What’s the secret of life? I think it has to do with connection, generosity, and joy. The more focused we become on self-protection the harder it is to experience laughter, love, and luxury. It may be tempting in these difficult economic times to hunker down with a wary-and-weary mentality, but we do so at our peril. Not only does this cut us off from that which makes life worth living, it also endangers the well-being of us all. So don’t let that happen. Reach out and touch someone. Be extravagant with your generosity. Take time to notice the little things in life. Find ways to celebrate the wonder of it all.
How’s this for an explanation of the human life span, forwarded to me recently by an avid reader of LifeTrek Provisions:
On the first day, God created dog and said:
“Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. For this, I will give you a life span of twenty years.”
Dog said: “That’s a long time to be barking. How about only ten years and I’ll give you back the other ten?”
So God agreed.
On the second day, God created monkey and said:
“Entertain people, do tricks, and make them laugh. For this, I’ll give you a twenty-year life span.”
Monkey said: “Monkey tricks for twenty years? That’s a pretty long time to perform. How about I give you back ten like Dog did?”
And God agreed.
On the third day, God created cow and said:
“You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer’s family. For this, I will give you a life span of sixty years.”
Cow said: “That’s kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. How about twenty and I’ll give back the other forty?”
And God agreed again.
On the fourth day, God created human and said:
“Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I’ll give you twenty years.”
But human said: “Only twenty years? Could you possibly give me my twenty, the forty that cow gave back, the ten that monkey gave back, and the ten that dog gave back; that makes eighty, okay?”
“Okay,” said God, “You asked for it.”
So that is why for our first twenty years we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves. For the next forty years we slave in the sun to support our family. For the next ten years we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren. And for the last ten years we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.
That silly story makes me laugh. We humans do, indeed, go through many phases although not in such a linear fashion. Here’s to more monkey tricks and less barking at every age!
As you read this I am travelling and visiting with friends in Costa Rica. The whole trip was a rather spontaneous and natural occasion. The friends we visited in Alaska in 2004 and in New Zealand in 2006 sent us an email and invited us to join them for a week’s vacation in Costa Rica in 2008. We said yes and that was that.
Of course, that was six months ago, long before anyone knew the extent of our global economic problems. Would we have so quickly and easily accepted such an invitation today? I hope so. Human beings are not fully alive unless we play and enjoy ourselves. Even in the midst of great economic distress, perhaps especially in the midst of such distress, we still do well to find ways to have fun.
It begins with giving ourselves the permission to have fun. The nonstop tale of woe that is currently coming out of the global economy is real but is no excuse for becoming woeful. If Viktor Frankl can find spontaneous expressions of joy and beauty in a concentration camp during World War II, then we can find such expressions today. Things may be grim, but they’re not hopeless. We just have to give ourselves permission to look in that direction.
We also have to give ourselves a push. Permission may be the first step, but it’s not enough to get us walking down the road. Recently my wife and I sat down to review our year-end charitable giving. Because such giving is part of our way in the world • it’s been a habit since the time we were married more than 32 years ago • we had long ago given ourselves permission to trust that caring for others was an important part of how we care for ourselves.
This year, however, we had to give ourselves a push as well. It would have been easy, given current economic conditions, to hold onto our resources with a tight, hunker-down, wary-and-weary mentality. That’s especially true since our pattern of giving includes not only a look at the past year but also some assumptions about the coming year. What will next year bring? No one knows for sure, but it doesn’t look good. Nevertheless, it has consistently worked out for us to take those leaps of faith.
So we pushed ourselves to take a leap of faith again this year. We decided to give as if things will work out in 2009, one way or another. This was, for us, a natural expression of joy and beauty. Nothing makes us happier than reaching out and connecting with the people and programs we hold dear in supportive and life-enriching ways. The global economy is in trouble, true, but we will all end up in more trouble if we start to deny our values and to turn our backs on the things that make us whole.
Choosing to do things that make us smile, things such as travelling, giving, and connecting with life, is essential to our humanity. When we allow fear to rule the day, when we withdraw self-protectively into our shell, we lose the freedom to choose. When we allow trust to enter the picture, when we stick out our neck to make life more enjoyable both for ourselves and for others • on occasion even impulsively • we gain the awareness of something wonderful.
That awareness comes through in the reflections written recently by Suzanne Lindley, a cancer survivor who has been told numerous times that she only has months to live. Her diagnosis was initially colon cancer, but it has progressed to the liver, brain, spinal fluid, and pancreas. She has lived over ten years with metastatic disease and has done amazing things to help others (seehttp://beatlivertumors.org). On the day she wrote these reflections, however, she was alone with herself and her appreciation of life:
Last Wednesday marked the first day that I had an actual day • no chemo, appointments, hospital visits, or travel • since mid-August to just sit at home. I cleaned the kitchen, caught up with laundry, started reading a book, brushed the horses, had lunch with the kids, and reveled in not leaving my house. Without Oxaliplatin, and only Gemcitabine for the past few weeks, I enjoyed iced tea on my front porch and sat in the sun enjoying the sunshine and the simplicity that surrounded me. I mused at what my life would be like doing that every day. And I let my mind wander to what my life would have been like without cancer.
Would I have found so much delight on a beautiful fall day? Would I have noticed the colors of fall? Would I have realized that there is calm in the midst of chaos or peace in the midst of suffering? Would I have met any of you that have so deeply touched and shaped my life? Would I have been a country girl living a city life? Would I have enjoyed the ice in my tea? Or even thought about it?
When the wondering was done I acknowledged that no matter how much I wish that cancer could be a disease of the past, without it, my life would have been much different. I’m certain I wouldn’t find such joy in the simple things. My kids would have grown up without impromptu camping trips, moonlit horseback rides, and a menagerie of animals. My husband and I would probably still be trying to keep up with the Joneses and I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t be as content (or even want) to drive my beat up old truck. I doubt that I would understand the gift that FOLFOX, FOLFIRI, Xeloda, Sir-spheres, gammaknife, cyberknife, clinical trials, and evolving research give.
I wouldn’t appreciate or understand the extra mile that my doctors and nurses have put forth. The words “preventable, treatable, and beatable” would hold less meaning and as I type those words I have to ask if my dad’s polyp would have been found as early and if it, indeed, would have still been treatable and beatable. I’ll never know how the past ten years would have been shaped or fallen into place but I do know that I’m thankful for the clarity of today • and for the pleasure of ice in my tea. Tomorrow it’s back to the treatment routine…….drinks at room temperature, ginger candy, and visions of vanishing tumors dancing in my head. For now, however, I’m taking the time to savor the ice.
That’s the kind of spontaneous, simple, natural pleasure that no economic meltdown can ever preclude. If we give ourselves permission and a push, if we allow ourselves to notice and take a chance, we can each find things to enjoy, celebrate, do, and be that will bring us delight on a beautiful day. Some will cost money; others won’t. Some will be in faraway places; others will be on the front porch. Some will involve gains; others will involve gifts. Whatever it takes, however, one thing is clear: we each have it in us to be happy and free. Let’s make it so today.
Coaching Inquiries: What enables you to be happy and free? How do you rise above fear to see the possibilities in life? When was the last time you said “Yes!” to a real opportunity? Whose day could you make today? What would make your today? How can you make it so?
To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation. To learn more about LifeTrek Coaching programs, Click Here.
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..
No replies this week.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services