Secret of Adulthood: Lose Yourself to Find Yourself.

From Further Secrets of Adulthood.

I think this Secret of Adulthood operates on more than one level.

One way that I “lose myself” is by reading — I lose myself in a book, and I find myself in a book. Or music, sports, drawing, cooking…there are many ways to do this.

And also, sometimes we have to lose our way in order to find our way.

I’m reminded of the e. e. cummings poem, “maggie and milly and molly and may”:

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

I especially love that last stanza.

How about you? Do you lose yourself–to find yourself?

  • mom2luke

    Being outside! For the past year I’ve discovered I can hit the tennis ball with my son (he has severe autism), I’d given up tennis because it hurt my carpal tunnel…but I guess it healed because it doesn’t hurt me any more. My son is good at returning the ball –we don’t play games, so it’s an exercise in cooperation not competition (i.e., hitting the ball where the other can get to it, rather than the opposite)…I LOVE playing with him, it’s good for both of us and my thoughts wander back to the time when I was his age, playing on my high school tennis team and with my father.

    Parenting my son is usually so difficult, but I’m genuinely happy on the court with him, and so grateful to have found something “age appropriate” we can do together that is outside, FUN and good exercise for us both….it also brings back happy childhood memories of playing with my dad, my brother, friends. I feel like “me” again.

  • Kim Ewell

    I do, intentionally. When I’ve had “enough” of me and the world, I go outside and take photographs of beautiful things with my digital camera. It’s a dance of gratitude. I come back relaxed and refreshed and have some amazing photos that I can share with others.

  • Another paradox of happiness!

  • NOLADebbi

    You surprised me with this one! I thought you were going in a completely different direction. I have usually heard this in the context of service to others as a path to joy. Often, we can find contentment and happiness inside of ourselves while we are doing something mundane – and seemingly outside of ourselves and our own wants and needs – as long as we are doing it for a greater cause. Even something as mind numbing as placing endless cans on a food pantry shelf can teach us a lot about ourselves if done as an act of sacrificial love, not just as something to check off the to do list. I agree with your interpretation of losing yourself as well; my comment is about broadening the parameters, not dismissing the value of activities such as losing yourself in a book.

  • Penelope Schmitt

    sewing and working with fabric is a completely immersive ‘flow’ experience for me — and what emerges always surprises me!

  • Love this! I think improv does the trick for me. You get to be someone, anyone completely different and put yourself in a set of unexpected circumstances. I always end up learning something about myself!

  • I lose myself in music. I love putting on a record and just closing my eyes and focusing on the lyrics. A lot of times it speaks to my soul and calms my fears. Music to me is pure emotion. As a person struggling with bipolar disorder, I enjoy the pure emotion of a song because my emotions are many times irrational, confusing, and cause me to fear. I truly love losing myself in music.

  • Andy Kaufman, PMP

    In Tom Rath’s book coming out next week, he makes an interesting assertion that comes to mind with this particular Secret. He writes, “Research suggests that the more value you place on your own happiness, the more likely you are to feel lonely on a daily basis… The pursuit of meaning–not happiness–is what makes life worthwhile.”

    The context of his comments is when we’re focused on ourselves at the cost of others, we lose. When we lose ourselves by serving others, we end up benefiting.

    BTW, I “lost myself” reading “Better Than Before” last night. Loving it!

  • Megan

    I look at this a little differently. More like finding ourselves under all the labels we place on ourselves. Like “losing” the label of wallflower/shy girl and “finding” that I can be more extroverted than I realized.
    And wow, thanks for that poem, especially “as small as a world and as large as alone”.

  • Chelly Megale

    THe book WILD by Cheryl Strayed popped straight in my mind when I read the headline on this post. I think her life example ties in perfectly with this Secret of Adulthood.

    • gretchenrubin

      Oh, I love that book.

      • Chelly Megale

        Me too! I recommended to my mum. She’s reading at the moment.
        Actually I usually try to recommend books to her. Last year she bought The Happiness Project and she loved it. She’s a slow reader though, but she reads all through in the end 🙂