I went to see Felix Dennis at his poetry reading last night in Brighton. I’ve never read any of his poetry, but loved his “How to Get Rich” book that my dad gave (yes dad it was given, not leant) to me.
One of the poems struck a chord with me as I’m in a reflective stage in my life at the moment!
Today was one of the best days of my life.
Nothing of any importance occurred –
I cut my finger on a paperknife
And marvelled at a busy hummingbird
Plucking out wet moss by a waterfall;
Broke bread with friends and shared a glass of wine;
Wrote this poem; swam; made love. That’s all.
Why should it be some days erect a shrine…
A cairn, a white stone day, in memory?
Is it, as Buddhists claim, a lack of need,
Or want? Or simple serendipity,
The perfect flowering of one small seed?
The wise will say our frames are none too pure:
How many perfect days could we endure?
The phrase that reached out to me was “lack of need” and it made me think also about the line in Kris Kristofferson’s ‘Me and Bobby McGee’: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”.
At the prospect of leaving my job, I thought of all the things I would have to go without for a while, Starbucks, new clothes, nights out, trips away, company phone. After the initial nervousness, I thought about how much of these things I actually needed, and then stumbled awkwardly onto the conclusion that these little treats may actually have been holding me back from making this decision sooner, by making my unhappiness into something bearable. I think it’s common to accept not enjoying your job –I have been very lucky until recently that I have enjoyed the full time jobs I’ve had. I think if people were miserable in their work and then unable to enjoy the fun things after work, they would perhaps be more inclined to leave their jobs. For example I know for me it was very easy to have a bad day at work and say hello to Mr. Wine as I walked through the door of an evening. Or spend a weekend with friends or shopping, only to have that faint drudge on Sunday night of “oh, back to it again”. This routine sees life becoming a trade off between doing something we don’t enjoy to make money for the things we do enjoy. My question now (and I have no answer for this at this moment in time) is can I upset the balance and do something I do enjoy…to pay for other things I enjoy? Is that madness?
As I stripped away the excess of things I used to think I needed to survive I realised actually how little I did need, and felt more mentally agile and more free. Never having a coffee shop again isn’t going to kill me. Rent, food and good health are pretty much my top three things for my survival kit and once I began to think like that, the smaller things are a bonus. When you’re closer to the ground, you worry less about falling over and I think I’ve always seen going it alone in terms of what I could lose if I fail rather than what there is to gain if I succeed.
The evening was very enjoyable, and I was envious of the free wine, but I stuck to my water. I don’t know when I will drink again but I have a feeling I will know the right time. At the end I queued with my hardback version of “How to Get Rich” – which Felix laughed at but happily signed it and at my request wrote “Keep Believing” in the front before thanking me and kissing my hand. I was tempted to ask him questions about his success but part of me now thinks the time for prep work is over – I just need to get out there and figure it out myself.