
A place that's even better. A redwood cabiny house two blocks from the beach. We are insanely happy to be here. The place we "lost" now feels like a gain.
I will be reminding myself of this mantra, and of Twain's wisdom, a lot this year since my New Year's resolution is to try something new every day. The new thing can be anything. I don't have a list of new things to try. I just have a mindset that I want to be fresh and open to growth.
Roger Von Oech said, "Everyone has a 'risk muscle.' You keep it in shape by trying new things. If you don't, it atrophies. Make a point of using it at least once a day."
I don't imagine myself doing the equivalent of jumping out of an airplane every day (although I wouldn't mind trying that sometime!). Instead, I want to remind myself that every day is a fresh page, every moment a fresh moment.
The new thing I did yesterday, on New Year's Day, was yoga at the beach.
I've done poses on beaches before but never a complete yoga session by myself in the sand. It was a jewel of a day with a cerulean sky. Part of me was excited to try this new thing on such a gorgeous day, yet I began to notice my mind thinking things like, You might not have enough time since your friends are coming in a while; why not just do your usual yoga in the living room. And what if the ground is too uneven and it's hard to keep a pose? And what if your wintery-white skin gets too much sun? And what if people are watching you?
This mind chatter was funny to pay attention to, a reminder that there's often a little resistance to trying new things. Even positive, fun things. It's as though some of our brain cells are gossipy nit-pickers who drink too much coffee and have worry-lines creasing their faces.
But I didn't engage with these nay-sayers as I pulled on my yoga pants and tank top. I treated them like people who had nothing to do with me. I was a person who was going to try my new thing. I trekked the two blocks down the street in my flip-flops, walked almost to the water line, and flowed through my routine while all around me teenagers played Frisbee, little kids dug in the sand, groups laughed and drank beer, and people jogged by with their dogs. I felt like I was one little piece of the "Amazing New Year's Day in Santa Cruz" puzzle. Like I belonged.
Today, the second day of the year, I've already done something new: Dave and I, with our friends Jude and Melissa who were visiting from Marina del Rey, went to breakfast at Linda's Seabreeze Cafe. All of our new neighbors have been raving about this place, which is walking distance from our new pad. I already have a favorite breakfast place in Santa Cruz, and I just didn't believe that this Linda's place could be better. Trying a new restaurant isn't exactly outside my comfort zone. But this experiment is making me aware of how I respond to new things. I felt a little tightness in my breathing when my food came. The omelet didn't look right, with undercooked spinach pouring out the sides--and was there enough cheese?
I realized that when I go to the other restaurant I love, I assume the food will be great. I don't push against anything there. The omelets there looked familiar. This one looked foreign. I dug my fork into it and most splendid taste spread in my mouth. I dipped my next bite in the homemade salsa. Incredible. Also amazing were the thick-cut peppery bacon, the fresh-baked pumpkin pecan muffins and cinnamon rolls, and the coffee. We all plunged into food heaven as we replayed the time we'd spent together, including a sunset last night at the beach, a nice seaside dinner, and then--last night--Jude on his guitar singing to us in front of the fire. His wife Melissa dubbed our house "The Love Nest."
Perhaps as I focus on doing something new every day, I'll discover that I tend to do something new every day anyway. Or maybe I'll discover that some days go by without my awareness that each moment is a blank slate. Maybe I'll learn more than I ever knew about those little pockets of resistance--how they work, how they chatter, how they may or may not be fruitful. Most of all, though, I want to revel in the richness of life. It's all here for us. We just need to dive in.