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Happy Monday! Here, have some metaphors.

When I was a teenager, we used to play the Blanket Game at parties. It goes like this:

1. Throw a blanket over someone.
2. Tell them to take off something they don’t need and hand it over to you.
3. Keep accepting socks, watches, hats, and clothing from them until they take off the predetermined correct item.

Guess what the predetermined item always was. If you aren’t sure, here’s a little hint:


But through dozens of rounds over those years, no one ever got it right away. In fact, they were usually practically naked by the time they figured it out, at which point we would have to hastily stop them from flinging off the blanket in their sudden fit of inspiration. (If you were looking for a reason to feel concerned for all of humanity today … well, you’re welcome.) And it’s amusing, of course, but it also gives me pause to think about it now, because my God, exactly how stupid are we? And what else are we missing?

Lately, I’ve been trying to design my life. It’s an odd idea, designing your life, and I’m the first to admit that the concept represents a level of luxury that not everyone gets to enjoy. It’s not that I’m so wealthy, mind you. It’s more like I’m so … blank. So much of my existence has been wiped away that I might as well rebuild consciously, the way you might alter the floorplan of your house once it’s been sucked up by a tornado and thus needs to be redone anyhow. Opportunity is the good cop to loss’s bad cop, is it not?

I mean, let’s review:
1. I have no children, nor do I want any.
2. I have no desire to live with anyone, nor do I expect dating to represent much of an obligation in my life.
3. I have a decent income.
4. I am not required to occupy a certain geographical area.
5. I have few monthly expenses, seeing as I own practically nothing.

I’d say that’s about as close to a blank page as anyone can get at 29, yeah?

I want to live deliberately. I don’t want to walk around like an idiot with a blanket over my head, leaving a trail of socks and panties and mumbling to myself in befuddlement. I want a premeditated product, not an absentminded set of circumstances. I don’t mean to endorse an obsession with perfection; I’m not trying to eradicate every problem ever. Believe me, I’m a hot mess wearing an inside-out and wrinkled T-shirt on my best days, and I’m okay with that. It’s more like … okay, let me use another analogy.

Have you ever gone snorkeling in the ocean? I did, once, with my best friend Sam, in the absurdly beautiful Hanauma Bay. This is how it works: you put on your snorkel and mask and these absurd flippers. You stagger across the sand and into the waves, which crash all around you and alternately knock you down onto the beach and suck you out to sea. The struggle is aggravating, to say the least, and should rightfully involve all manner of cursing. You can barely keep your balance, and your legs wear out quickly from the exhausting task of simply keeping you upright in all that chaos. Meanwhile, you are chagrined to know that you look very, very silly. Once you’ve managed to flail your way to a reasonable depth, you kick your feet out behind you, put your face down in the water, and start breathing through the tube, all Darth Vader like.

And just like that, the ocean beneath you becomes the most peaceful entity in the world. Waves lift you, but you’re a part of them; you transmit their undulation harmoniously and without exertion, without feeling a thing. The salt makes flotation nearly effortless, almost drowsy. And all around you is a gorgeous, brilliant world that you couldn’t see a mere thirty seconds ago, a world that you had known only as an abstract rumor and not as your immediate, breath-stopping reality. This is perfect. This is a dream.

And guess what? It’s the same ocean either way. All that had changed was my approach.

Crazily enough, the blissful version was actually less work than the obnoxious crashy sinus-burning version. In snorkeling, this relative ease makes perfect sense. In real life, it seems counterintuitive somehow. Life can’t be easier and better … right? Is it possible that sometimes, I can save myself a hell of a lot of grief by befriending my own laziness and incorporating it into my overall paradigm? Is it possible that I am actually decreasing the quality of my life by working so hard at it?

As Anne Lamont noted in Bird by Bird, “the Gulf Stream will flow through a straw, provided the straw is aligned to the Gulf Stream, and not at cross purposes with it.” It seems to me that since I really have nothing better to do, and I am currently in my superhero phase, I might as well become more aerodynamic.

I’m still working on the answers. (I hope you don’t expect anything earth-shattering, because frankly, one of the biggest revelations involved … um, hampers.) But even if I weren’t in such a prime position to take a long, hard look at what I do, why I do it, and whether it’s really for the best, I would consider this meditation a worthwhile effort; after all, being me is what I do for a living.

While I’m finding answers, you can try it too, if you like. For one thing, you stand a good chance of casting off something you never needed, but cloaked yourself in without a thought. More importantly, though, you can explain to everyone that the trip you booked to Hawaii is for research.

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