Today is my 47th birthday. I have been blessed with 17,166 days — opportunities — to experience and share life and love in this world. When I reflect on the lives lost in those 47 years — friends, family, students, mentors, I cannot be too grateful to be here today, to use this moment and this opportunity to cherish all that is before me.
17,166. That’s a lot of opportunities to embrace life.
So, on this 17,166th day, I share some of the things I’ve learned along the way (10, to be exact; it seemed more reasonable than sharing 17,166 things–or even 47–that I have learned…). Some are deep, and some defy gravity. Please join me in celebrating this day by adding to the list. What have you learned along your journey so far?
- This moment is the only sure thing. Joan Didion, in The Year of Magical Thinking, shared her journey following the sudden death of her husband in their kitchen in the middle of chopping vegetables for dinner. In her book, she writes, “Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.” I do not need to look to tomorrow or back at yesterday to find my peace. It is right here, right in this very moment.
- Nature provides infinite energy. There’s chi — energy — in nature that we rarely take the time to tap into. And yet, what it offers us is unlimited strength balanced with graceful humility. We need to spend more time outside and less time in our heads.
- Finding our muse means discovering unlimited energy. I have learned that our muse contains a limitless supply of energy and spirit. Every time we write, sketch, paint, sing… we tap into something greater than our little minds. We bypass thought and enter a higher realm of spiritual possibility. Why is it unlimited? Because we will never be able to capture something that is so much greater than we will ever be able to comprehend…
- It is our choice what we cherish in our relationships, present and past. Forty-seven years is a long time to have friendships and relationships with many individuals. Not all of them are going to necessarily turn out the way you once envisioned or planned. But what we take from them is our choice. I have learned to treasure those moments that have defined the very essence of those relationships; anything less diminishes our efforts to live authentically and fully.
- Smiles really are contagious. Whether I am offering a smile, or I am the lucky recipient of one, it centers me. The simple effort to smile for others can change everything for that person — as well as you — in that single act.
- There is movement in our stillness. The social media revolution in the last five or six years has replaced so much of our time simply being still. Our eyes are barely open before we are checking our phones for text messages, Facebook updates, and breaking news over our RSS feeds. We run for 18-20 hours with our phones glued to the palm of our hand, and we “unplug” just minutes before we go to sleep. We need to bring back the moments of stillness in our lives so that we might move toward a more healthy, balanced life. Scheduling “unplugged” time for ourselves is necessary and essential.
- Darkness exists in deceptive, evil ways. I’ve seen it. Felt it. Witnessed it. As is true with the Yin/Yang symbol, there is as much evil as there is good out there. Being aware of it diminishes its hold on us.
- We are never alone. Those dark days find us. Sometimes, they even consume us in such a way that makes us feel as if we are in an inescapable abyss. But even in these moments, I have learned that we are never alone. Whether it is the fact that these dark moments are felt by so many others (and most never show it) or that there are people who care for us and love us, there is always someone just on the other side of that darkness who is there unconditionally.
- Walking is as beneficial to the soul as writing. Henry David Thoreau wrote in his essay, “Walking,” “I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least — and it is commonly more than that — sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.” To walk four or more hours a day! I am happy to walk an hour in the woods. Taking the time to connect with nature and clear your thoughts is better than any man-made remedy I can ever imagine.
- Love is always the answer. Whether it is love for ourselves, love for others, or love for the natural world, there is no better remedy for whatever ails. When The Beatles sang “All You Need Is Love” way back in June of 1967, they did not take this sentiment lightly. And, many years later, Ringo commented on the fact that this is not something that we can just talk about. We have to live it. Believe in it. Even work hard at it.
If I have learned anything, it is that Love is always the answer. For you, for me, for we, for always.