Something someone said to me a while ago tweaked a thought process and I decided to get it down in black and white. I’m not really sure why I’m writing this other than it’s occupying my mind. I have to get it out somehow and writing thoughts has always been a means of therapeutic release. Regurgitating thoughts in written form seems as fine a place as any other if you’re not averse to a little gratuitous mental drifting.
Today, I’m patiently waiting to get a job done. As sometimes happens, the conditions for completing the task aren’t right and I have to wait for things to turn. It means I have a day more or less left to my own devices, which is often perilous. I’m at the kitchen table at the moment and, with a few chores to do around here, have instead settled into a state of reflection and semi-lethargy.
I’m using reflection on the past as a tool rather than a guide or driving force, as it were.
Eighteen years ago my world turned upside down. I was separated and, for the first time in my life, truly alone and lonely. I had never lived unaccompanied up to that point and being the oldest of four, I spent a lot of time around others, hearing constant clamour around me and dealing with a multitude of personalities. Now, I was five hundred miles away from my family, living alone in a dingy basement apartment in a city I knew little about and commuting an hour and a half to work every day. Diving into the job was keeping me mentally afloat. Working was something to latch onto that was familiar.
Three months after the separation, I was downsized.
It felt like the final blow. On most levels, I had given up. It’s difficult to explain, even to myself, how I managed to muddle through. Life was no longer an adventure. Life and attempting to live was something tolerated; living day to day just to prove I could endure anything and survive. But surviving isn’t living.
In our darkest hour, a light will appear. Follow that light. The odds of it being a steaming locomotive with designs on making you train track road kill are pretty slight.
One Thursday night in March of 1995, I received a phone call from a distant acquaintance; a sister of a friend whom I had met twice. She was taking a program called The Excellence Series and asked if I would be interested in attending a free seminar. I asked a couple of rudimentary questions and agreed to go.
At the seminar, I was impressed by what was said. It didn’t hurt I was looking for something... anything... to latch onto; anything to stabilize my leaking, thrashing boat in a stormy sea. At that time, somewhere deep down, I knew something had to change. I couldn’t accept this was all there was to living. Even now, I think there is more. After the presentation finished, I was the first to the table to sign up for the courses. Something in the back of my mind woke up and asked again... Why not?
We are nothing more than the culmination of decisions we make.
I was reminded of this story recently when I trusted myself and took a leap of faith. That friend who made the phone call those many years ago also called to find out what was happening. The caring never stops.
I came to the realisation that my decision making process changed about the time I signed up for the program. The intricacies and detail of how the program works are irrelevant. In actuality, there are many programs out there willing to open up your mind and the differences between them, in most cases, are insignificant. There are many books on the subject, most of which I have read, espousing the positives of getting to know the real you. What works for one individual might not work for another though the eventual goal may be the same.
Ultimately, the venue was unimportant. What mattered was changing how I viewed things in the first place. We each must take our own path.
I began asking myself, “why not”.
Rather than back-flipping mental gymnastics to figure out “why” I would try something and creating a multitude of reasons I shouldn’t, I began asking “why not” and finding fewer reasons for avoiding something or someone or somewhere. Since I started asking “why not”, I’ve started my own business (more than once), learned to SCUBA dive, white water kayaked class 3 rapids, climbed two mountains, body surfed in Bali, stood astride the equator, travelled to about 20 countries, written and published a book, circumnavigated the globe, reconnected with someone who means the world to me, met some incredible people along my journey and have learned to be alone without being lonely.
Mostly, I rediscovered the importance of following my heart.
Recently I realised every significant change in my life has come with a move; physical or cerebral. Every move or new activity or meeting of new people has begun with “why not” and none of those moves were negative.
As I sit here overlooking a snow-laden landscape in nothing more than a pair of pajama bottoms, the furnace propelling hot air into the house, sipping from a half consumed cup of coffee and the chores still waiting to be done, I find myself asking “why not” once again. Perhaps this is nothing more than a middle-aged fantasy and maybe it’s not. In any case, as always, what comes along will be an adventure.