There are all sorts of anniversaries. We celebrate some; some we commemorate and some just simply mark the passage of time. Birthdays, weddings, deaths, victories and even defeat in many forms are often noticed at annual intervals. We all recognize some of these events and although there are some universal perceptions regarding them, many hold meaning uniquely our own. Last Monday I passed such a milestone and although the substance of it is not something I am willing to disclose, the ramifications definitely are.
As regular readers here know, I have not led a “cookie-cutter” life. Who has, really? But even beyond the standard deviation one would find in society, mine has been a life of extremes. Due to a number of realities, many self-created, I have taken the path less traveled. I have hit the potholes; traveled the treacherous mountain and dirt roads; hit too many dead-ends and more than once ran out of gas. Yet I am still here, still trucking along… and still blazing my own trail.
Three years ago, I was in the midst of one of those dead-ends. Coincidentally, I was also out of gas, so to speak. I had to take some responsibility in my life; I had to make it happen. More than anything else, I came to a place of acceptance and realized that these things weren’t just happening to me, I was creating them - even if I was doing so passively. It was on August 6, 2004 that I began to come to a new understanding about life - my life - and my role in it. I was at one of the lowest points in my life and it took a complete change in perception to come out of it.
It was not “depression.” It was, at once, more complicated and much simpler than that. I had to let go of some of the ideals that had driven me for so long. I had to ask for help, I had to rely on others and I had to have faith that everything would be ok. Indeed, I eventually came to the realization that it always is - it has to be, it can’t be any other way. It was my expectations that were mucking everything up. My view of what life should look like was so rigid that anything outside of that ideal was simply not ok. Yet life marched along quite all right without my consent.
I was always looking for the rewards of hard work without putting forth any effort. If there was a short cut, I was on it. I was self-obligated to seize upon any opportunity to avoid work. I spent more energy trying to get out of doing the work than it would have taken to do the work in the first place. I know this probably sounds exceedingly simple to some, but I did not get it - and I am not stupid. I didn’t learn this behavior from my parents - they are both self-made and very hard working; I had excellent role models. It could have been a generational issue as many of my peers seemed to be in the same boat, but many more got through and made something of themselves.
They did as I am doing today. While I was seeking the easier, softer way, they had already found it - they were doing the work. Now I don’t want to make it sound as though I was some sort of deadbeat dad, welfare lout; I was not. I had many jobs and good ones at that. What I didn’t have was follow-through. I was incapable of consistently applying myself day-in and day-out. I viewed life in terms of a destination - retirement, with immense wealth, of course. I never could see life from a much less complicated and easier to comprehend perspective: today.
I figured out that my view of life could only render short-term commitment. My focus was too far out, the amount of work too overwhelming, the destination just too far away. But the destination is the journey. It is right here, right now. Indeed, the destination in life is not retirement, the destination in life is death - and that is where I was driving myself. I didn’t even know it. By focusing on just today, my life has become - in just three years - a paradise. It is everyday. The reward to living life in the moment is the next moment - that’s all. Everything else is gravy.
I have plans and goals and most all will take longer than one day to complete. In fact, the “big-picture” plans couldn’t possibly be done in a day by anyone under any circumstances. Rome truly was not built in a day. I do have some things to do today, however, and there is more than enough time to do them. It is true of every day. I plan the actions - the work - and not the outcome. If everything came out as I would have planned it, I’d have sold myself way short. There are possibilities today that I could not have dreamed of three years ago. Yet with the passing of 1,098 days, one day at a time, they are my reality today.
This is the secret to life. It is not rocket science. Live life in the present, never plan results and do the work. Simple, no?