It looks great from the outside, but are you living the life you were meant to? How to check in with your inner self.
By Amy Shearn
1. Your Reputation Precedes You
Sometimes the answer to the question, "Who am I in this world anyway?" comes in an email. And sometimes that email comes when you aren't looking for a new job, but it just so happens that an acquaintance sends along a listing for something that suits you perfectly, you're (almost) entirely qualified for and you could very likely get and enjoy. It doesn't mean you have to take it as a sign to upend your professional life, but it does mean that you've staked out a certain claim in a certain corner of the world.
2. Your Existential Dread Is Really Just About the Dentist
We all have those moments of dread that come unbidden, mid-granola-bite, seemingly out of nowhere. But what is that internal shudder really about? If you can pinpoint your moments of dread to specific instigators -- the upcoming doctor's appointment you just remembered, the community board meeting you really want to skip, the ominous back-to-school commercial on a cheery summer day -- then it is a small, fixable dread indeed.
3. The Passports Are Within Reach
I don't mean that you're necessarily using your passport this week to go to Bora Bora. Or even that you'll use it before it expires. The important thing is simply that you have it, and you know where it is. Just in case.
4. Your Husband Leaves You a Crossed-Wires Voice Mail of Love
When you call your spouse or best friend and you go to voice mail because the person you were calling was calling you at that exact same moment -- well, that's a mighty deep connection with a person you love, and a sure sign you're doing something right.
5. You Clear Your Own Unmetaphorical Clog
Hey, we're all about telling you to ask for help when you really need it. Still, untangling a knotty problem has its own unique pleasures. There are few everyday experiences as triumphant as realizing you don't actually need to call the plumber (and pay for his kid's summer camp in the process); and that, with the right tools and a few YouTube videos, you can actually figure out how to unclog the sink drain. And then, like any good plumber, you get to do a happy dance there in the kitchen, because for that moment you are invincible, and you can solve your own problems. Even the especially sticky ones.
6. The Hostas Will Not Undo You
This is perhaps the ultimate goal in our weird, modern lives: to not be burnt out. Shouldn't there be a term for that? What's the opposite of burnt out -- sparkling, maybe? Or just -- normal? As in, when a neighbor asks you to water her plants for a few weeks, you agree without blinking because you truly don't mind. Your days are balanced enough that doing someone a favor doesn't feel like an impossible imposition, like you will have to reshuffle seven things to make space for one more. You have enough life-sparkle left to bring a sick friend a lasagna, or listen to your partner practice his presentation. Without sighing.
7. You Are Susceptible To Sparrow Joy
Every now and then, a small something will fill you with completely unreasonable excitement. A flock of sparrows all lifting from a gutter at once. A perfect hunk of sea glass. Hearing your favorite song leak out of someone's convertible. In the wrong state of mind, these are just things that happen. But in the right state of mind, these are giddiness-inducing wonders.
8. You Have Good Peer Pressure
You've put yourself in a good place when you admire your peers -- your coworkers are smart, your neighbors live the way you want to live. Even better if you actually feel happy for their successes -- she totally deserved that promotion! The renovation across the street turned out great! -- rather than seething with jealous rage, which isn't quite as nourishing for the soul.
9. You Care, Deeply, About The Neighborhood Bird-Watching Tour You Started On A Whim
You've been setting up a neighborhood bird-watching tour, and your husband makes some offhand comment about it that cuts you to the quick. This might not feel like an "Everything is on track in this beautiful life of mine!" kind of moment, but it can be. Not only does it show you care about the things you are doing (and are doing the things you care about), but after the initial sting, the criticism can make you think about the project in a new way, or give you an idea of how to make it even better. Maybe he grumbled about how early you've called for people to meet, and maybe (I know, this is going to sound crazy) he's right, and maybe others will feel the same way; and maybe, just maybe, this is your chance to make it better for everyone involved. Because if it's worth it, you want to make it better. And if you make it better, it will be worth it.
10. Synchronicity Is More Than A Police Album
You know that kind of coincidence that feels like much more than just a coincidence? That, in fact, feels like some degree of magic? I have a friend who calls this her religion, and I know what she means. It's that moment when the novel you're reading for book group offers up some perfectly timed nugget of insight that proves eerily relevant to an exchange from a recent PTA meeting; that you realize, with a pleasant brain-tingle, dovetails with something the professor said in your night-school class. Then a friend sends you a link to a TED talk that completes the circuit in your brain, and everything in the world seems to be showing its seams, revealing itself to be all connected. And there is no feeling like that to make you suspect that everything is just as it should be.