I found a treasure trove of wisdom today at the Life Lessons Series hosted on Abubakar Jamil’s blog. It got me to thinking about the lessons I’ve learned in life. They can all be summed up like this:
1. Wake up
2. Grow up
3. Show up
1. Wake up
Wake up and see the world as it really is. When Buddha was asked if he was a god or an angel, he answered no. The questioner persisted, “Then what are you?” Buddha replied, “I am awake.”
I spent decades of my life not seeing the world as it is. Instead, I saw what I wanted to see. I rationalized relationships that were unhealthy. I was the diva of denial. And I was a liar, especially to myself, presenting to the world an image of myself as I wanted to be (read perfect), without regard to the damage my deception caused to my own spirit and to others.
My life was not real. It was made up, because I was afraid to look at truth. But being perfect in a perfect world is stressful! Finally, I couldn’t live like that anymore. Over time, I came to appreciate the perfection of imperfection. As someone wrote, “I’m not okay, and you’re not okay, and that’s okay.” It’s better than okay. It’s perfect.
2. Grow up
Grow up and accept life on its own terms. Recovering alcoholics in AA know all about this. It is embodied in the serenity prayer. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change....”
This was a hard lesson for a control freak like myself. Fortunately, God has a 12 step program for control addicts. It’s called children. I could give you so many examples, but the one I learned the most from was my son’s autism.
I am a problem solver. So I set out to solve the problem of James’s autism. I tried every possible treatment. If a treatment didn’t work, then I simply moved on to the next. I looked for any sign of improvement, finding great significance in ... well, nothing. Each method held such hope ... and led to such despair.
Then one morning I passed the partially open bathroom door as James was brushing his teeth. He was looking in the mirror and making faces and laughing. As I walked by, I heard him say with such exuberant enthusiasm, “It’s GREAT to be James!”
I stopped in my tracks. All this time I thought it must be terrible to be James. And all this time he thought being James was terrific.
3. Show up
Show up and participate in your life. Woody Allen said that 80% of success is just showing up.
Several people I know have died this year. People my age. People who were busy making other plans that did not include dying. So besides missing them, I’ve had my own mortality in my face, up close and personal. And if I didn’t realize it before, I certainly realize now that life is short. While I’m worrying about all the things that might happen in some future I might not even live to see, I’m missing my life right now.
My friends gave me many gifts during their lifetimes, but with their deaths they gave me the gift of an intense appreciation for this very precious present moment.
“Life is short, and we have but little time to gladden the hearts of those who travel this way with us. Oh, be swift to love. Make haste to be kind.”
And that is the most important lesson of all.
10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There) is a program to help us develop habits to grow a joyful spirit. Many of us sabotage our happiness by habits that we might not even be aware of. Identifying and changing these habits can build a reservoir of well-being to enhance our happy times and sustain us during challenging times.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Wake Up, Grow Up, Show Up
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This is just what my work could all try practicing....more often....ReplyDelete
I absolutely love the wake up, grow up, show up idea. That really is the core to living a joyful life, retired or not.ReplyDelete
An amazing post, incredible words, very touching....dear Galen, thank you for gracing us with this beautiful gift....thank you!ReplyDelete
That was an AMAZING post..... you made my brain work today... Thank you!ReplyDelete
What a beautiful post and fantastic set of lessons. It's easiest to remember lessons that come in threes. I got a good chuckle out of the 12-step program for control freaks! Thanks for sharing this beautiful story of your son. The lessons of change and impermanence are also very dear to my heart. It's so nice to connect with you.
Beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing your story.ReplyDelete
Fantastic post - so very true. Growing up is the hardest, I think - still something I'm looking forward to ..ReplyDelete
That's my biggest fear, not being able to accomplish what I want to do before I die. I'm tired of people saying "Live your dream", yeah sure, they don't have two kids, a husband, 8 cars and 2 cats along with 5 chickens. Sure, I'd love to just drop everything, get my passport and go to England. And stay there.ReplyDelete
I love the James story. Yes, indeed, it is great to be James.
I am so appreciative of all these lovely comments--thank you!ReplyDelete
To Alexia--Yes, growing up is hard. It is so challenging not to try to control things. I think I was able to learn this (and to continue learning it) because I just wore myself out! If necessity is the mother of invention, then exhaustion is the mother of spiritual growth!
To ryoko861--I get what you are saying about being tired of the "live your dream" mantra. I have 5 kids (two with autism), no husband, 1 car, 1 dog, and 5 birds. Yes, we can make choices in our lives, but we need to make responsible choices. And perhaps the challenge for us, then, is to find joy in the choices we have made.
I wonder if instead of wishing to live our dream, we can focus on living our life. What I learned from my friends' deaths is that my life was not in some future fantasy. My life is right now, making the bed, feeding the dog, taking a shower. In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy tells Glenda the Good Witch that she learned that everything she wanted was right at home (I'm paraphrasing, obviously).
That doesn't mean we shouldn't have dreams. I have them. And we can take steps to move in the direction of our dreams if we choose to. But along the way, we can live fully in the present moment. Indeed, that is the only way to experience happiness. We can dream about happines in the future, but happiness can only be actually experienced in the present moment.
Thank you for voicing what so many of us feel.
GP: You know this stuff is right up my alley. Great post!!ReplyDelete
JJ: Well, I know now! Thanks! And thanks for the initial name GP--I really like that! --GPReplyDelete
This is one of the most thought provoking and heartening posts I've read this week. Life is short we should embrace not only it but who we are.ReplyDelete
Lovely post, and very well written. Love the messages you are sending to all of us! Thanks!ReplyDelete
I have added myself to follow your blog. You are more than welcome to visit my blog and become a follower also.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the comments. I especially like Facing50's reminder to embrace who we are. Making haste to be kind and being swift to love can start with our own selves!ReplyDelete
If only we could all be like James and look in the mirror and speak the words he spoke...meaning it.ReplyDelete
To covnitkepr1: No kidding. When he said that, I thought, isn't that what we want for all our children, and ourselves, too?!ReplyDelete
You have shared such great life lessons!
1. Wake up
This is something I can relate to as I also went through this phase. Looking at the truth is never easy, but as the cliche saying goes, the truth will set you free. When I finally learned to embrace and accept the truth, I felt much lighter. I no longer tried to make the world conform to my expectations. Neither did I try to be someone else to fit in. I was just content to be me and see things for what they were. We can't please everyone and it is ok to be not ok.
2. Grow up
As I was reading your article, I was deeply moved by James' exuberant enthusiasm about how great it was to be him. It is such naturalness that should be nurtured and protected. Like you I am a problem solver which is why I adopted the title "Vizier." But despite our seemingly best intentions, not everything in life is a problem and not all problems need solving. It took me a long time to realize this and at times I still struggle with it. But James' example reminds me of the need to be more accepting of things as they are.
3. Show up
Despite being only 30, I am well aware of my mortality. Maybe it is because of all the history I read. Maybe it is because of my nature. But life is indeed short. At any moment, we can just go. And if there is unfinished business, it can be painful for those we leave behind. If there is one thing that strips away all that is unnecessary in life, it is death. Only with the clarity that death brings will we know what is truly important in our lives. For me, that is the relationships I have in this world.
Thank you for sharing this lovely article! :)
Irving aka the Vizier
Vizier, Thank you for such a thoughtful comment. I especially appreciate what you said about James. You are only 30? Your blog's insight and wisdom certainly suggest more years on this planet than 30. You must have a very old soul!ReplyDelete
very beautiful Galen, these are very important steps in having a peaceful life. We do indeed need to be awake to reality, grow in grace, and be active in life. Thanks for sharing.ReplyDelete
I just also want to thank you for visiting my blog and your gracious comment. Have a blessed week.
Galen: What a beautiful post. I was so excited and looking forward to your list on this topic and you didn't stop short of putting together something that is so insightful and amazingly thoughtful. I think my favorite on this list (and it is hard to choose) is the wake up. Ahhhh ... that is what it is all about isn't it? It is so easy to fall into the trap of moving through life on auto-pilot and the minute we wake up, we get to see all the amazing things that life has to offer. Great post and great list.ReplyDelete
Lovely, as usual, Galen. I can only echo all the other comments here. But I like the additional comment you made here as well. "What I learned from my friends' deaths is that my life was not in some future fantasy. My life is right now, making the bed, feeding the dog, taking a shower." It is so hard and challenging to remember that at times, but truly, it's the "daily grind" that makes up life. Thanks for the reminder. Thanks for becoming part of my almost daily ritual in the morning! I love your blog!ReplyDelete
Loved this post. It is so hard to truly be present in our day to day, to not worry, and yet all we have is today.ReplyDelete
Galen, I loved reading about James in the grow up section. I can remember him saying, "It's great to be James!" several times. He has taught us a lot.ReplyDelete
I love the part about your son James. It honestly made me tear up a bit. It's just a matter of perspective, isn't it? Just because we're looking on the outside it doesn't mean anyone else feels the same on the inside. We CHOOSE to see the world positively or not. :)
Thanks for sharing this post. We have our own Life Lessons list on our blog too but we enjoy reading other people's ideas as well.
All the best. Cheers!
Tariq and Shaheera
Love reading your life lessons.ReplyDelete
Love reading your life lessons.ReplyDelete