Instructions for life

On being a rebel, a stream of consciousness prose poem + a painting from my studio

Instructions for life and living in a hyperconnected world

I will participate, but not as asked.”
― Jenny Odell, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

When I was in my fiery teens, my father declared me a rebel without a cause. I’ve always been contrary. If you tell me to go up, I will go down. If you tell me not to do something, you can be sure that I will go right ahead and do it. And then proudly tell you that I did it too. That fiery rebellion of my teenage years has mellowed over the years, though – I guess that’s what they call aging.

I may not be a fiery rebel, but I am still contrary. I question most things. I tend to think deeply. Sometimes, it is annoying. It would be so much easier to just go along with what everyone else is saying. With the things the world seems to value. With what everyone else is chasing. It is so much more difficult to try and swim against the tide.

And yet. I struggle and flail, but doggedly I swim on, like the salmon, away from the mainstream, in search of a landing place that feels like home. Finding fellow travelers on the path makes the journey less lonely, but I’ve also learnt that not everyone who seems to be swimming upstream are salmon – there are also some angler fish in there – cleverly disguised, but I can usually tell. Something doesn’t seem to quite fit. My hackles start to rise. And when that happens, I will forever view that person with a hint of suspicion. I’ve learnt – the hard way – not to ignore my instincts. I’ve also learnt – the hard way – not to let them know that I’ve cottoned on to their predatory tactics.

And I’ve also learnt that we cannot always be saviors. There is value in allowing other people to learn how to discern anglerfish on their own.

I have no reason to tell you any of this. If I listen to the experts, I will be informed that there is no value in this post. I’m not addressing “my audience” {Ugh. I hate that word!} I haven’t researched my keywords. It doesn’t address a need or a “pain point” {double ugh, no matter how you sugar-coat it} or teach anyone anything.

But honestly? I just don’t care about what the experts say any more. Maybe my people will find me, or maybe I’ll be doomed to internet and blogging anonymity. But in the larger scheme of things, does that really matter?

Instructions for life: a prose poem

Whimsical mixed media portrait

LIVE. In the midst of the growing, questioning, becoming.

EXULT in the beauty that’s available to you in every minute – even in the difficult ones. Maybe especially then.

ACCEPT that it’s not always easy and that it doesn’t always make sense and that good does not always win over evil except in the movies and that even then, there is life to be lived and people to be loved and grace to be had.

REMEMBER, there’s beauty in the simplicity. That small and simple and quiet and personally meaningful are valid life choices. That simply witnessing the life unfolding outside your window is enough. That you don’t have to be constantly running and striving and hustling and smashing. That vitality is more important than virality.

This is YOUR life. Only you know how you want to live it. Only you know what matters to you. There is no one out there who can – or should – dictate to you how you should be living this one wild and precious life of yours.

And finally, cliched though it may be, EMBRACE it. The good, the bad, the ugly. The sorrows the joys and the tragedies. The highs the lows and the in-betweens. This one messy beautiful glorious life. Just LIVE it.

Because the only instructions for life worth following are the ones you make up for yourself.

What are your instructions for life?

pain palette

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Posted in On My Art Table, Soulful living.

I’m an artist and art educator, podcaster, tarot reader, and writer. I share my discoveries along the path to inspire you to live a more creative, soul-centered life. Receive my love letters for more of my musings on life and creativity. P.S. I love Instagram - join me there?


  1. I could relate to your train of thoughts. Shinjini. Just the other day I was reflecting on how so many things that would make me furious earlier no longer upset me as they used to and how I have learnt to embrace the fact that I can be contrary at times and find myself alone and that’s okay too. The rules we make for ourselves are the ones that continues to lead us forward. That’s all that matters.

    • That’s true. There are so many voices out there, and it can get so difficult to listen to our own voice sometimes. And to doubt it, even. But then we must remember that this is our life and only we get to determine what’s right for us.

  2. I love that painting! It has ‘serene’ written all over it and yet there’s so much “bubbling” at the surface. I’m learning to steer clear of the ‘fish’ that come in my way, stick to the basics, connect with a few, learn a lot and create more.
    Your instructions for living are spot on. Keeping it simple and exulting in that is what it’s all about!

  3. I can relate to this totally. I have often wondered why I can’t be like those people who just accept things. But then my daughter reminded my that I wouldn’t be me. I really love the painting! It’s going into my virtual scrap book.

  4. I love that painting, Shinj! I am like you – question everything. Not knowingly. When I observe mismatching pieces being forced on me I question, that’s my nature. I sometimes worry that I might get used to the ways of the world and I would stop questioning. I hope that never happens. I am happy being myself, though sometimes I might have to stand away from the crowd because of that. Hey, I love my solitude! 😁
    What fabulous instructions for life have you summed up here. Definitely worthy of a reading and rereading and of course, following.
    I am so glad I got to read your not addressed to your audience, or a need or a pain point kind of post. They are the ones that actually stays with many of the readers. I am glad to know that you are not following the expert opinions. 🙂 Here’s to rule breakers! 💖💖

    • Thank you, Vini! <3 Here’s to always questioning, always tweaking, and always coming back to centre! And yes, I’ve had quite enough of the “experts”. I’d rather break the rules and do things my way.

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