24. living vs surviving

I can guarantee that if I asked you right now if you were living, you’d look at me like I had lost my mind. In order to prove that you’re living, you’d probably list all the things you are doing. You’re breathing. You’re moving around. You’re talking. You’re thinking. Obviously you are living. Right?

Wrong. Sounds to me like what is being described is survival. You are surviving. You are doing what is absolutely necessary to exist in this world. Is it a conscious choice to breathe each morning? Do you have to make up your mind to think? My guess is that the answer to those seemingly ridiculous questions is no. The tasks above are done with such automaticity that they are executed without a second thought.

One of my favorite quotes comes to mind when I think of living vs. surviving.

“The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.” –Henry Miller

This piece of wisdom has been my driving force the past few years. Look at the key words in that quote: aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely. Now think back to the proof you theoretically gave me for living. Are you truly AWARE you are breathing? Does it bring you great JOY to know you are talking? Unless either of them are new for you, my guess is probably not.

This concept was huge for me when deciding which path to take in recovery. Did I want to make my way through life just going through the motions? Was it enough for me to do the bare minimum just to get by? Those were questions that I seriously asked myself when I was faced with an obstacle or challenging decision. I know I’d never really truly live until I was healthy in mind, body, and spirit.

Now that I’m healthy and have been for a solid five years, this has taken on a completely different meaning. I’m constantly reflecting on my life in the present moment. Do the majority of my actions throughout the day bring me joy and happiness? Am I choosing to surround myself with people who inspire/motivate me? Do I LOVE how I spend my days? Am I excited to approach each morning? Have I felt that absolutely intoxicatingly “drunk” feeling from an interaction with a person, place, or moment? If my answer to any of those questions is no (which it is sometimes!), I look at what needs to change.

These changes can be small. Maybe I’ll rediscover my favorite food. Go to my favorite coffee shop, get lost in a book, and slowly sip my coffee. Occasionally, I’ll re-evaluate the relationships I have with people. Often times, we’ll have a dance party in my classroom. Having an authentic conversation with someone about REAL topics is an amazing feeling. If I’m feeling slightly burnt out, I’ll remember why I’m doing the things I do. Sometimes that passion isn’t able to be reawakened. At that time, I know that the activity, person, or place is not essential to my life anymore.

That’s the beauty of genuinely living. You have permission to create opportunities to experience all that life has to offer you. If you want to change something, you can. Be loud. Be crazy. Take too many pictures. Act goofy in public. Make mistakes. Learn from them. Be aware and present in each and every moment of you life.

So next time things feel boring, not quite right, or sadness finds its way in, ask yourself: Am I LIVING or am I surviving? The answer may surprise you.

It is 100% better to live and not just survive. When you actually experience life instead of taking a back seat, incredible things start to happen. Just live.

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