“Tell me, what is it you plan do with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver, in her poem, The Summer Day.
I was maybe five or six when Mr Bernie, from down the street asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I clearly remember the encounter. I also remember my, caught off guard response; I don’t know! His next statement has stayed with me ever since. “If you will help people you will be a great man.”
I have thought about this exchange many times throughout my life. It was as though something got embedded in me that day. I have wanted to help people for as far back as I can recall. Something that wasn’t made clear that day, was the root cause, of my inclinations to be useful. I regret the omission.
I’ve observed I’m most satisfied when I’m helping others. But, I’ve also realized, the desire to help others is rooted in a deep desire to help ourselves. Standing in the candy aisle, at the corner store, I was waging war in my mind. After a few minutes I noticed a lady had been standing there for as long as I had. Our eyes met, we smiled at each other, and she offered; there are too many choices.
My dilemma was not what to select, it was to not select at all. I’m more than prone to the sweeter things in life. Literally and figuratively. I heard my comrade mumble, what do I want? as I walked away. I knew what I wanted. It isn’t on the self, it’s in my heart. I want to say no when it’s in my best interest. My best self is to not give in to the very thing I will hate immediately.
Life is a sequence of choices made strong, or weakened, by every decision. We often forfeit the opportunity to entertain major life events because we didn’t practice good judgement when small everyday challenges presented themselves. It turns out that greatness is in the little things. We are always practicing to stay where we are or to move on.
Life is fierce and fragile. Extreme and apathetic. We are challenged to see the world as friendly or unfriendly. Inviting or threatening. Peace of mind and sustainable joy reside in balance and moderation. Maintaining mindfulness about what we really want, what we value the most, is the trick to living on purpose.
Passion seeks expression but has no compass. Without instruction it can go in any direction. I walked away from the candy that day, empty-handed, but in control of my destiny. Sugar is not always a friend in spite of its comforting qualities. In order to optimize my intention to help others I need to protect my heart.
This internal dialogue is more familiar than I would like. My habits fight to keep things the way they have always been while my intuition says there’s a better way to live. Change is threatening. Distractions can be overwhelming. Silencing my tendencies comes down to a clear and present choice; Do I want what I have more than I want what I don’t? To align with my authentic self I have to give up the life I have for the life I want.
In Hamlet, Polonius instructed his son Laertes with; “This above all: to thine own self be true.” Much debate centers around meaning and interpretation and certainly around application in modern-day social experiments. But one thing that seems beyond reproach is the virtue of authenticity.
Indecision is commitment. Loyalty to the undefined is no less viral. Direction, or lack of direction, from the heart can be equally potent. I’ve always been driven even when I was unsure of where I was going.
As I listened to the well-known speaker, lay out his steps to success, my ears where perky and my interest was aroused. Like the many other self-help and empowering events I’ve attended my appetite for completeness could be heard growling in the pit of my stomach. I was forever hungry and ready to eat because I believed something was missing and I desperately wanted to find it.
We are all vulnerable to some degree. Willing to believe this is the person or the thing we long for. I was ripe for deception and manipulation based completely on my perceptions of myself and those around me. What works for someone else might not be the magic carpet-ride we sign-up for.
Every sales pitch I’ve ever heard, no matter what the product or system, includes the testimony of humble beginnings and adversities overcome. I’m always moved by personal triumph. I love to see underdogs make it. The thing I’ve had to isolate is my own story. If I want to be someone else I should imitate; If I want to be me I should initiate. Learning from someone is quite different from learning to be that person.
I look for patterns and habits that emerge within my decision-making processes. The thing that has climbed to the top of my priorities is whether or not the value is strong enough for my personal pledge of allegiance. When the honeymoon is over will I have the passion to finish what I started or the intestinal fortitude to call it a day?
Change is available as an instant option but is rarely chosen. We aren’t customarily ready for the new feeling. Good feelings are the things that propels us onward. Feeling is the dominant acquisition. We are willing to do more of what gives us the feelings we like.
I’ve come to the proverbial crossroads many times. I have habitually continued in things that didn’t allow for the greater good. On those occasions when I chose wisely, finding the courage to walk away from dysfunction and dissatisfaction, I have discovered fulfillment, joy, and peace of mind.
We can’t expect a sweet-tooth to willingly disappear in the name of good health. We can’t blame too many choices for chaining our wings to the ground. Invitations to friendship, partnership, or opportunity are flirtations that should be courted for a while. I’ve learned to ask an important question before I enter into a personal or professional union; will you merry me?
I’m willing to work hard, but, the merry-age has to be greater than the adversity!
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