Seeing the high layer: When do you know you’re doing enough?

As I’m sitting here on holiday on my pool chair on vacation, I find my mind wandering farther away from the everyday list-making and box-ticking and closer to imagining, daydreaming and quietness. It’s a rare occassion, me taking a vacation that’s not work-related, so this doesn’t happen very often. My mind is “always on”, so this experience is few and far between, yet constantly desired. This means I’m about to get deep, people.

When I look up into the sky, I see two layers of clouds. There’s the close layer of clouds that pass quickly. Sometimes, its dense. Sometimes it’s wispy, sometimes it’s not there at all. But when it is, it moves fast.

Behind it, there’s a high layer of nicely dispersed clouds that both let the sky show through and provide cover from the sun. It doesn’t appear to be moving at all; it just stays perfectly still, steady and balanced.

At this very moment, it reminds me of my life. The lower cloud cover is my day-to-day routine, always passing quickly in front of me and sometimes feels very dense, thick and shielding the sun. Sometimes it’s sparse, but still random and unpredictable, always moving fast. I am reactionary with this cloud layer; running for an umbrella if it starts to downpour, or conversely searching my purse frantically for sunglasses when the sun shines too brightly. It occurs to me that even in my low everyday cloud cover, I react in a way that seeks balance.

It occurs to me that if I were to lay down, take a breath and look up in my everyday life as I did just now in my pool chair, I might notice the high, balanced, still cloud cover that sits behind the fast moving layer. This high layer, as a part of its inherent make-up, is balanced, offering the perfect blend between sun and shade. I don’t have to take care of it, deal with it, or manage it; I just have to observe it and see it for what it is. It is there whether I acknowledge it or not. It doesn’t seek my approval or need my input. It’s just there.

This past year, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my own purpose and contribution to this world. In my job, I get the rare opportunity to connect and get to know some of the greatest thinkers in marketing and social media, as well as attend events and conferences that feature speakers who share what they’re doing to make the world a better place. It seems like everyone around me has found their voice and is doing everything they can to make it heard from the rooftops. They are able to share their stories about finding cures for diseases, formulas and algorithms and top tips and steps for success that so many people can apply to their own lives. What the hell am I doing?

I did it! My first screenplay took me 9 months to complete.
I did it! My first screenplay took me 9 months to complete.

I remember attending a TED Women event a few years ago that was programmed with inspiring, amazing women who had achieved so much. Some had traveled to Africa and had opened schools for young girls. One had experienced a stroke, and since was advocating for genetic testing to detect dangerous drug interactions that ultimately had helped save her own life. I remember sitting in the audience feeling more and more, with every speaker, like I was wasting my own life in marketing wasn’t really a worthwhile contribution to making the planet a better place. After all, how was that saving the world? Then a woman took the stage, she was a cartoonist- a seeming departures from the prolific philanthropy and selfless givers who had taken the stage before her. She explained, through her own work in cartooning, how doing what she uniquely was good at, had changed her own life and through the process of her visual storytelling, had heard from so many others that they could better cope through her humor. She explained that she had learned that especially when she shed light on painful human situations, and showed that the are opportunities to laugh at every pocket of our existence, no matter how tragic or painful, she was helping to heal. I paid full attention. She was speaking my language, finally, in a way that i could understand. I remember leaving that event deep in thought, feeling like, for the first time, I had been given the permission to believe that telling stories to the world as my service was enough.

I’ve since come to fall back in love with marketing, and have also written my first comedic screenplay. I’m halfway through my second one, trying to give it my best effort while also focusing on my near layer of fast moving clouds. What I know now, but have to remind myself of every single day, is that what makes me focus on my high layer of clouds is enough to give to this world, and what I am supposed to be doing – bringing my way of storytelling to the world, no matter its form. It’s what makes me happy, and hopefully a few of my words will help others by offering a smile – or even better, a guttural belly laugh and tears of joy instead of sadness – at the harder things in life.

What’s your high layer of clouds? Have you seen it yet?

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