flow · life alignment

Life Alignment, Continued

I’ve written a few previous posts about my wish to have everything in my life align with who I am and what I value most. I started calling this Life Alignment, without knowing if this was a real thing or just something I made up in my head. For me, Life Alignment means:

  1. Everything in my life – work, hobbies, side hustles, family – is somehow aligned, connected, in a kind of flow.
  2. There is a common theme or passion running through everything in my life. 
  3. Everything in my life feels like it’s in balance and harmony.

You’re forgiven if this doesn’t make sense to you; I’m still figuring it out myself! I don’t always know how to describe Life Alignment, but I know it when I see it. Like my friend whose passion in life is early childhood mental health; her job is in that field, she listens to podcasts and reads articles and books related to that subject, and she spends as much of her time around young children as possible. And my friend who is all about social change and service; he works in that realm, he volunteers and advocates for causes he cares about in his free time, and he is well-informed and well-read on the issues he cares about. THAT’S what Life Alignment is to me.

The summer is a great time to reflect, and I started a little low-validity low-stress research project related to Life Alignment. I scrolled through my Facebook friends, one by one, and I took note of any friends that seem to have the kind of Life Alignment I am seeking. I was surprised to find that there weren’t many – maybe 15 people out of several hundred friends.

Now, to be fair – this was not a scientific experiment. For many of these people, I have no idea what their passions are or if their work lines up with their values. It could be that many more people feel they have Life Alignment, even if it doesn’t seem obvious to me that they’ve got it. And, for the 15 people that I see as having great Life Alignment – I have no idea if they feel aligned! Maybe my friend who is a yoga instructor and seems so passionate about her work and her hobbies secretly wishes she was a travel writer. Maybe my friend who spends all her time gardening and cooking actually wishes that her life was centered around education or politics. You cannot tell how satisfied someone is with their Life Alignment by checking their Instagram feed; I know this.

However, this non-scientific bit of research was helpful to me. It showed me that the thing I’m seeking is rare and perhaps challenging to achieve. It showed me that Life Alignment is probably not as clear-cut for most people as it is for my friend who teaches, plays, lives, and breathes softball. For most of us, perhaps it’s more subtle; there might be things that tie my life together, but maybe my life will have multiple themes that are woven together throughout my work, play, family, and home.

I scribbled a list of things that I’m passionate about, thinking, I’ll know that I have Life Alignment when my life includes all of these passions in some way. (Wait for it.) Here’s the list: writing; books + reading; adoption + family + parenting; children with special needs; the outdoors; exercise; mindfulness + meditation; laughter + silliness + play; honesty and authenticity and shameless truth telling; mental health + wellness + recovery; and service.

I mean, come on. Talk about unattainable! That list is long. Maybe it’s impossible to incorporate every single one of your passions into your life’s work. For my current job, I’m a school social worker at a public middle school. That means my work days could potentially incorporate the themes of mindfulness, meditation, laughter, silliness, play, mental health, wellness, and parenting. That’s a lot; there’s a lot of potential to weave my interests into my days. Of course, to do so, I have to be intentional. I have to either work toward achieving Life Alignment or just allow Life Alignment to have a stronger influence on my everyday activities than other factors might.

I’m going to continue to explore this topic, in my writing and in my thoughts. I’ve slowing been developing a skeleton plan for how to have greater alignment in my personal and professional life. Getting a job with summers off was an amazing first step. Incorporating mindfulness and play into my work is a great second step. Onward!

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flow

Flow

I’ve had a version of this post drafted for several years. It’s about flow – a concept I also refer to as life alignment. The idea is this: it’s possible to have all the aspects of my life aligned with who I am and what I value most.

For example, I have a friend who has always loved softball. She watches sports, coaches teams, and teaches P.E. I have another friend who loves the environment and nature; she lives in a gorgeous, wild place, and she’s studying to become an herbalist.

This post has been unfinished because I don’t feel like I have that kind of flow connecting the different aspects of my life. For the past few years, I’ve really been wishing for that kind of connection between all the things I do and am, but it continues to elude me. I’ve continued to update this post and save the draft, hoping that eventually I would be writing a post about how I suddenly, miraculously, had achieved this kind of life alignment.

Sadly, such is not the case. If I publish this post today, it will talk about how my life does not feel aligned in the ways I’d like it to be. My job doesn’t match my hobbies. What I read for pleasure doesn’t mesh with what I pursue professionally. The ways I spend my time aren’t always in sync with who I am and what I’m passionate about.

I don’t think I’ve ever had this kind of life alignment. The closest I’ve gotten might have been during the times when I lived where I was working – when I served with AmeriCorps or when I worked at an outdoor learning center. I was living in a community of like-minded people with similar hobbies; there were lots of friends around to engage in my passions alongside, and my work life had a strong and simple focus. Even then, I don’t think my life had quite the kind of flow I am wishing for – but I think my life was more aligned during those years than it feels now.

For me, one of the challenges of getting my life aligned is that I have a lot of different interests. This is true for many people, though there are some people who have one passion that is stronger than any of their other interests. When I was young, writing was my thing. I studied journalism in college and my plan was to be a newspaper writer. Things shifted at a certain point, and while I continued to journal and write in my free time, a second passion emerged – helping children with special needs. I decided to pursue a Master’s Degree in Social Work and I’ve been working as a clinical social worker with children and families for the last eight years.

Now, as I’ve entered my thirties, started a family, and started to reflect on how my career is aligning with the way I want to live my life, I’ve realized that I don’t have the kind of flow I’ve seen in the lives of others. And I’d like to have that kind of flow someday. I don’t know exactly what that kind of flow would look like for me! Would it be writing children’s books about kids with special needs? Would it be starting a private therapy practice that includes mindfulness, journaling, and creativity as strong components? Would it be starting an outdoor ed center for children with special needs? Would it be working with children and families with a focus on adoption and parenting?

I don’t know.

If I knew, I probably wouldn’t be writing this post.

This playful + peaceful blog is often a way for me to explore things like this – a way for me to think about and write about the ways I want my life to be. A few months ago, I started a post by writing these words at the top: What would my life look like if it were a genuine reflection of who I am? The result was this rambling list:

  1. Mindful. I’d be fully present in all of the moments of my life. I would WANT to be fully present in all of the moments of my life.
  2. Writing. I’d be writing a LOT, either for work or for pleasure or for a little bit of both. And my home and my life would be FULL of books and reading!
  3. LOTS OF PLAY! At work and at home.
  4. BALANCE. I’d have a rich and fulfilling work life that did not interfere with my rich and fulfilling family life.
  5. Being MYSELF all day every day!
  6. Feeling like my everyday choices lined up with what I believe and how I feel about the world.
  7. The OUTDOORS! I would not spend my entire work day in an office with no windows. (Which, sadly, is the case right now.)
  8. Lots of laughter, fun, and joy.
  9. Passionate about what I do – to the point that it’s fun to talk about.
  10. Service to others, in day-to-day life and in my leisure time, too.
  11. MOVEMENT and EXERCISE – I love it when my work has a physical component, when I spend all or part of the day moving or running or walking.
  12. Activities that support a peaceful mind, heart, soul, and body. (A friend is very nourished by yoga, and she’s now a full-time yoga instructor. I’d love it if I spent my WHOLE day doing something that nourished me like that!)

The blog is often a way for me to explore who I am, what I want, and how I want my life to be. The kind of flow I am seeking is out there in the universe, and this time in my life feels important – like this is a time when different things will come together and help me to actually find the flow. We shall see.

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