Just Shut Up For A Second
This life stuff: is it a gamble – or a sure thing?
My first physical moment here on earth and there I was with a 250,000,000-1 chance that I wouldn’t make it; still a wriggle here, a flick there, a couple of backstrokes, a sharp kick down the back stretch and voila: I out swam all those other sperm!
I won the ultimate lottery! No matter what happened next, there I was alive and kicking. We all get here by over coming insurmountable odds – we start off as lottery winners – maybe since there are so many winners, we forget that for every person that’s born there were two hundred fifty million that couldn’t get to the magical sphere in time.
For this winner it seemed like an awful lot of hard work only to find out I was on the bottom rung of a five-boy ladder. Hit the F-FWD button and you will find me in a steamy moment of blind with passionate lust, scattering my silly choices. Then shazam just like magic, I was a high school drop-out with a pregnant wife at sixteen and a father a month after I turned seventeen. It now seems so long ago!
Soon a specific blend of circumstance and reckoning beyond reason or control, spun me into making some down right stupid decisions, and bahd-a-bing bahd-a-boom ad a little cocaine to the equation, ply me with lots of booze and by all rights I should have been dead in my early twenties. But I survived, I got well.
And still I couldn’t see what a winner I was! All I could see were my losses – self-imposed though they were – I couldn’t see past what I missed and over into what I had, right before my eyes. I had long since forgotten that I was a lottery winner. I forgot what a blessing it was to beat the odds straight out of the gate.
Hit that F-FWD button again and hey I joined the fast track, I went back to school, got a degree zoom through a more than a dozen years of functional living but feeling like Sisyphus doing the same thing over and over for the rest of his life. I was positive that my destiny was to swim constantly against the current – I mean, hey: I was the swimming winner earlier in this story, right? Evidentially somewhere in my subconscious I truly believed it was my lot in life to have to swim up stream forever- as I carefully mix my metaphors – I swam my rock to the top of Sisyphus’s hill just so it could roll back down.
Is it more than redundant to say: After I had acquired cars, a mortgage, furniture, things, stuff and cash, I wasn’t getting anywhere in my life! I was stuck in a digital loop swimming up stream with my rock, then doing it all again and again day after day. My life had no gleam, glisten, or sparkle not even a dull glow.
Then there came a day, a day that started like every other. At least it appeared that way at first. In retrospect I can see what made this day different: it had scores and hundreds of days just like it, all piled up, one on top of the other, like an elaborately balanced house of cards. I was heading toward the curb again to grab my stone and start swimming when I stopped.
I don’t mean I stopped moving – though I mean I did quit moving, I stopped dead in my tracks – but more than that I stopped thinking. I heard a bird call, I felt the breeze on my skin, I watched a leaf fall all the way to the ground. Just for a split second, I had no thoughts. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized I had been living with an endless stream of chatter rattling around my brain constantly day in day out! Do this, pay that, go here, make this deadline, hurry, hurry, hurry! An endless stream of chattering drivel.
It is hard to believe even now, looking back, that so many things could change because of something so simple: “Just shut up for a second.” Wow! I remember my brothers and mother saying that to me all the time when I was little. I know for a fact, they had no idea then, how profound and how life changing it would have been for us all, if my whole family could have “just shut up for a second”.
My life changed in the flash of a moment. I didn’t know it then but the course, direction and end result of my life was completely and irrevocably rearranged. All because my mind stopped its chatter just long enough for me to know I was there: I felt the current of my life flowing in, through, and around me, just a flutter at first; it started with soft a tug then a firm pull; I stepped up to the curb like always, but suddenly I no longer had the energy to swim up stream. I was too tired to go against this heretofore-unnoticed current of my life.
Once I noticed it, I was quite amazed at how much energy it took to swim in the wrong direction every day carrying that awful stone. So, I quit and I surrendered to the pull and tug. It was a weird feeling at first, very scary, sort of like plunging into an inky black ocean of void with nothing but metaphorical surfboard. I closed my eyes and let the current have its way with me – all the while I was afraid that any second the wave was going break over a bottomless abyss and suck me endlessly down into nothingness. That sensation was quickly replaced by the euphoric sensation of “now that I have given up all hope, I feel so much better”. Then little by little, I began to see there was no danger – quite the opposite really – there was nothing but hope and I began for the first time in my life to truly enjoy the ride.
Then in no time at all, seeing that I was making progress with almost no effort by going with the flow, I realized I had more energy because I wasn’t working so hard at swimming up stream. And the stone? It was nowhere to be found! Then I had a real epiphany: If I go with the flow and use that lottery winning wriggle/flick/backstroke that got me here in the first place, I could make some real progress here.
That was when I began to surf through my life, loving the ebbs and flows of the currents surrounding and engulfing me. All the while, getting a clearer and cleaner picture of who I was and where I might be going. I began to see a real difference between who I am and who I think I should be. Now it is musical the way the current bobs me to and fro while the buoyant energy of my life carries me along without a worry in the world. Well, there are worries, but as it turns out they are always pointless exercises in habitual futility.
So here I am amazed that it has been over fifteen years since the day I stopped the chatter in my mind at that crucial moment. Nowadays the journey of my life is so exhilarating that any plan, goal or destination is completely secondary to the blissful chatter-free moments I make time for in my charmed existence. An existence that in a physical sense is more than half over, still, this morning as I write this, the river of my life seems into stretch out into a vast and spacious valley so wide that the perspective blends into a mere pinpoint on the horizon. As far as I know my life is an endless stream before me. Who knows how long I get to ride? Really and truly I don’t have time for too many ponderings of when and where it ends, all I have time for is this moment, and in this moment I am so vibrantly alive, I can actually feel the earth spinning on its axis, and it makes me F-in’ giddy!
I have walked many roads, worn many hats, done a great many things and still here I am: nowhere at all. As Don McLean once wrote: “There’s no need for turning back. All roads lead to where I stand. And I believe I’ll walk them all, no matter what I may have planned.”
All I know for sure is, I am just another lottery winner, looking at my life as it is today, and I am filled with a breathless wonder at the bounty and blessings that are pilled at my feet. No not material abundance, though I never want for anything. I mean the bounty of love in my life, the friendships and people I hold dear, I am talking about an awakening that gave me the right to be me; an appreciation for my own autonomy, so clearly present that I finally know beyond any thought of knowing that all I do and all I will strive to do for the rest of my life is just be me, doing what I love! I have no special powers or talents, it is just me being me. Finally being me, doing what I love to do: that is enough. It just so happens that I love bringing joy to those around me – now that really lights me up!
What a life, what a journey, what a ride… thank you for being apart of my life, even if only by reading this!
Revised December 15, 2009
Happy To Be Here,