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One Mans' Journey

I have a friend who lives in TN.  He’s 20 years younger than me and almost everyday we text each other, “how was your day, what did you do today”?  Seems pretty innocuous, and yet, it’s a simple accountability check to keep us both focused and motivated throughout the day.  Now, of course this has become even more important over the last 8 weeks with COVID-19.  

These last 8 weeks have provided a cacophony of emotions, mental gymnastics and massive amounts of time to get things done around the house!  Everywhere you look from social media to home depot lines, people are shifting focus from work to life and look at what’s beginning to happen.  Our societal focus is changing from one of such hard driven economic needed finances to down home wholesome activities such as yard work, gardening, and new hobbies. Yes, they’re still worried about what comes next and their jobs, however, many have begun to enjoy life again on a better and different level.  

Maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m the only one having this epiphany.

My wife and I love the movie, Eat, Pray, Love and in it there’s a scene that takes place in Italy where Julia Roberts is hanging out in a barber shop while her local guy friends get groomed.  Here, watch the clip below:

https://youtu.be/Gg3n9z5zuJg

Dolce Far Niente…

The sweetness of doing nothing!  I’ve spent the majority of my life chasing…success?  Really, when you think about it, we equate certain accomplishments with success, when really, we are striving to fulfill a creative design inside us on the outside for all the world to see  (My urban definition).  However, we call it work, or success or creating a life or what have you.  The point is, at least for me, I thought success, for me, meant accomplishing and achieving whatever dreams or goals I thought I had, when in reality, success for me is about liking who I am and enjoying the moment I’m in as much as possible, something that has eluded me most of my life.  

There’s a wise old saying, “It’s the journey that matters, not the destination.”  This is saying that the process is more important than the outcome.  Okay, I see value in that, but, without the destination there’s no journey.  So what importance is the end result or destination, I guess it depends on the subject.  For me, it’s life, how to enjoy it the most, how to be content with who I am in this moment, forgive myself for past transgressions to myself, my God and the people sharing my journey.  Again, something that has eluded me most of my life.  Yet, there’s something to the sweetness of doing nothing, like gently swinging in a hammock on a lovely spring afternoon under a shady oak tree.  

Even The Bible tells us in Psalms 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God.  Does that mean only in our stillness we’ll know (intimate knowledge of) God, does that thought also transcend the Bible to every moment in life?!  I’ve got to say a resounding YES!  If I’ve learned anything over these last 8 weeks it’s that I’ve done myself a grave injustice.  How so you ask?  It’s simple really, in the last 8 weeks I’ve learned to give myself permission to feel certain emotions, to cry at certain scenes in Little House on The Prairie, (even in front of my wife), and to quit life or a while.  To find as much time as I can to be still and listen, to really listen, for God’s whisper in my ear, to my own heart, head and rhythm, to the ever growing presence of the natural world around us that we are often too busy to see, hear or appreciate.  

So I quit, I quit, my job!  In truth I had to, my wife has asthma, I was a share ride driver, I wouldn’t jeopardize my wife’s health and we decided I needed to find work from home for the foreseeable future to be safe.  

In quitting, I realized I had backed myself into a corner, what was I going to do moving forward for work.  You see, I’m one of those people who never wanted to be defined by my job or work and yet my ego had other plans.  So what was I now, who was I?  I could do phone sales, customer service, management, but it all left me feeling empty and anxious inside.  I have always felt, as many people have, that I’m not doing what I was created to do.  The problem is I don’t know what that is and I can do many things well and am frozen by indecision, due to my previous careers which have left me soulless and I can’t live that way anymore.

If you’re married or reside with a significant other you know all too well the assumed emotions and thoughts that can creep in if you don’t communicate effectively.  Thankfully and mercifully I have a most gracious and understanding wife who sees and feels my frustrations and emotional shitstorm and works with me as I search for my best life, as apparently she found hers.  God love her, cause I sure do!

To not feel guilty over not working, IE; bringing in money,  I did everything I could think of to look and be productive in finding new work, producing a vision and of course around the house with self important projects and well intended honey-do lists. I put so much stress on myself to;

  1. provide for the family, which I did poorly

  2. to “be” somebody, imo, still just me

  3. to accomplish great things and high achievements, ok, accomplished a few

The point is I was so focused on doing instead of being, you know, the Human part, that I never enjoyed life in a real soul satisfying way.  I have a few, but very few moments where I feel the full weight of my invested being in it, that’s sad to me.  I haven’t experienced my best life yet and those on my journey thus far still haven’t seen the best of me and that’s frustrating to a terrible degree.  The fallout from this way of living, at least or me, If I  wasn’t the best at what I was doing, what was the point?  I was miserable living this way and I didn’t even know it.  

Little by little, I started to change.  My hopes, dreams and desires weren’t meeting up with the expectations, thus disappointment set in which turned to anger which turned to depression once I realized my anger and rage were Sirens leading me to an impotent end, where I felt disconnected to those around me, even my own sense of self worth and reason for existing came into question.  I felt powerless to create change and it only made me worse!  Even worse, this loop began playing over and over in my head and became impossible to stop, thus, I continued to transform from a once empathetic, loving, caring, deeply intimate,passionate and insightful good hearted guy, I became all that enshrouded in a veil of rage and anger, insecurity and self pity all rolled into one person and a vile need for a super violent release.  In truth, this has cost me a lot in life, or at least I believe it has.  Covid provided me an opportunity to stop and evaluate this cycle, where I was, who I was and what was going on.  Of course I went through the 5 stages of; 

  1. Oh shit, who is this person

  2. How the hell did you get in?

  3. Okay, I’ll change, nope, tried that, completely impotent

  4. Pray-God, please change me, fix me, make this better

  5. Surrender  

So I did surrender, now I tell people I’m retired.  Because I don’t see the point in moving forward until I know where and what that looks like.  More importantly I’m not moving in any direction that doesn’t provide me the same level of contentment I’m experiencing right now in these moments of just existing.  I’ve spent more time “being still” and understanding “Dolce far niente” in these last few weeks than at any other time before in my life.  And guess what, I’ve got new perspective…some good, some not so good, like;

  1. I’ve had some pretty shitty circumstances hit me in the last 15 years and yep, I absolutely failed at being a relatively decent person through it all.  That is to say I allowed my outside circumstances to change who I was on the inside for the worse.  Not a heartwarming revelation to say the least and one that needs obvious attention, STAT!

  2. No matter the work I did, I was never happy or satisfied

  3. I’ve never had my own “dream” or “vision”, I’ve had ideas, but not an all consuming desire to chase after something

  4. Who I became caused lasting damage to my loved ones.  In truth I had to allow myself some forgiveness and grace on this one as we all experience this in our life from the bottom up and the top down. 

  5. I am exactly who God made me to be in this very moment and every other moment in my life.  An overwhelming thought that troubles me greatly.

  6. I’ve started to feel like a new person in recent weeks, with a different outlook and thought process.  

  7. I’m not going back to work until I have my vision or I’m simply living that vision now and enjoying it for once, in a very long while.

So What’s your take away from all this?

Well, for some of you, this was a waste of time and a no brainer, because you’re living your best life now and to you I say congrats.  To the rest of us who are still figuring life and ourselves out;

  1. Be kind to yourself first, others only give you what you give yourself

  2. Take time for yourself to just exist, and experience where you’re at with your fullest attention

  3. The story is not over yet.  Some stories are short, some are long, us, yeah we’re the epic novels of history, so give yourself a measure of grace

  4. Forgive yourself and accept that God’s not done with you yet

  5. Our best and our worst, is no better and no worse than every other person in this journey we call life.  We all experience the full spectrum, it’s just that we all handle it differently.  Learn and move on.

Finally, as cliche as it is, find ways to enjoy the journey more than the thought of the destination.  The destination is just that, a thought until you actually arrive there, the journey is your life happening all around you in real time.  Along the way, be the kind of person you want others to be to you and don’t let your outside circumstances change you on the inside.  Sounds easy sure, but, it takes a present mind and willing heart.

Good luck and see you along the journey!

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Written by Brian Mabin

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