A Moment of Clarity

My word for 2012 is clarity, and recently I had a moment of clarity that I’d like to share with you.

I’m committed to meditating every evening. I’m just finishing up a book that offers some meditation tips, and I was trying insight meditation. The idea is that as you sit, rather than trying not to think, you passively observe the flow of your thoughts. As you observe from a more detached position, you can start to see patterns and gain insights into the way you think. And what I realized as I tried to observe my thoughts is that I spend a whole lot of time worrying about what other people think of me.

I think it’s normal and natural to want other people to like and appreciate you. The fear of being alone is one of the biggest dragons that many of us face. As a result, we consider the way that our choices will be viewed by others. We choose our words, our clothes and our actions, at least in part, in order to help us fit into the broader society that we live in. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be part of a group, and wanting to forge positive relationships with others.

Behaving like a professional at work, working to get along with your child’s teacher, or doing something nice for a friend to lift her spirits are all good things. However, many of us (myself included) can take this drive to get along a little bit too far. When you find yourself spending far more time worrying about what others will think of you than you spend worrying about what you think of yourself and your own life, it’s a sign that things are out of balance. After all, this is your life. It doesn’t belong to your co-worker, your brother, the fabulous woman who styles your hair, your partner or your aunt.

a moment of clarity

What does this giant leaf want from me?

The truth is that you can’t make everyone else happy. You just can’t. Like most of us, you likely have people in your life with conflicting interests, for example. If you please one, you upset the other, and vice versa. As well, many of the people in your life may not be entirely sure what they want themselves. We’re all subject to uncertainty and changing opinions, which means that trying to keep everyone happy is a constantly shifting game that you can never win. The more time that you spend trying to please others, the more energy you’re wasting on an impossible task.

Giving up on working overtime to please others doesn’t mean that you have to be rude or uncaring, and it doesn’t mean that you will not longer be concerned about other people’s opinions. Rather, what you’re aiming for is giving your own needs and desires equal billing – if not more. It also means learning to let go of the things you have no control over. You can’t force someone else to like you, so your time would be better spent building a life you can hang your hat on than trying to please your toughest critic.

This is all well and good, but how do you give up your people-pleasing ways? Clearly, as you can tell from the amount of time I spend worrying about what other people think, I’m still working on this myself. However, there are some steps you can take that will help:

  1. When someone asks you to do something, don’t respond right away. When you’re accustomed to pleasing others, you’re likely to answer yes without thinking to almost any request. By asking for some time to think about it, you’re giving yourself the space to reflect on whether or not this really works for you. And if it doesn’t, it’s totally fine to politely say no, I promise.
  2. Spend a little bit of time at the end of every day thinking about what you did well. This can be as little as three minutes while you’re showering or washing the dishes – it doesn’t have to be big or elaborate. But by giving yourself the approval you absolutely deserve, you’ll be less likely to look for it outside yourself, where you may or may not get it.
  3. Be willing to ask yourself the big questions. What do you want out of your life? What do you want your kids to say about you when they’re all grown up? What is your personal mission? You don’t have to know the answers to these questions, but the more time you spend considering them, the clearer your picture of the kind of life you want for yourself will become. When you know what you want, you stand a chance of making yourself happy, rather than wasting time trying to make others happy.

Clearly, I still have a long way to go. It’s okay if you do, too. By working at it, you will make progress, and you will free up time and energy you can spend on building the kind of life you actually want, rather than the kind of life you think someone else wants for you.

Embracing Change, and Learning to Say Good-Bye

I’ve been working with a personal coach, and it’s been very illuminating for me. She’s helping to keep me motivated and moving in a positive direction. During our last session, she said something to me that really made me stop and take notice. Reflecting on the things I’d done over the past few weeks, she said, “You’re good at change.”

This made me take notice because I’ve always told myself that I am, in fact, very, very bad at change. I like things to remain predictable. I like routine. I like knowing what’s going to happen next. Because of that, I’ve avoided change and upheaval as much as possible. As I thought about what my coach said, though, something occurred to me. It was like a light bulb switched on in my head. Here’s my big epiphany: I’m good at change. What I’m not so good at is endings.

As I reflect on my life, I can see that endings haven’t been my strongest suit. My fear of endings led me to stay in a field that wasn’t a good fit for me for over a decade. Being afraid to say good-bye has kept me from taking risks and moving forward in many ways. While there are some upsides to sticking with things, there are times in life when quitting is the best thing you can do. I haven’t always been able to recognize those times for myself.

While I’m less than proficient at endings, another pattern emerges as I survey my life. I’m really very good at beginnings, and I’m not afraid of putting in the work. When I move, for example, I really shine once everything is unloaded at the new house and it’s time to unpack. I’m a whiz at setting up a new space. What’s more, I really groove on it. Beginnings are fun for me. They’re filled with hope and promise and everything good. A beginning is like saying a big “YES!” to the universe.

The problem with embracing beginnings and shying away from endings is that you end up with a whole lot of stuff in your life. All of this stuff makes it hard to focus. It takes up your time and energy, leaving you feeling divided and overworked. At some point, if you’re going to take on something new, you have to let something else go, or else you’re going to end up with far too much on your plate.

Changing my story has been revelatory for me on a few levels. It’s making it easier for me to take steps to end things that don’t work for me. What has really helped me is the knowledge that endings and beginnings are two sides of the same coin. Neither one works really well without the other. When you end something that isn’t working, you make space in your life for something that is. When you start something new, and set off in a new direction, you’re effectively saying good-bye to wherever you were before. And while it can be scary to leave familiar surroundings, knowing that I’m actually quite good at handling what comes my way helps me to muster up the courage to go.

Of course, I still have my stuff, and I’m still working on my stuff. I don’t expect that I will become a pro at endings overnight. But I’m feeling increasing clarity on this, and I know where I need to go. I think that’s an excellent start.

What about you – how do you handle beginnings, endings and change? What could you improve, and where do you excel? I’d love to hear!

Ready for a change? Check out the Crafting my Life Playbook, and find your own bliss in your own time, at your own pace, without every leaving your house. Or follow Crafting my Life on Facebook and subscribe to the mail list and be the first to hear about some exciting new things coming down the pipe in April.

Hard Days and Finding Meaning

Some days are hard. Life is just like that.

Some hard days are hard for a whole lot of reasons, and some days are hard for no good reason at all. But even the most meaningless difficulties in life can serve a purpose. It goes back to the concept that in life, no effort is truly wasted. When we have an experience, we are left with a choice. We can decide what we will take away from that experience, and how we will let it impact our lives (or not). We choose what we will let go, what we will carry with us, and where we will go next. Even in the midst of the hard-ness, we can claim some dominion over our own lives.

I think that a certain amount of time spent walking in difficulty is necessary. I think that those moments, when we’re feeling most lost, unsure of what to do next, all caught up in the hard stuff, are often the moments when we are closest to the core of who we are. They are the moments when we have stripped away the facade because we just don’t have the effort left to pretend anymore. And they become the moments when the clouds part and we see things as they truly are. They are the moments when we can claim our power, and when, years later, we can say that our lives changed.

Crack in the Sidewalk
Photo credit: Eric on Flickr

I don’t think anyone would want to go seeking after hard days. I certainly don’t. Trying to experience a whole lot of difficulty isn’t a magic ticket to uncovering your true purpose and creating a life of purpose and authenticity. Hard days bring us growth because they come unbidden, when we’re not expecting them, and often when we have few resources to deal with them. We grow not because we want to, or because it’s comfortable and easy, but because in that moment we have no choice.

Sometimes, when we’re having a lot of hard days, we make the leap from this is a hard day to there is something wrong with me. We think that if we were truly evolved, truly at peace with ourselves and our world, truly competent or truly grown-up we wouldn’t have hard days. We would be so good that we could head off any difficulty before it even happened. That’s simply not true. Everybody has hard days. It’s true that some people seem to have more than others, but there’s simply no escaping the reality that everyone encounters difficulty in life. If you do, it’s not a sign that you’re doing something wrong.

When you’re in a difficult moment – because, as I said, they will happen – you can give yourself a gift. That gift is knowing that the hard days won’t last forever. And when they end, you can take the lessons you’ve learned from the difficulties, and use them to help you build the life you really want to live. You don’t need to take a hard day as a sign that you should give up, because that’s not what it’s there for. You don’t need to feel like a failure for having a rough patch, because that’s simply not true. The difficulty may not occur for any particular reason, but you can still find meaning in it. And that, I think, is the real secret to a life well-lived.

Ready for a change? Check out the Crafting my Life Playbook, and find your own bliss in your own time, at your own pace, without every leaving your house. Or follow Crafting my Life on Facebook and subscribe to the mail list and be the first to hear about some exciting new things coming down the pipe.

Absolving Myself of Responsibility

Exciting news! I have the final version of the Crafting my Life e-Book, and I’m planning the next run of the online class for busy moms ready to find their purpose for late January. If you’re ready for a change in your life, and you want to be eligible for special discounts and advance sales, subscribe to my mail list! I’ll be announcing the e-book launch date to mail list subscribers today.

I recently joined up with three friends to work on a small project together. The project has nothing to do with Crafting my Life, and it’s really not applicable to this story. What is applicable is that we each had our own small part to play. As the whole thing unfolded, I found myself sweating over what everyone else would do. I was worried that they wouldn’t do their part. I was worried that it wouldn’t happen. I was worried because I didn’t feel that I had the time to chase everyone down, but yet I somehow felt that I should be chasing them down.

As I was driving my son Jacob home from daycare and ignoring his stories because I was so lost in my own worries, suddenly the sky cleared and I had a realization:

I am not responsible for other people’s actions.

I knew this already, of course. I have a younger sister, and I assure you that when we were kids I was completely prepared to pass the blame her way whenever I could. And yet, in spite of the fact that I knew I couldn’t take responsibility for what other people did, I somehow didn’t fully grasp what that meant. Once the complete meaning hit me, it occurred to me that I could just let my friends take care of themselves. I felt a literal weight lifting, and I was able to focus on my son and his story about playing firefighters with his friends.

Give way
Photo credit: John Neon on Flickr

Sometimes, when we rely on other people things don’t happen exactly when we’d like them to. Sometimes, they don’t turn out in the way that we expect. And sometimes someone else drops the ball and it doesn’t happen at all. When you find yourself in this situation, you have two choices:

1. You can decide that it’s important enough to you that you step in, pick up the pieces, and make things happen.
2. You can decide that it’s okay as it is, or that it really wasn’t meant to happen after all.

There are some areas of my life where I will always be a piece-picker-upper. For example, if I get that call from school that says the person who was supposed to pick my kid up didn’t show, I’ll be there in a heartbeat. I may give someone an earful later, or spend some time investigating what went wrong, but in that moment my obligation is clear. But when I think about the true non-negotiables, that I just can’t let slide, I can really only list a few.

Learning to say, “If it doesn’t happen, or it’s not perfect, that’s okay with me,” is a hard thing for many of us. We’ve created a self-image that requires us to be responsible and competent. But perfection is unattainable, so no matter how hard we work to get there, we’ll never make it. Instead, we’ll create an endless cycle of taking on more responsibility than we can handle, and beating ourselves up when it doesn’t live up to our ideals in every way. It’s terribly fruitless to spend our time like that.

In my case, in my moment of realization, I saw that if it didn’t happen that was okay. I could do my part, let everyone else know, and then move on. I like these people, and I trust these people, so I was certain they’d hold up their end of the bargain. And if they didn’t? Well, I’d saved myself some grief because I found out early that they wouldn’t be able to come through. Trust me when I say that removing this weight of responsibility made me slightly giddy.

I’m on a quest to be bad enough. I invite you to join me. In the process, we’ll make more space for ourselves and the things we love, by getting rid of what isn’t working for us. To start, let’s all absolve ourselves of one responsibility this week. One thing that’s weighing us down, and taking up more time than it strictly should. I’ve started by letting go of two things – my inner need to control my project, and book-keeping responsibilities for a volunteer group that I work with. What will you give up?

Finding Inspiration on Pinterest

I’m on Pinterest, and I love it. It’s such a beautiful way to waste time. I could spend hours just surfing through the pretty pictures, fabulous craft ideas, yummy food, funny posters and gorgeous clothes. There’s a serendipity to the whole thing that I really love. You just never know what you’re going to find, what is going to strike a chord for you or move you or make you run to get out your knitting needles because you need to start right this minute.

Normally, I find the idea of inspirational quotes to be a tad on the trite side. It’s lovely to hear advice from great people, or just some really nice words, but it can very quickly move from inspiration to platitudes. It’s important to get inspiration in small doses, I think, and not to be too falsely cheery about it. I like Pollyanna well enough, but I don’t want to become her, if you catch my drift.

And yet, on Pinterest, I am constantly pinning and re-pinning inspiring quotes. There’s something about the context that I find appealing. I’m not quite sure what it is, exactly, but I like it all the same. And since I’ve been drawing inspiration from it, I thought I’d pass some of that inspiration on to you.

Inspiration from Pinterest

  • “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” –Steven Furtick
  • “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” –Ayn Rand
  • “The Universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human ambition.” –Carl Sagan
  • “I can be changed by what happens to me. I refuse to be reduced by it.” –Maya Angelou
  • “If you are not willing to look stupid, nothing great is ever going to happen to you.” –House
  • “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” –Andy Warhol
  • “Hope anchors the soul.” –Hebrews 6:19
  • “Re-examine all you have been told. Dismiss what insults your soul.” –Walt Whitman
  • “We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.” –Bob Ross

Sometimes I think we all need a little bit of inspiration. A few words – or a few sentences – that meet us where we are and make us stop and sigh. Yes. That’s it. That’s it exactly. Those words will see us through, or help us to re-examine our lives. I’ve found mine on social media. Where do you find yours?

Apologizing for Myself

I’m making plans for what happens next in Crafting my Life. I’ve just received the finished Crafting my Life e-Book from my editor, and I’m making plans to run my online class on living with intention for a third time. If you’re ready for a change in your life, and you want to be the first to hear what I do next, as well as be eligible for advance access and special pricing, subscribe to my mail list!

I had one of those experiences recently in which I felt like I was observing myself from outside my body. Has this ever happened to you? You’re going about your merry way, shopping for groceries or driving your kid to soccer or what-have-you, and suddenly your thoughts come into focus and it’s like you’re seeing them in a whole new way – almost like it’s not even you that you’re seeing, but someone else. This happens to me once in a while, and it’s always kind of jarring when it does.

Constantly Apologizing for Myself

In my most recent self-observation experience, I was driving somewhere in my car, and I was running late. I’m always running late, so this is hardly news. I sometimes joke that I should have Sorry I’m Late tattooed to my forehead just to save time. Anyway, as I drove I was thinking of something witty I could say to explain my late-ness, and as I heard myself think it occurred to me that I spend a lot of time apologizing for myself.

I apologize when I’m late.

I apologize when I’m early.

I apologize when I don’t reply to a question from one of my Twitter followers immediately.

I apologize when I can’t find the time to read blog posts regularly.

I apologize when other people bump into me at the store.

I don’t know why I feel the need spend so much time apologizing for myself. It could be because I’m Canadian, and apologizing is understood to be our national past-time. We’re sorry if we do too much apologizing, eh. Or perhaps I apologize so much because I’m a woman, and I received lots of messaging in my childhood that this is what females do. Or perhaps – and I think this is most likely of all – I apologize because I’m afraid of taking up too much space.

Apologizing Robs me of Space

I chose space as my word for 2011, because I wanted to bring more space into my life for myself. One of the big things that I’ve discovered along the way is that I do really want space, but I’m also sort of afraid of it. Space means being alone with my thoughts. It means owning who I am, and being comfortable in my skin. It means having the time I need to accomplish the tasks that are important to me. It means expectations, and possibly uncomfortable personal growth.

As I listened to myself plan yet another apology in my head, it occurred to me that my constant apologies aren’t serving anyone. If I’ve genuinely wronged someone, of course an apology is called for. But if I’m going about my daily life and I don’t always hit every mark at exactly the perfect moment, well, that’s probably okay. In fact, given that I have two small children and a variety of daily commitments, it’s probably expected. But when I constantly apologize for every step I make, I’m telling myself that I’m not enough as I am, and I’m robbing myself of the space to be unapologetically me.

I am enough, and I am okay. There is no need for me to apologize for being Amber. And there’s no need for you to apologize for being you, either. So you know what? Let’s just … not. I’ll stop apologizing for myself, and you’ll stop apologizing for yourself. And together, we’ll figure out what to do with the space that brings us.

Do you do a lot of apologizing? Does it enhance your life, or detract from it? I’d love to hear your thoughts – no apologies required!

Resisting the Silence

I’m making plans for what happens next in Crafting my Life. I’m working on the Crafting my Life e-Book, and I’m deciding if I want to run my online class on living with intention for a third time. If you’re ready for a change in your life, and you want to be the first to hear what I do next, as well as be eligible for advance access and special pricing, subscribe to my mail list!

I have never been particularly comfortable with silence. Perhaps it’s because I came of age in a time when there was little silence, as televisions and stereos and eventually computers and cell phones constantly sent their electronic noise into the void. Perhaps it’s because I’ve felt that filling any silence is somehow my responsibility. Or perhaps it’s because, in the silence, I’m alone with my thoughts and I have nothing to distract me from reality.

It’s not that my reality is so stark – far from it. I have lived a life of relative privilege, both by global and historical standards. But, like many people, I often have more tasks on my plate than I can ever finish, and I sometimes say the wrong thing, and I frequently feel unsure about what decision I should be making. As long as the noise is beep-booping away in the background, I don’t think too much about those things. But as soon as it stops, all of those uncomfortable thoughts start to creep in.

Back in January I decided that my word for 2011 would be “space”. Not as in the final frontier, but as in finding room in my life for myself. You see, I persist in believing that it should be possible to live a life that involves doing things that are meaningful for me, rather than things that I somehow feel obligated to do.

08 july 31
Photo credit: (cup)cake_eater on Flickr

It’s August now, which means the year is more than half gone and I’m not sure I’ve found much space yet. But I’m starting to see that one of the big reasons that I’m not finding space is that I’m not all that comfortable with space. Space, you see, shares an awful lot in common with silence. It is unapologetic in its emptiness, and it leaves me without distractions or busy-work to keep me occupied. And so when I find space, I almost immediately fill it with all kinds of stuff, big and small, so I don’t have to think about it.

In two days I’m flying to San Diego for a blogging and social media conference. This means that right now I’m scrambling to get all sorts of little tasks finished before I board a plane. And as I run hither and yon, I am asking myself why going away for three days (three! days!) is throwing me into such a tizzy. And I suspect that part of stems from this discomfort with silence and space.

If I can just pick up and step away from my life for any period of time, what does that mean? Does it suggest that I am somehow unnecessary or unimportant? A part of me thinks this would be the case. I want to be needed, just as we all want to be needed on some level. And so I fill up my time and my head and my soundspace with things, to help me feel busy and needed and maybe even a little bit important.

It’s great to have epiphanies and all, but I’m not entirely sure where this leaves me. I do have an idea of where I may want to head next, though, and I’ll be writing about that on Friday.

In the meantime, are you comfortable with silence and space? Or do you feel compelled to fill the void, as I do? I’d love to hear!

Examining the “What Ifs”

I ask myself “what if” a lot. What if my husband’s company goes on strike? What if one of my kids gets hurt? What if everybody laughs at me? What if I end up living in a van down by the river?

Recently, it occurred to me that my “what ifs” are all negative. That is, I am asking myself what I would do if something bad happened to me. I’m imagining the worst-case scenario, and trying to plan for it. And I suppose that’s understandable. After all, no one likes to be surprised by a catastrophic event – especially not my dragons. My dragons live to protect the downside, and they are actually the source of many of these “what ifs”.

That observation led to a further realization, which is that I can control my “what ifs”. There is no reason in the world that I can’t switch things up a little and ask myself to imagine something good happening to me, instead. How would that change things?

What if I get that job I interviewed for? What if other people like what I have to say? What if I speak my truth and it changes my life for the better? What if I have sushi for lunch and it is awesome?

Asking those questions feels a little bit dangerous. Because when I ask myself those questions I open my heart to the world, and my dragons don’t like it. I can hear them screaming in my head as I type. “No! No! No! Good things aren’t going to happen, bad things are going to happen! If you don’t expect and plan for them, you’re going to be disappointed and you’re going to end up alone and penniless!”

Now, let’s just say for argument’s sake that my dragons are right. Because some of the time, they will be – although not as often as they would like me to believe. Still, let’s be honest, it sucks when things don’t work out in the way we hoped. I certainly don’t enjoy that, and I don’t think that anyone else does, either. And yet, I don’t think that the inevitable bumps in the road justify all of the advance “what ifs”.

These negative “what ifs” lead me to believe that there’s no point in trying anything, and that’s simply not true. Being disappointed isn’t much fun, but if I don’t open myself up to all of the possibilities, good and bad, I’m missing out on a whole lot of potential good. And that’s just no fun at all.

So when I catch myself starting up with the “what ifs” again, I’m going to deliberately change them around and start asking myself what it would mean if everything was awesome. I’m going to let my heart be open, even if it is a little bit dangerous. And in the process, I hope to intentionally create some space for the life that I actually want to live, instead of the life that my dragons are trying to force me into.

A Label that Fits

I’m making plans for what happens next in Crafting my Life. I’m thinking of writing an e-Book, and I’m deciding if I want to run my online class on living with intention for a third time. If you’re ready for a change in your life, and you want to be the first to hear what I do next, as well as be eligible for advance access and special pricing, subscribe to my mail list!

A few weeks ago I told you about the job I didn’t get. As is customary when you receive a rejection call, the interviewer offered me feedback. One of the things that he said was that when I talk about myself, I should stop leading with the fact that I’m an engineer. If I want to be a writer, I should call myself a writer.

His comment hit me like a ton of bricks.

I decided to apply for the job on a whim, telling myself that I would take the outcome (whatever it was) as a sign. There’s a whole bunch of stuff that I would like to do, and having a full-time job would mean that I would have to be very selective. If I got the job I would wring everything that I could from that, and if I didn’t I would have the freedom to pursue more of my own projects. And I would say that the whole experience was useful, if only for the comment about what I call myself.

Words matter. I don’t like the term “mommy blogger”, for instance, because I find the diminutive to be somewhat cutesy and maybe even a little bit patronizing. If other people want to describe themselves as mommy bloggers, that’s cool with me. But I think that I have the right to say that I would prefer not to be given that label. So why, then, do I persist in holding on to the engineer label, some three years after my last day of work as an engineer?

There are a few of reasons I cling to my past in high technology. The first is that I’m not always sure what else to call myself. There are a number of terms that I could use, but none of them are a perfect fit. The second (and probably bigger) reason is that calling myself an engineer carries a certain amount of weight. It’s a reasonably impressive title, in my experience. And finally, when I call myself anything but an engineer I feel sort of like an impostor. I’m not sure I’ve earned any other title, yet.

But I don’t want to be an engineer anymore. And even if I did, by writing so openly online about how engineering wasn’t a good fit for me, I’ve likely closed any doors on that career, anyway. So referring to myself that way is not terribly helpful. Instead, I think I need to choose a label that describes what I want to do, and use it, even if it doesn’t come easily at first. Or I could even choose several labels, if no single term works. That’s OK, too, as long as I’m focusing on where I actually want to go, instead of reflecting on a past I’m ready to leave behind.

For right now, my self-selected title is: Writer, Teacher, Social Media Evangelist and Life-Crafter. It may not fit nicely on a business card, but that’s OK. Because when I say those things in my head I get a little zing. I also feel a little bit afraid, but it’s the kind of afraid that lets me know I’m on to something.

Words matter. Labels matter. And we all have the right to choose which labels we want to apply to ourselves. What labels do you choose?

The Improbability of it All

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I recently recorded Oprah Winfrey’s Master Class, and I’ve been watching it in pieces. I have little kids, after all, so I do everything in pieces. I rarely watch Oprah’s show – in fact, I haven’t seen an entire episode since our TV died in November, 2008. We’ve had a TV again for almost five months, and I have yet to tune in. But the Master Class, for whatever reason, intrigued me, and I’ve been enjoying it.

Early on in the first episode Oprah points out the improbability of every person’s existence. The odds against you being here are really staggeringly high. The average man produces 1500 sperm a second, or about 130 million a day. Just think about that. There are only 30 million people in Canada, total. A woman has about 300,000 eggs. So if you want to start playing with statistics, you can see that winning the lottery seems pretty likely compared to ever being born.

What does this mean, though? Does the fact that our very existence is a long shot mean something about us, and the significance of our lives? I’m not really sure. That’s probably a question for a philosopher or a theologian, and I am neither. But I will say that it makes me look at my own children differently. I can’t imagine having different kids than the two I ended up with. The fact that their existence is so tremendously unlikely makes them seem even more precious. Of course, I would have felt the same way about them if I’d had different children, but the fact is that I didn’t have different children. I had these ones, and they are totally unique and irreplaceable.

If my children are unique and irreplaceable, then I am unique and irreplaceable, too. And so are you. And so is that guy who usually sits across from you on the train, or the teacher at your kid’s preschool who is always just a little too perky at 8:30am drop-off. We’re all statistical improbabilities, and the fact that we’re here at all is amazing.

This could all just be random chance. I’m not so sure that it isn’t. But as I thought about it, here’s the conclusion that I reached – if my life is so rare and valuable and totally unlikely, I sure as heck want to do something with it. I want to wring all of the living that I can out of my time here. Viewed this way, our entire lives are sort of like a week-long tropical vacation that took over a year to plan – a brief and precious interlude, not to be wasted.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I expect myself to achieve the same kind of fame and fortune that Oprah has. It also doesn’t mean that I expect myself to give up all past-times that don’t directly contribute to the world in some way. Sometimes, doing nothing in particular is just what is called for. And sometimes, success is measured in how many slobbery, open-mouthed baby kisses you get, not how big your house is.

What I’m saying is that, to go with the Oprah theme, I want to live my own best life. A life that I generally enjoy living, and that fits me, quirks and all. Because each one of those quirks is a gift, really. It lets me know that I’m me, imperfect and unfinished and completely myself. There can’t be another one of me – Oprah told me so – and so I am going to embrace my me-ness. I suspect that may really be the secret to life, in the end.

When you consider how unlikely it is that you would ever be born, how do you feel? Does it make your life seem more precious, or not? Please share your thoughts!