A lot about these recent days have been perfect. The late spring weather in Bend, Oregon. Spending more time with my sister. Getting to focus on writing and exercising, eating good food and learning the banjo.
On paper it sounds ideal, maybe even — if I could have told my 2019 self about this time — a dream come true. And so I feel bad for not enjoying it to the fullest every day.
And I am so grateful — for the awesome room we’re renting with good housemates and a lovely neighborhood to walk around in. And for the health of my loved ones and for living in a country where even someone furloughed can still get by.
But I was thinking today that I should cut myself some slack — we all should — because this isn’t really anyone’s dream come true.
Even if one wants to work from home (check!), limit the amount they’re dining out or shopping (check), or putting more time toward their passions and hobbies (double check), this isn’t really the scenario most of us would envision.
Now, we can still make the most of this time — and we should — but I think it’s good to acknowledge that being out of work or worrying after loved ones or being concerned about the whole country’s health and economic future is not a perfect situation, even if one does get to play the banjo more often.
I’d even started to wonder if I’d made a mistake, if maybe having so few belongings and working from home writing didn’t fit into my perfect life. But of course in my planned dream life, I could go out to dinner with Sarah, hang out and write in a coffee shop, go to a movie with a friend, and spend a weekend camping at a state park. In this moment, I can do none of those things.
And in turn that made me think about things being ‘Just Right’ and things that are almost right. I think it’s a subtle and very important distinction — a difference that makes lovers into friends and friends into acquaintances, masterpieces into good works, and good works into missed opportunities. It’s the exercise routine you can stick to and enjoy versus the more ambitious one you drop. It’s loving your life — as I do — even on the bad days, versus quietly loathing it even on the good days — which, from time to (thankfully) rare time, I have also done.
Now, this doesn’t mean things are easy or frictionless or even enjoyable all the time when it’s right. It just means that it’s the sweet spot of best for you and best life. So here’s some things I’ve learned in my search for ‘Just Right’ —
How to Tell If Something’s ‘Just Right’
- It makes you happy to have it be part of your life. It may be hard work, or frustrating, or show you limitations you’d rather not see, but you’re happy to tell people about it and can’t imagine life without it.
- It’s an important part of ‘the story of your life’. Who you are is connected to your choices, going backwards and forwards. My sister and I sometimes talk about, ‘If you were looking back from five years in the future, what path got you to the success of that future moment?’ Do you love cycling and buying that used bike helped get you to your perfect weight? Just right! But maybe buying that cotton candy maker (they sell ‘em!) wouldn’t fit into your future success story. ‘Just Right’ aligns with your ideals.
- Easy. I know I said it can be hard work, but aspects of just right should be easy — spending time with someone you like, making music or falling into an absorbing craft, writing a great scene.
- …and with a stupid grin. Just right often feels like ‘It’s your birthday!’, like the whole world is conspiring to give you just what you want. A perfect walk in the woods, rocking out to for favorite music on your day off, or creating the perfect meme. You often feel like you’ve ‘gotten away with something’, because this is more fun than generally should be allowed. Sometimes while doing a good writing session I’ll find myself thinking I should stop this and go do some real work — then I remember this is the real work.
- It’s the smoothest glidepath to your dreams that you can imagine. If it sounds like part of your best life, you should probably have it in your life.
These times may not be ‘Just Right’ and we didn’t pick this circumstance. We are doing the best we can each day. And picking the things that are perfect building blocks of your future happiness is a great way to — when we look back at this time — see that it was also pretty darn good.