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Your “Better Life” Is Now (So What Are You Going to Do About It?)

2012 October 10

 “The goal might sound great: run a marathon, complete a project, get out of debt, get nice abs, make a million dollars. But it’s a fantasy, and when (if) that fantasy comes true, it won’t be what you imagined. It will feel like regular life, not some amazing new life that is different than the life you had. Life won’t be better, and never will be, until you stop wishing for this better life and realize that life is already incredible.” ~Zen Habits, How to Wait Less


All work and no play makes Cordelia a something something.  And that something isn’t pretty.

On Monday, I wrote a post about pie.  And the main thing I learned from that post (in addition to the fact that several of you think that pie with a side of pie is a brilliant idea) was that sometimes even great things, when you have them in absurd proportions, are just Way Too Freakin’ Much.

This is something I am very good at imposing on myself, but not so good at realizing.

Last week, as I tweaked myself out over the long list of projects I had to get done by the end of Freelance Friday, my husband made a very astute and smackingly obvious observation: “If all of this is making you so miserable, why are you even doing it?”

My first instinct (of course) was to give him the disdainful silent treatment and hunch even further over my desk, pretending like I love being under so much stress, thank you very much, because this is exactly the sort of work I wanted to be buried under.  Why was I doing it?  Because it’s my dream, dammit!  And I have so much of it right now I feel guilty taking time out to eat.  Which is awesome.


My second instinct (well, more like fourth or fifth—I don’t come out of a huff that quickly) was to begrudgingly realize that he was right.  But, it wasn’t the work that was making me miserable; it was the way I was approaching it.

I am living the dream (part-time, at least), and but I haven’t been living like I’m living it.

I’ll explain…


The thing about hustlers is, we hustle.

That’s how we do.  We didn’t get to where we are through relaxing days and lots of free time.  And we don’t expect to continue our momentum (let alone gain any forward motion) by “taking it easy.”  It’s all push, all the time, and if we don’t blaze through a Herculean amount of to dos in any one day, we feel like we’re slacking.  We feel like we’re on the verge of slipping backward.  Overwork and overwhelm and long days are a badge of honor and progress.

Or maybe that’s just me.  I do have a tendency to take on way too much.

The thing I’ve been tripping myself up over lately, though, is that the work I’m overwhelming myself with is good work.  It’s work I enjoy doing, work that’s building towards someday hopefully being able to do this full-time.  So a little overwhelm is good, right, because it’s all in the name of the Grand Master Plan?

Not so much.

Because the thing is, I’ve already hit a point that me of a year ago would have been abso-tively, posi-lutely thrilled with.  But I’m not letting myself be thrilled with it.  I’m not letting myself pause and enjoy any of it (albeit while still hustling).  I’m defeating my entire purpose.


Hello, good china.  You are coming out of the closet now.

I have 2 days a week free to pursue my dream.  I am frickin’ part-time at the day job.  (Take a minute to realize that, Cordelia, because it all happened so fast I don’t think it ever truly sank in:  PART.  TIME.  Your day job is now your side job.  YOU ARE A FREELANCER.  Hot damn.)

And if I can’t enjoy that, if I can’t pause and love my life when I’m doing my dreams part-time, am I ever really going to love my life when I’m doing them full-time?  Or am I just going to keep burning myself out, forgetting that the whole point of all this was to be happy with my life as it is in the moment?

As Leo’s fantastic quote at top points out, you will never really get “there” until you’re content with being here.  Your “better” life will always be in the future, making this life as it is look shabby and unsatisfactory by comparison.  But the thing is, we can’t live in the future.  We live in the now.  And now is already infinitely better than our past selves could ever have imagined.

So it’s time to start living like it is, stupid.  (That “stupid” was directed at myself.  I’d never call you lovelies stupid.)



Here are the things I am going to be doing differently from this point forward to make sure that (again, while still hustling to move onward and upward) I really, truly appreciate the heck out of where I am now:

  • 9:00-10:00 on freelance mornings is Live! with Kelly and Michael time.  Because ever since I was little, Regis and Kelly were a staple of my days off from school (and later work).  They were the ultimate luxury, and they have never once failed to make me laugh uncontrollably.  The fact that I am not allowing myself to revel in my favorite “I’m getting way with something” show on the days I worked so hard to earn is a crime.
  • I will continue the time-honored tradition of kids home from school everywhere:  I will occasionally glance at the clock, think of what I would be doing at my day job if I were at my day job that very moment, and smirk gleefully.
  • Cutoff time for work on weekday evenings is to be strictly observed.  At my designated hour, I must turn off the computer, silence my phone, and join the husband for some much-needed cuddles in front of the TV.  This is non-negotiable unless a project is literally on fire.  (Which would probably mean my computer is on fire?  In which case we’d both be preoccupied with putting out the flames, anyway.)
  • Saturdays are Relaxation Days.  Errands and projects are o.k. on Sundays in moderation, but Saturdays are full-frontal shameless relaxation and fun days.  I will go to movies with the husband.  I will pursue my hobbies (see below).  I will make progress on nothing but enjoying my Saturday.  This will feel very weird at first, but in a good way.
  • I will have hobbies again.  I’ve been mistaking my passion (freelancing) for the only hobby I have lately, forgetting that I once thoroughly enjoyed other things like reading, HGTV marathons, and teaching my dogs tricks.  Our first dog knows an impressive routine of tricks (all of which she will launch into when presented with a treat).  Our second dog knows “sit” and sometimes “quiet,” if she feels like doing it.  She is very smart and could no doubt be a protégé, but I have been neglecting her potential (and how much I love interacting with my furry babies).  This will be rectified.


How can YOU enjoy your “better” life now?

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  • Craig Jarrow

    Great post!
    You are right… too often people get stuck in “getting there” when they aren’t enjoying the journey along the way. :)

    • Cordelia

      Thanks, Craig!

  • Black Sheep

    I guess for me it isn’t really stuck there. I do things because I enjoy them, even though they give me stress. I do, however, schedule break times so I give my eyes a rest and do other hobbies, but only for a few minutes at a time. Maybe I do need more free time, but nah I think I like my new adventure more than movies and games.

    I only have 1 & 1/2 days with my hubby, so I try and schedule one full “family” day where we scream at the T.V. and watch football all day. My idea, not his. In between, we will play games, do errands or watch a movie. The half day is scheduled for yoga or another thing we do together, breakfast and working together on my side-project. All other days I am free to write or do school work all the way up until bed time. I get a lot more done that way and I love it. :D

    • Cordelia

      Sounds like you’re right on top of the kind of schedule you need and how to balance projects/life in a way that works for you. Go you–I hope to be there someday myself. :)

  • Karen J

    This reminds me of a set of comments to “Schnorkies, Fireworks and Learning to Freakin’ Sit Still…”

    Me: I AM making strides, but keep getting that “Are we There yet??” voice in my head. Gaakkkkh!

    Cordelia: I know that voice well. Tell it you *are* “there.” “Here” is the journey. “There” is just speculation.

    So true, still, again! Thanks :)

    • Cordelia

      Ahhh, Karen! Using my own words against me, lol.

      Funny how we can realize a deep truth, but it doesn’t really “hit” us until later. I completely forgot about writing that, but it was like a message to my future self.

      Sometimes I think we need to realize certain things over and over again throughout different periods of our lives. No doubt I’ll need reminding of that one again soon enough, but at least I’m making strides!

      • Karen J

        “…we need to realize certain things over and over again…”
        Yep! And in relation to all kinds of different (big and little) details and situations. Thus the incredible importance of writing about “your stuff”, even if one’s insights have been being discussed since the ancient Greeks!
        Hooray for Strides!

  • LifeCommaEtc

    “you will never really get “there” until you’re content with being here” – Love it!

    • Cordelia


  • Shola

    “You will never really get *there* until you’re content with being here” should be sold on T-shirts. That is one powerful quote, and one that I might have to borrow from time to time ;). Another fantastic post!

    • Cordelia

      I just need a few more good quotes and I can open up a CCIQ t-shirt shop!

  • Omar

    Amazing post and amazing awareness. Enjoy your new freedom! You worked hard for it.

    It may not be your “perfect” life yet, but reading some of your previous posts, its an amazing milestone =)

    You are “there”, enjoy it while you reach your next “there” =)

    • Cordelia

      Thanks, Omar! You are so right. Looking back at how far we’ve come is an excellent exercise in realizing how good we’ve really got it.

      Striving is a great thing, but sometimes you’ve just gotta stop and enjoy where you’ve striven to already. (Strove? Whatever…) :P

  • Cat

    Wonderful post!

    Nearly 7 years ago, after much plotting and scheming, I was finally able to quit my “real job” and set out on my own. So there I was – living the dream… except that I couldn’t relax and enjoy it. I felt a constant sense of pressure to do more, faster, better, etc. I kept telling myself that I was worried about money – but that really wasn’t it.
    After much soul searching I finally realized that stress wasn’t something that was imposed on me from on high, it was something that I willingly, and almost eagerly invited into my world. Difficult as it was to admit, living in the frenzy was just soooo much more comfortable than slowing down and actually having to face myself.
    I have come to believe that the need to be constantly busy is our collective societal disease – or more correctly stated, it’s the most socially acceptable method for medicating this disease. The disease, of course, being our refusal to accept our own humanity.

    • Cordelia

      “I felt a constant sense of pressure to do more, faster, better, etc.” <—-YES!

      It's not just part of the hustler culture, but part of our larger culture as a whole. We're so obsessed with speed, productivity, shortcuts…Being busy is badge of honor, and complaining about how busy we are is secretly a way of bragging about it to other people.

      If someone asks me how my freelancing is going, I feel compelled to say, "I barely have time to eat!" because if I told them I spent half of one of my freelance days watching HGTV and playing with the dogs, I'd get disapproving (and envious) glares. Relaxing is seen as lazy. Enjoying your life is seen as being a slacker.

      But you know what? I worked damn hard for my time off, and I continue to work hard to maintain it. So if I dare to actually allow myself to sit still and just "be" sometimes, that's actually an incredible opportunity I should cultivate.

  • Deena McClusky

    As someone who has worked independently I cannot stress enough, how important sticking to the work cutoff time of your plan is for your sanity. It is far too easy to let work become all consuming. Even setting little minders on your phone telling you its time can help. You are a far better worker in less time than you will ever be if you let it all drag you down all the time.

    • Cordelia

      “You are a far better worker in less time than you will ever be if you let it all drag you down all the time.”

      That is a very real truth, and one that I need to remind myself of. Burnout and self-neglect won’t do my work any good, any more than working constantly will do my *self* any good.

      Very wise, my friend… :)

  • Karen J

    Deena and Cat’s comments lead my mind directly to this brand new post at Shanna Mann’s “Change Catalyst”:!

    “Great minds…” and all that! :)

    • Cordelia

      Awesome read, Karen. And so spot on. I love Shanna’s writing. This is definitely something I need to remind myself to do. I need to learn to “manage” myself instead of just swimming desperately against the waves like a loan ranger.

      (That was all sorts of bad metaphors all mixed into one.) :P

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