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Are You Living or Merely Performing?

When was the last time you were outside in the sunshine. Not mowing, not weeding, not trimming, not painting. Not even exercising. Just sitting there. Sitting.

Like many of you, I used to work a 9-6 desk job. The sealed-shut windows of my office were tinted so outside always looked dark. There was no fresh air, no sunshine and the only Nature I ever saw was when a flock of turkeys wandered by and began admiring their reflections in my office window.

I was chronically burned out and, due to my PTSD and codependence, terrified of everyone, chronically people-pleasing and overworked. Weekends came and weekends went, but I was too tired to even pursue my passions and hobbies. My career looked good from the outside, but I was a mess on the inside.

Like so many fed-up Americans, in 2012 my disabled husband and I made a conscious decision to live small, to live in genteel poverty so we could enjoy our lives, live our lives, so I could be free from perpetually slaving in a toxic, dysfunctional work environment that made me miserable.

Six years later as a homemaker and writer, I’m still struggling to stop performing “perfectly.” I’m still trying to be okay if, now and then, I drop a ball instead of constantly keeping all the balls in the air likes some kind of hyperactive juggler. So in this article, I’m preachin’ to myself, Honey!

This Spring has found me doing a lot of thinking about life and living. If you’re my Facebook friend and/or Patreon patron, you know why. Life is tenuous. As Jonathan Edwards preached, “You hang by a slender thread.” We all hang by a slender thread. When the thread of my life comes to snap — how did Henry David Thoreau put it? When I come to die, I do not want to “discover that I had not lived.

So I’ve been sitting in the Garden a lot this Spring. Just sitting. Observing. Thinking. Sometimes with a dog on my lap. Sometimes with my eyes closed, so I really hear the birdsong I tend to ignore if my eyes are busy looking at things.

Did you notice when the first Robin of Spring arrived? Were you living enough to salute his arrival or were you too busy performing to notice? Whenever I see a Robin I think of what C. S. Lewis wrote, “”Still—a robin, you know. They’re good birds in all the stories I’ve ever read. I’m sure a robin wouldn’t be on the wrong side.”

Can you find his nest? I’m still trying. But to my great delight, a family of house sparrows has taken up residence in the only-slightly-cracked birdhouse I liberated from a local dumpster. As I told Michael, “We’re gonna have sparrow babies!” (He just rolled his eyes.)

The Time of the Dragonflies is upon us, or just past rather. Did you notice it? Swarms and swarms of dragonflies, flitting thither and yon, seemingly with no purpose. But the mosquito population is blessedly reduced by their frenetic activity. Lucky things! The air is their smörgåsbord. Being below mosquitoes in the food chain, my itchy ankles and elbows bless the dragonflies.

The apple trees were in bloom a week ago. Did you stop long enough to notice? Every branch, every twig of every apple tree in Minnesota was blooming with all its might. Our huge ol’ crabtree was buzzing like a thousand out-of-tune radio stations. Every bee and hummingbird from five counties was eyeballs-deep in the flowers, sucking in nectar. Did you bask in the beauty? Did you sniff deeply of the fragrances of apple and lilac blossoms?

Oh, let me tell you about hummingbirds! Everyone thinks, “Aw, look at the cute little hummer.” Those little guys are vicious!

A lot of my sitting time is devoted to watching hummingbirds. When they find a feeder they like, woe betide any other hummingbird, except their mate, who ventures to stick their beak in it! With a whirrrrrr of wings like a hundred bumblebees, the original hummer swoops in and chases away the trespasser.

And when I say “chase,” I mean puts-a-F-4-Phantom-and-MiG-21-dogfight to shame! Zoooooooooom! The hummers fly at 49 mph through the thick branches of the apple tree, never touching a twig! An experienced fighter pilot couldn’t do that. A couple of these high-speed chases happened near me. Once they sped past one foot from my carotid artery and another time, just above the ground. I have visions of going into ER impaled, with a hummingbird’s beak stuck in my neck. I have a feeling “I tripped and fell into a hummingbird” just won’t hack it as an explanation!

Having chased the marauder away, our Homing Hummer flies back to the feeder and does sentry duty. I kid you not! He flies back-and-forth, back-and-forth protecting his feeder. Like an airborne Queen’s Guard. The only hummer he’ll allow to have a drink is his mate. Cutest thing you ever saw!

But you can’t appreciate all that unless you drop everything (including Spring Cleaning) and take the time. This is the first year I’ve really taken the time to “smell the roses.” Perhaps before I didn’t feel comfortable sitting outside because I always felt exposed, like I was being watched. (Hey! I wrote an article about that!) Perhaps I was too busy performing or too exhausted from hypothyroidism. Perhaps I hadn’t progressed far enough into recovery to feel really, really happy. It was all-of-the-above really.

This year, I’m trying to take the time to “smell the roses.” Only we changed the cliché to “Take the time to eat the lilacs.” It hearkens back to my penchant for bringing flowers into the house and sticking them under everyone’s noses. When I offered a sniff of the lilacs to our doxiepoo, she instantly took a bite of them instead! And that’s when we changed the saying. LOL

All that to say that I’ve missed so much by spending so many years mired in misery. In To-Do lists. In exhaustion. In trying to be so perfect that no narcissist could every criticize me again. (Insert snort here! They will always find something to nag you about!)

Michael tried to teach me. To learn what he learned, when he was diagnosed with a terminal lung disease. He even gave me a pewter pendant that reads, “Every day is a gift from God.” I’m really trying to see life as Michael sees it: a beautiful, wonderful blessing.

As Erma Bombeck (my hero!) wrote when looking back at her life’s regrets, “I wish I’d eaten more ice cream and less cottage cheese.” Well, like so many of you, I’m avoiding the extra calories in ice cream too. But there’s “ice cream” in fragrant lilacs, flowering trees, flitting dragonflies, angry hummingbirds, scudding clouds and hilarious dogs that don’t realize they have a piece of schmutz stuck to their nose and eat the lilacs. That’s the stuff that life is made of.

“If you have two loaves of bread,
sell one and buy a lily!”

If you liked what you read, please click here! There’s more where that came from! 😉 Thank you!

Photo by Mike Miley

Are You Living or Merely Performing?

Lenora Thompson

Lenora Thompson is a syndicated Huffington Post freelance writer and food blogger. Her readers call her the "Edward Snowden" and "Wikileaks" of narcissism because of her no-holds-barred-take-no-prisoners approach to writing about narcissism. “Narcissism Meets Normalcy” is the real-life, ongoing story of her healing journey from being held “hostage” by a multi-generational, cult-like narcissistic family. It's gritty and real, bloody and bruised, humorous and sarcastic. Lenora Thompson considers herself a “whistleblower,” shining a spotlight on narcissistic abuse so others can also claim their freedom and experience healing. To learn more about Lenora, her husband Michael's heroic battle with Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis and to read her writings about food, please visit Thank you!

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APA Reference
Thompson, L. (2018). Are You Living or Merely Performing?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 9, 2020, from


Last updated: 4 Jun 2018
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