Thursday, August 09, 2007

On Short-cuts and Loopholes

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?


Dak-Ind said...

you know, i came to many of the same realizations my self a few years ago. it seems so simple, once you stumble to the answer, but until you do, life can be so hard.

congratualtions on your milestone.

be well, from us, and michele.

Anonymous said...

oh so simple, yet so hard to follow on a continous basis with so many distractions along the way. Congrats on living life your way.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on your milestone -- you continue to inspire me, Mr. A.

Good evening from me and from Michele.

HRH Courtney, Queen of Everything said...

Thank you for that.

Michele sent me.

Pat said...

Every paragraph a gem. That should be required reading in all sixth forms to help others see the light before doing - as many of us do - waste the time we have. Thank you for that Mike and God bless.
Michele sends her best wishes.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on your milestone. You've given some good advice. It feels good when you can reach an understanding like that.

Oh, by the way? GO RAIDERS!

Bobkat said...

Yeah, like you said, it's so simple and yet so complicated all at once. I think everyone has to come to this realisation their own way and some take longer than others. Of course for some it comes all too late...

You always set out your reflections so well. I am sure it is because you have thought about these things alot. It comes over that way.

Michele sent me this time but I usually show up :)

BreadBox said...

Sometimes the most sacred of secrets are the simplest to know, but the hardest to understand.

Now you know the secret, good luck in implementing it!

Ellen said...

Happy belated birthday, fellow Leo. My, oh my, those milestones are coming by fast lately, aren't they? I'll have hit the half century mark on the 20th, and am still amazed that I made it this far. However most of it is due to all the things you mentioned in your post: hard work and determination to see it through. (Oh, and a great reverence for the survival chip implanted at birth.)

Through all your posts I have seen a personal growth come out through your writing..... and a credibility that nothing comes easy, but is worth the effort no matter what path we take to get "there". Congrats, my friend.... and many, many more milestones to cross.

Theo said...

spoken like a true recoverer...

congrats. --big hugs--

Anonymous said...

From those dead ends we get the strength to move on.

Acceptance makesit just a bit easier.
Michele sent me here to reflect over it.

flleenie said...

This read hits home in a very familiar way, Back in the day, I wasn't an angel either. But even though I stumbled, I woke up & still landed on my feet, thank the Lord.

Michele sent me

Anonymous said...

Mike... You inspire me.

"Rome truly was not built in a day" -- You are right. Let me tell you my experience, in a quick nutshell: January 27, 1997. There was an icestorm (we don't have many of those in BC) where I was, unfortunately, or now that I look at it, fortunately, involved in an 18 car pile up. By the time the Firetruck (that was carrying the jaws of life to get me out of my car) was involved, my life changed forever.

In fact, it changed the moment the first truck hit my driver's side door, head-on. That impact, while it happened, it seemed, made me realize that I could live or die during this 'adventure'.

I took 3 years to heal. But, you know... I healed in moments in my head when I realized in that one moment that I wasn't living the life I should be.

From that moment onwards, and completely transparent to my then-husband, I worked myself out of a bad, unfulfilling marriage, re-educated myself while rehabilitating myself, and I'm now in a position I never dreamed I would be back in the late 90s.

I'm a strong believer that you can do anything you put your mind to, now.

Thanks... And the lovely Michele sent me your way tonight. But, I would have been by anyhow!

Anonymous said...

:P I'm here again, because Michele broke her own rules... so blame her.

"Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream -- It is not dying... It is not dying"

Keeping with my Beatles theme. ;)

craziequeen said...

I was all about The Big Picture when I was younger, then illness, major surgery and the onset of long term depression changed my focus....realising life goes on a day at a time was a milestone for me.

Now it's all about one day at a time. I don't think more than a few days ahead. Work pressure me to produce a long term training plan and I can't even do that!

Hi Mike, it's a cool coincidence that Michele sent me to see you, seeing as you nailed my caption contest last week!

Happy Realisation Milestone!


OldLady Of The Hills said...

Well that is the thing though Mike, isn't it?...And it IS Simple. It's just that so many don't know that and so then they are never living in "the moment" but always in the "future".....Isn'tr it great that you got to the place where you realized that the NOW is really all we have. Yes, long term goals are good, in fact they are great...But, how we live each day is what truly becomes our life---in fact, it is our life. Congratulations to you on this milestone!

MsT said...

living in the moment - thich nhat hahn writes about this quite often, and when i can live there, life is quite good. congratulations on your anniversary and thank you for visiting.

The Zombieslayer said...

I can't speak for others, but I've found you have to live in both the present and the future. It's all about goals, setting goals, and achieving them. You have to enjoy the journey too. If you're doing something you don't enjoy, you need to be doing something else, or you need to learn how to enjoy it.

awareness said...

A beautiful testimonial, Mike learned through deeply felt life lessons.

It is simple......the concept of living life in the present, but so darn difficult to reach that frame of mind as you know. For the most part, I think I succeed...well maybe 4 days a week out of 7. My brain and the way the world evolves (especially the work world) often push me into a too forward looking frame of mind.

It's all about granting ourselves the ability to seek serenity by realizing we don't have to walk our journey ourselves.....don't you think?

I love visiting your site. It's a daily part of my "present" life....and feel blessed to have found you a little over a year ago.

Michele sent me.........but you know I would've been here on my own too. So, we both send you smiling hellos.

take care friend. I'm proud of your accomplishments and milestones..... :)

Just a trumpet player said...

I also celebrated a milestone this past Monday. And for the first time, it felt good to know that even though I am getting older, I also seem to be getting wiser.

Congratulation on your Milestone...
Very glad the new path you choose led us to you.

kenju said...

It is TRUTH, Mike, and I am glad that you stumbled upon it.

mckay said...

is it any wonder that "present" and" gift" are synonymous?

(and, yes, i had to spell check 'synonymous')