Everyone thinks I’m crazy. Not just a little on the tweaked side, but undeniably, certifiably nuts. I guess I can’t really blame them. From their perspective, it must seem like Grant and I have lost our ever loving minds. We’re selling our home of thirty-three years in the middle of one of the worst real estate markets of modern times. We’re moving thirteen hundred miles away from family and lifetime friends. At the age most people are thinking about retirement and maybe buying a motorhome and taking up golf, we’re buying an eighty-acre farm and planning to grow everything we use, including crops to produce our own alcohol fuel.
My friends have found many ways of expressing their displeasure at these ideas. Seems I can’t have a conversation with anyone any more without the subject coming up. We’re abandoning our daughter and her kids. We’re making a serious mistake from a financial standpoint. We’re too old. We have no idea what we’re getting ourselves in for. It will be a lot of work. We know nothing about farming. The list of arguments goes on and on. It never ceases to amaze me how much everyone knows the intimate details of our lives, and the compulsion they feel to point out our mistakes and shortcomings.
The problem is, we’re not dead yet. It would be very convenient if we were, because then the arguments would stop, and the idea would become moot.
There are many documented cases of people retiring healthy, and subsequently die within a year or two. It’s as if they’ve lost whatever it was that made them get up in the morning.
I believe each of us comes to Earth with a spark inside of us. This tiny light contains our life blood, our soul, the cosmic stuff that makes each of us who we are. In my mind, we all come into this incarnation with a purpose.
I’ve gotten into the trap many times over the years of believing this purpose has to be something “big” like finding a cure for cancer, writing the next great novel, or discovering new frontiers. But I’ve come to understand, over time, that each of us is contributing to “all there is” by simply being our authentic selves, whatever that looks like.
If it’s all about contributing to the collective consciousness, isn’t it more important that we be happy than rich, famous or even infamous? Fanning the little light in our soul that whispers to us during those brief moments of bliss each of us is destined to experience brings forth not only more of the same, but others of like mind, strengthening the whole.
When Lisa was in high school I remember her constantly talking about the “popular” kids. She often said, “Everyone hates the popular kids.”
So I’d naturally ask, “If everyone hates them, how can they be popular?”
Her reply? “Oh Mom, you just don’t get it.”
I didn’t get a lot of things when Lisa was a teenager. In fact, my I.Q. dropped into the double digits by the time she hit about sixteen, and didn’t go up again until she got married and started having her own kids. Funny how smart I seem to be now. But I digress.
Many of us spent our years in middle school and high school trying to be the “popular kids” that everyone else hated. What a noble pursuit. “Who are we?” was a question that never entered our adolescent brain.
Deepok Chopra tells us that, before we meditate, we should ask three questions:
Who am I?
Why am I here?
What is my Dharma?
The term “Dharma” refers to our purpose.
I’ve spent my entire life doing what everyone thinks I should do. When you’re a kid, of course, you’re essentially tied to your parents and their plans for you. Don’t get me wrong; I had great parents and I know they always had my best interests at heart.
But you leave home and there are all these expectations from your society and culture. You go to college, you get your degree, you get married, have a couple of kids, work for “The Company” for forty years, retire and move to Florida. Sound familiar?
Short of flying, I never had a job I even liked, let alone loved. Even my airline career was fraught with uncertainty. There was the thousand mile commute every week, union battles, bankruptcies, and let’s not forget 9/11. I’d personally flown both of the United airplanes involved. It was my fleet, my friends and co-workers who woke up that morning thinking it was going to be just another day at work. Had I not had the “good fortune” to be on jury duty, it might have been me.
But it wasn’t.
I’ve spent over fifty years hiding my little spark behind the proverbial bush. It’s hard to hear the tiny voice within when the roar of “shoulds” drown out the authenticity of your very soul. Most of us never recognize who we are. We follow the rules of our culture, walk the line, do our duty and die.
At the end of the day, it’s not the money you make, the novels you write or the frontiers you challenge. Its figuring out who you are and living that in each eternal moment. People think we have to have these extraordinary experiences to validate our lives.
I have had many extraordinary experiences. I’ve stood on a 15,000 foot pass on the Inca trail and seen things few modern humans have seen. I’ve scuba-dived reefs with fifty-foot tall coral heads and commanded a six hundred thousand pound jet at thirty-nine thousand feet.
Yet when I look back on my life, the most extraordinary memory is the sight of my newborn grandson as he blinked at the world for the first time. The miracle of my own daughter when they placed her in my arms, or my tiny granddaughter who entered this world just under four pounds.
Its the lines on my parents face etched with years of struggle and wisdom, the sight of the American flag which brings tears to my eyes when I think about the struggles, challenges and sacrifices thousands of our fellow Americans made for our freedom.
It is the arms of a child around my neck, the first flower of spring and the way it smells after a rain. In the end, it really is the things that are free, the miracles we take for granted every day that sing to our soul, connect us all and speak to who we really are.
I can’t wait to get my hands in the soil. I can’t wait to sit on the porch at the end of a day of manual labor, reveling in the fatigue of a good honest day’s work as I watch the ducks and geese come in for a landing on the pond. I can’t wait to hear the frogs at night and show my grandson where to dig the worms for fishing and taste the tang of an apple whose tree I fostered for years.
Am I crazy? Probably. Am I happy? Blissfully. I wish this for everyone, that we all find the tiny light inside and fan it into the flame of potential. We really do only live once; or so they say. I’m not banking on reincarnation. I’ve got a few years left. Gonna make them count.