Sometimes trying to discover your purpose in life comes in weird packages.
Last Wednesday night, Rene’ came in from her long commute from work—all of about 35 feet—(and don’t think this guy who drives 112 miles ONE WAY does not remind her of real commuting woes daily) to inform me she was not feeling well. Knowing she had a long held breakfast arrangement in Burbank the next morning with my elderly Uncle and my eldest sister troubled her as she knew she would not be well enough in the morning to make it.
She then quite reluctantly asked me if I would go in her place.
My Uncle is a good guy. He lives life on his own terms, never been married, and is very active in the local political community. I enjoy his company, as this 82 year-old man still lifts weights 4 days a week at about 1½ hours a pop. If I’m still tearing up the gym at 82 I will die a happy man.
My sister, on the other hand, ah, hmmmm, ehhh, well, let us just say we have had our differences over the years and do not converse much. Yes. I will leave it at that. Family relationships are weird and complex. Let your imaginations take over from here as you all can do the dysfunctional family math. No need to drag family baggage to a blog.
Yet, I knew things might (would) be a bit awkward, I agreed to go to breakfast in Rene’s stead.
Deep into my drive to Burbank I realized I absentmindedly left my cell phone at home causing it to trigger—the dreaded 5 stages of cell phone alienation- denial (it can’t be!), anger (I am so stupid!), withdrawal (today will just be a waste of a day), bargaining (I can use my office phone) and finally acceptance (oh shit)- as I knew I was far too many miles into the trip to go back. As I thought of the upcoming breakfast, the stark reality hit me that now when those odd moments of silent tension hit I would have no technological bailout. You know, to stare at my blank text/facebook/instragram message alert and pretend something was really there.
This breakfast would be old school.
Pleasantly, the rest of the morning went swimmingly, sans my electronic leash, and even in those awkward conversational moments with my sister, I used the conversational starter that every human being over 50 can use when scratching your head for something to say, “So, ah, have you gotten your colonoscopy yet?”
She even laughed.
This prompted a huge discussion on PPO’s, HMOs, Obamacare and colon health.
When in doubt, always play the colon card.
It was a lovely morning. Really it was. Afterwards I went to go say hello to my parents in Burbank when it hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt so happy and fully content inside as if someone reached inside of me, scraped out any and all anxiety and stress, and replaced it with a smooth elixir of tranquility and joy.
Being the critical thinking type and always searching for the cause and effect of life’s happenings, I began to connect the psychological dots in search of the cause for this wonderful feeling effect in terms of my day without personal, mobile technology. At first, my happiness mathematical equation went something like this:
Life – cell phone = tranquility and being fully invested in the moment.
Yet, as I thought more about the morning and felt the influence of a book I am currently reading entitled, The Undefeated Mind by Dr. Alex Lickerman, MD., I realized that morning/day of peace had less to do with technology and much more to do with kindness. My updated formula went something like this:
Life + Acts of kindness – cell phone = tranquility and being fully invested in the moment.
Rather than waking up and begin serving myself (accomplishing tasks, going to the gym, “getting it on”), I woke up and began serving others with focus and without distraction. True it was not a Mother Theresa level of kindness, yet taking a small step to mend a distressed relationship and picking up my Uncle for breakfast counts for something…even if it was somewhat forced upon me. Ok, maybe just a little something. Baby steps.
Lickerman writes of “provisional bodhisattva” defined in Buddhism as a person who dedicates himself to the happiness of others. When one commits to this, not only does one enjoy greater satisfaction in life, but also, according to recent research, gains something that the joy felt from fleeting pleasures could not provide: Increased strength.
“But, Jimmy, you give to your students all the time. You dedicate your life to others in this way. You have always been about helping others. Nothing has changed.”
True dat and thank you omniscient third person. Yet what you do and how you see yourself can be entirely different. I can be a guy who writes, though am I a writer? I may be a guy who plays baseball, though am I a baseball player? I may be guy who gives to others, though am I a giver? Is that who I am?
I guess I am that. Yet I am also one hell of a receiver as I love to feed myself everything good that life has to offer. I need to feed myself in order to help feed others.
So, thanks to Rene’s brief bout with a flu bug, an 82 year-old Uncle, a strained relationship with my sister, a forgotten cell phone and a stack of harvest nut pancakes at IHop…oh and the colon, I am in the early stages of developing my new life mantra:
“To receive graciously, to give daily with positivity, while helping others discover their voice.” Or something like that. It is a work in progress.
Yet that is me. That is what I do. That is who I am.
What is 112 miles one way when you get to live a blessed life with this purpose?
It’s nothing. Igot this.