I grew up in a small town in Ohio. Everyone had modest dreams and winters were long and cold. Then, through a series of conditions, I ended up in a private school in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for my junior & senior year of high school. There was no more jarring transition in my life (well other than moving to NYC at age 22) – although most of the move to Florida was wondrous to my naive 16-year-old.
Instead of hanging out at a pizza shop, or driving around town in cars all night (since there wasn’t even a movie theatre in the town & no one had money for dating anyway) – in Florida, I was water-skiing, walking on the beach, and drinking at sophisticated parties (where, at one, a girl got a yacht for her 16th birthday.) The homes of my friends there had an opulence that hardly seemed home-like. I’d never seen crystal chandeliers and marble floors – or such coiffed & made-up women, and it seemed all my fellow students drove Cadillacs or Corvettes (compared to my Ford Pinto – Okay, that dates me, but so be it.)
The diet in Florida was also unbelievable. There was now access to exotic fruits I’d never heard of in Ohio. I discovered papaya and mango (which was sinfully softly sweet.) I drank so much fresh orange juice that my mouth hurt. Outside my grandmother’s house was a coconut tree and after hours with a hammer in the driveway, some dark-skinned man came up and kindly told me how quick, sharp hits on 3 spots cracked a perfect opening in the coconut. At the time, I wanted the meat – not the juice. (Unlike now when I have 9 fresh young Thai coconuts delivered to my door every 2 weeks and drinking the water out of one of those is darned close to the most refreshing nirvana.)
So, no, I don’t think I’m here to talk about nirvana – or maybe I am … I just know that I was sitting here scooping the sweet soft coconut meat into my mouth – alternated with sweet, delicately crunchy strips of toasted seaweed & almonds – and marveled that these 2 enjoyed foods were not even something I knew existed when I lived in Ohio during my childhood.
And the reason I have paused to experience this moment in the first place is because I just spent many hours of this day handling 3 very delicate and intense situations (supporting clients & friends) in a way that helped everyone grow and have more compassion. Lots of talking & writing, lots of thinking things through from all perspectives and selecting what the optimal thing to say or encourage in that moment would be. It’s hard to fathom where I got the skills to do that when, till the age of 31, I could easily have been described as brutally critical of self & others and “not a people person.”
Then I started to think of how much of my life now was something outside of what I knew was possible when I lived in Ohio. Well, that actually applies to just about all of it – every aspect of my life: how I live, what I do, what I eat, how I exercise – even what kind of relationships I have. How I’m operating now wasn’t even on my radar growing up in Ohio. (And I am by no means implying that anyone in Ohio has no clue – I’m stating that I had no clue – and that also had to to with my family, our education system, and yes, growing up in a very small town in Ohio in the 60’s & 70’s had alot to do with it as well.)
Regardless, in this moment, as I sip coconut water, crunch on toasted seaweed with almonds, feeling good about the progress I helped facilitate today, looking out at the sun beginning it’s dive into the West – and enjoying the ever-entertaining adventures of my most adorable ball-of-fluff sidekick, as he attempts to out-think and wrestle a paper bag (and, at the moment, I think the bag is winning.) His comic timing is impressive. (And the fact, that he’s a cross between Ewok, Winnie-the-Pooh, and the lion from the Wizard of Oz doesn’t hurt either.) I could sell tickets to this. Yes, I’m enjoying this life, and grateful for the path that led me here.
Usually when I reflect on the path that led me here, there is some wincing, some regrets, but interestingly enough, more compassion flows these days than either of those two – and for that I’m grateful – yes, lots to be grateful for – not just the seaweed & coconut.
I was recently asked to tell “my journey” – i.e. how I got to where I am. I’ve been interviewed a few times (and have another interview for a show/podcast coming up tomorrow) and I am always interested to hear what I say in response to that. Sometimes it’s what I thought about ahead of the interview – i.e. what I thought would be of interest or helpful to those who would listen to that particular program – but one thing I said lately, just made me smile. In fact, it’s probably one of those things that used to make me wince, and now it makes me smile & feel warm – and also makes me laugh a bit. I like that.
What I said was … well, I recalled a time with a group of friends in NYC (in my 20’s.) We were all sitting around and someone said we should all say what we want most – listing 1-5 things that were important in our lives, what we wanted to achieve in life. Success, money, fame, great skill & recognition, awards, achievements – with some family/children in the mix – were all listed. But I remember a couple of people saying that all they wanted was to be happy.
I remember thinking, “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you have any ambition? What in the world are you doing here in New York? Go sit under a tree somewhere and smell flowers, for God’s Sake” I usually lost all respect for anyone who stated happiness as their main aim in life – I felt they needed to get a life. I mean, it takes no skill to be happy – what kind of accomplishment it that?
And I find it not just a little ironic that it could be said that what I do now is help people find happiness in life.
I mean, you gotta smile at that.
It wasn’t on any list of mine in Ohio, or New York, or anywhere – as I said, I wasn’t a “people person” – and it’s now what I think of as our mission on this planet. Oh, that’s sounded like I’m going into proselytizing there, yeah, I heard that. (But like missiles which continuously adjust their course, I’m veering back – I’ll bring it home, hold on.) So let’s call the “mission” (should we choose to accept it)- not just to be happy, but to be better people – more fully evolved – which involves more ease & less tension, more satisfaction and less suffering, more compassion and less judgment, and yes, more happiness and well-being.
In my experience, all comes from that.
And one needs to be present for all of that. So as I enjoy my path, my happiness, and my sunset view which includes an ocean breeze, I crunch another seaweed/almond snack and take another sip from my coconut. I feel good as I settle into the present moment – something that is always satisfying and fulfilling (and I believe contributes to the presence of those around is) – and I note that natural flow of appreciation, satisfaction, compassion, and yes, happiness.
Life is good.
(And you thought I was going to go into how seaweed & coconut create happiness – nah, the happiness was there all along, just need to look in the right directions …and seaweed & coconut don’t hurt.)