As a writer they tell you to edit your writing by deleting at least thirty percent of the words you have written.
Do you realize most of us do the same thing with our lives?
We edit parts of our lives by hiding them, erasing them and forgetting about them all together. Sometimes it’s quite useful to let go of certain things. Think about biting nails or drawing pictures of colorful houses with crayons on the wallpaper of our parents’ living room. But we also edit precious parts of our lives. We erase things we love. Why?
The castle metaphor
My friend Jamie Catto often uses the metaphor of a castle in his workshops. He says that we are all born as a fairytale castle with hundreds of rooms. Each room represents a part of us. But as we grow older, we shut doors to never re-open them again. We end up as a two bedroom apartment on the twentieth floor in a grey part of town.
Why do we erase parts of ourselves?
It’s actually quite simple. We all have an inner pleaser inside of us. The part of us that is longing to be loved by others, and believes this is only possible by pleasing the people around us. Our parents, even the best ones, taught us that love is conditional: we were cuddled and praised just a bit more when we behaved in a way they liked us to.
So what do we do when our partner or friend or parent doesn’t like the things we do? Some strong minded people among us will keep doing those things. But many of us will decrease the time spent on these things, or completely erase them altogether.
Does editing our lives increase the love we receive?
In the short term, the strategy of editing parts of your life will probably work. As you stop doing things that trigger, bore or don’t inspire someone else, the other person will probably reward you by showing their appreciation for how you change or behave.
But it’s never working in the long run. It seems to me that the things we edit away are often things we like very much, things that charge us with positive energy.
Think of yourself as a bank account. If you don’t add money to the balance but keep taking from it, even if the amounts are small, there will come a moment when there is no money left.
If you stop doing the things you love, you will become unhappier at some point.
Would you like other people to stop doing things or loving things that you don’t like, when the effect is that they lose some of their sparkle?
Do you still believe you do people a favor when you let go of things you love to please them, when it means you will be less the person they love?
The world is already full of people in relationships and friendships and families where all of them make so many concessions that nobody is really happy. Shall we promise each other that from this day on, we stay true to our desires and things we love, and not edit them from our lives?
But what about compromises?
Yes, there will be situations in life where you have to give something up. Sometimes there might not be enough resources (like money, time or space) to keep doing all those things you want to do. But before you edit something and let it go, you could carefully have a look. How much positive energy does this thing give you? What will you lose when you let it go? Are you harming or hurting anyone with this?
Rebuilding my castle
I massively edited my life. As a child I learned to be great observer, and I understood pretty well how to behave to not upset others. I also anticipated on what I believed other people didn’t like me to do. This editing happened partly on a conscious base, and partly on an unconscious base. I just started doing things I liked less and less, until they made a quiet exit through the fire exit. Nobody saw them go.
I didn’t realize that I missed those things. I didn’t even notice I became less happy and, in my case, less relaxed. Until I found myself in a process where I learned to speak up for myself, and express my desires clearer. Somehow this process extended into a process where many of the edited things appeared back into my life. And it feels so good!
Let me make a list of some of the things that re-entered my life:
- Going to (second hand) book stores and take time looking at books. Sitting in front of my book shelves and leafing through them, especially taking time with my 100+ year old nature books with those amazing old images. The smell of those books! Also the number of books in my house is growing again. (I have given away many of my books because my partner wanted to downsize the amount of things in our house. I agreed. And years later I realized I missed the presence of copious amounts of books.)
- I bought myself a new old record player. Got my old records back from my mum (thank goodness I didn’t give those away) and listen again to those old lp’s from Cat Stevens, Don McLean, Leonard Cohen, Marillion, Bon Jovi etc. I also realized how I listen to music less than before, and how I forgot that I love discovering new music. If you follow me on Spotify you will probably catch me listening to deep house, jazz, contemporary classics and mantras or whatever fascinates me at that moment. I also deeply enjoy playing on my ukulele.
- I got myself a little house in the forest. For eight years I have been telling myself I don’t need to live near a forest to be happy, that if I feel great on the inside it doesn’t matter where I live. But for heaven’s sake, I miss the trees here in the polder! So now I have a little home under the trees to go to whenever I want. And man, I feel so happy when I wake up and see trees, go for walks in the forest three times a day and have breakfast while sitting on a tree.
- I totally edited the being alone part out of my life. As a mum of three that is a thing you just can’t have anymore. Or so I thought for years. But I love being alone. It nourishes me, relaxes my brain and body. And you know what? My partner and kids totally support me, even if it means they have to miss me some days.
- I got myself an old mountain bike to race through the forest, up and down hills covered with roots from trees, to come back all sweaty and sandy and oh… that. I used to cycle through the forest with my dad when I was younger, and I’ve always loved that deeply. I never realized how much I missed this. Also long distance bike rides to beautiful places and lovely people is something I’m reintroducing.
- Training with my horses. As my horses moved to the polder where there is not much space for riding, and I got more and more hurried when I was with them, consistently training with them is something that disappeared silently. Until my large horse needed training to recover from an injury. Now we’re back, working together, and our bond became so much closer again.
- Reading inspiring literature by inspiring people. I only allowed myself to read ‘useful books’, like books about personal growth, health etc. But I rediscovered my love for novels. I’m currently devouring Hermann Hesse and Simone de Beauvoir.
- A general fascination for things I don’t know yet. I love to dive deep into new subjects and getting to know them well (for example, during my master forest and nature conservation I developed a fascination for grazing fish, which became the topic of my minor thesis, besides a major thesis on large herbivores).
A few things that didn’t re-enter fully are drawing, painting, photography and playing French horn. Who knows, maybe these will get a more significant place in my life as well.
I haven’t forced any of these things to re-enter my life. I’ve tried that before with painting, but by doing that, it becomes another obligation. And I have enough of those in my life. It rather seems to be a case of allowing myself to express my desires to myself. If there are other people involved in my desires (like my partner and kids when it comes to me needing time alone) I state the importance of this for my happiness, and ask them to support me by either stopping telling me not to do this, or actively supporting me.
How have you edited your life? Which things do you desire to bring back?