Tuesday, 12 April 2016

How I Measure Things

A while back, I took my old computer to the recycling centre.  It was an expensive machine in its day but by the time I dropped it off its programs and operating system were so outdated that its only value remained in what could be salvaged or re-used from its parts.  That gave me pause.  It made me think about investment versus return, not only in terms of that computer, but in terms of life in general.

Everything we acquire and everything we do requires an investment of life energy and, as I have learned all too well in the past couple of years, life energy is not something we should fritter away.  We need to invest it wisely.

I invested life energy in the hours of work required to earn the purchase price of my computer and in the effort required both to learn to use it and to maintain it.  In return, that computer provided me with a means to earn wages and it gave me many happy hours spent working on art projects and photos. During a long period of illness it also helped to keep me in touch with the world outside my walls.  All in all, my computer was a good return on the energy I'd expended to get it.

Other things have proven to be less satisfactory investments.  I've done work that has cost me joy or caused me angst without providing either satisfaction or sufficient earnings, and I've allowed some people to avail themselves of my knowledge or labour without doing me the courtesy of paying the favour forward. Both were poor investments of my life energy but I did at least gain the benefit of a lesson learned.

These days, I measure almost everything against this standard of energy investment and it has affected my approach to life a good deal more than I expected.  Sometimes it leads to curious and rather impractical decisions, like choosing to purchase yarn instead of food because a knitting project gives me more satisfaction over time than a steak dinner ever could, but it also leads to decisions that are both positive and life affirming, like choosing time outdoors instead of time in front of the TV, and spending time on friendships and family connections instead of wasting it on empty small talk with near-strangers.

I'm not sure where this change in parameters will eventually lead me.  I doubt my life energy standard of measurement is a formula for financial success, but it has certainly been good for my spirit.  It encourages me to take more risks than I used to, to be more generous with others, to be more accepting of differences, and to be more compassionate.  It leaves me with a tranquil heart at the end of the day, a clear conscience, and the knowledge that I haven't wasted my energy on things that make me or those around me unhappy.  

Life is short.  It flies by in the blink of an eye.  It's much too precious to waste on things that don't feed our souls.  It's been a hard lesson, to be sure, but one that is surely worth learning.