I pledge allegiance to living stress-free
Remembering worry doesn’t work for me
And neither does angry fretting (unfortunately)
I pledge allegiance to living stress-free
Because controlling people and things
(I don’t control) is the job of Kings
My worry and stress never helped one single soul
Only pulled me deep into a sucking hole
Where there was no benefit for me or anyone
Just an embarrassing waste of adrenalin*
*Some of us, who insist upon worrying, believe, erroneously, that the opposite of worrying is not caring. However, this is not the case. Often, surrendering is the only wise way to effectively care…and much more efficient.
I always wanted to be able to sing like Adele or Aretha Franklin. Since I couldn’t, I decided to bring that passion to whatever tasks life handed me. However small, boring, or seemingly insignificant those tasks were, I would “sing my life” like I meant it.
Living like this has changed my life, made difficult times go by faster, brought me lots of friends, work, and loyalty, and helped me deliver energy and hope where they were sadly lacking (like at boring jobs, committee meetings, or the DMV).
“The antidote to exhaustion is not rest but, rather, wholeheartedness.” – David Whyte
Sometimes I complain too much about the difficult things life requires me to do. If I am smart, I will see what others can easily see; I need the re-construction, remodel, and renovation that occurs when I am doing a work of love for others, even if I can’t see a positive outcome.
Acknowledging the mystery of this often prevents me from tearing down valuable work with my own hands.
George Lucas’s response when asked what he wanted on his tombstone.
I would say he tried pretty hard. Barely graduated from high school, went to film school not even knowing what the word “cinematography” meant, figured out he loved it, and, then, kept his nose to the grindstone for fifty years. Even though his task-focused perfectionism often prohibited him from being the nicest person to work with, he changed the movie experience for the world.
I’m not even a Star Wars fan, but I am a fan of George’s tenacity and dedication to his vision, the audacity he had to challenge Hollywood, and the humility it took to say of his life, “I tried.”
If we take George’s advice and example, “Always remember, your focus determines your reality,” it follows, if our reality stinks, we only have a few options:
- Change our focus
- Hang in there with all we’ve got
- Or, make ourselves (and everyone else) miserable complaining about it
My life is a whole lot better since I decided to use options 1 and 2.
Fanfare for the Common Man is a brilliant composition by Aaron Copland, written initially to honor the contribution of WWII soldiers. However, I was thinking of the sentiment today when my adult nephew (with learning challenges) expressed his frustration about being a nobody.
Many of us can relate to the pain of feeling “too common.”
What I wanted to convey to him is best summed up by Naomi Nye. The end of the poem, Famous, captured it…
I have found so much peace in the simple act of handing over my small contribution to the Universe, asking that it be multiplied to feed whatever need exists versus fretting about whether the world notices me or not.
This is when Fanfare for the Common Man plays in my head.
Being left, fired, rejected, or cheated upon is, no doubt, a painful experience. However, if we find ourselves in one of these situations, here are some critical considerations:
- We can’t make people love us. The right people will.
- We have hurt people too…accidentally, selfishly, or because we were afraid to tell the truth. Forgive.
- Playing the victim won’t fix anything. Move on.
- Many people born with disabilities, disease, or deformities will never have romantic love or employment. Keep it in perspective.
- Sometimes, it’s our fault. Buck up and own it.
- It’s easier to bear when we learn to love, forgive, and honor ourselves.
- Watch what you say. (Our words define who we are not who they are.) Besides, Social media has enough poor-me-finger-pointing-cry-baby jerk-bashers already.
Sometimes when I hear a singer belt out a song with jarring clarity and passion or read an impressively-crafted paragraph, I am moved to tears. This morning, while reading Shantaram, I realized that some of those tears were prayers: prayers of gratitude for the perseverance it took for author David Gregory Roberts to find his “voice,” but also, prayers for using my own “voice” with such power and precision.
I cannot sing at all, but, there have been a few times in my life when I have felt the electricity moving from me to my audience and knew I was singing, standing in the live current of eternal power: giving the gift I was born to give.
And, I knew that those who sing out loud with their gift become the gift.
It might take a lifetime, and it might not be easy, but there are people waiting for the song only we can sing.
However difficult, we must sing it like we mean it.
When you can’t do it for yourself
Do it for those who never had a chance
Who died before their time
For those who had to push through the pain
Or trudge through battle fields, cold, and rain
For those who kept going when there was no light
Who kept fighting
After they had lost the fight
Do it for them, if you can’t do it for you
Be the ball, take the shot, cop the attitude
You’ve always had enough to master today
Now go and give it away
Whatever it is
You got this.
Upon seeing the anger in the eyes of a menial laborer working in atrocious conditions, author Gregory David Roberts says to the fry cook with his eyes, “I’m sorry that you have to do this work, I’m sorry that your world, your life, is so hot and dark and unremembered, I’m sorry that I’m intruding…”
With those lines, the author not only captured my interest in the book, but, most importantly, the kinship of my agony for the “incarceration” of countless souls who live unremembered and hopeless in darkness and drudgery.
Even though my personal agony was small by comparison, for years I felt imprisoned in mediocrity and anonymity, doing a job I didn’t like. Now, I cannot stand to see anything in a cage. I feel the silent rage of so many: refugees, strangers I encounter, and others I know well.
My prayer is that those of us who remember the pain will bring…
However and whenever we can.
My romantic relationships and my work relationships improved when I quit worrying about how I was being perceived, or how I was being treated, what had just happened, or what was going to happen next. So did my tennis game. And my relationship with my kids and in-laws. And my health. And my joy. And my ability to have a good night’s sleep.
It took me over thirty years to figure that out with relationships. Over ten with something as inconsequential as tennis. Still working on it with new clients, new challenges, and strangers.
Most of us spend our waking hours splintered out in so many directions that we don’t even know what true focus is. People who bring their complete attention and focus with them wherever they go are so rare that when we are lucky enough to meet one, we cannot forget them. They are distilled and refreshing power: the power we have always longed for.