This was not the blog post I planned to write as I trudged despondently home from the gym and a serious ass-whooping by CrossFit benchmark workout Angie. The WOD won’t always go your way. 16-hour work days are hard and often leave me feeling exhausted the next day and Monday was a particularly long, busy day so it was no surprise today that I was not feeling the best version of me, tired and down on life as I contemplated the prospect of homelessness if HHH’s neighbourhood development plan goes through. I actually had anxiety dreams about it all night. If you don’t know the West Side rental market you might not understand how desperate a situation it is for low income families. Right now we’ve got a good home which we can barely afford but the proposed development will put our family out on the street once again when our landlord sells to developers. Oh, and I’ve spent the past week in terrible pain due to a trapped nerve in my neck. And Sunghee is still sick.
That was my state of mind as I sat down to breakfast and clicked on a TED Talk to keep me company before I launched into a mountain of awaiting admin chores. Because my queue of “to-watch” items vastly outstrips my time available to view them, I watch these things at 2x speed, a trick I picked up from Smooth Criminal. But as soon as I’d finished watching this particularly TED Talk, I played it back again, this time at normal speed. Because it is worth the time and offers some profound messages that you and I both know but frequently forget.
Watch it now before you continue reading:
Note that Tom never took that big leap forward when he was healthy and whole. His accomplishments in life were made post-illness. When nothing was holding him back, he never made that great leap forward. It was the massive undertaking of overcoming his obstacles that opened the way forward to him. Not only did it make him more patient and less sensitive to life’s inevitable set backs, it also gave him the perspective to differentiate between what constitutes a trivial versus a major set back. Sometimes you need a major set back to help you overcome all the trivialities you’ve been allowing to stop you.
Accepting his weaknesses allowed Tom to rewire his instinctual response to challenges. He learned to get on with the task at hand rather than dwelling on the negatives. His brush with death gave him an urgency to get on with living and courageously pursue passions he’d not thought possible before. Faced with his own mortality and the triviality of his existence he was relieved of his sense of self importance and self consciousness, the gate keepers who prohibit us from taking risks and engaging the opportunities life presents to us. Your self consciousness and self importance are passion-stealing delusions that get in the way of embracing and fully engaging in life.
Too often we forget to not take ourselves so seriously. We start to believe that we are very important and that therefore our concerns are too. And wrapped up in our self-importance we’re afraid to take risks, take on challenges or let our passion for life really show. We stumble over life’s smallest speed bumps and lose all sense of proportion over what is important and what really isn’t. As if a sub-par Angie score is anything to be upset about. As if worrying about change can actually prevent it. As if playing safe and denying our passion will bring us fulfillment in these short, wonderful lives that we’ve been blessed with.
When you realize you’re just a breath away from dying, maybe then you can stop being afraid to really start living. Tom didn’t wait for someone to give him permission to be a DJ, he didn’t wait for an invitation, he built himself a stage. What are you waiting for? Whose permission do you need? Find the passion inside you that you’ve been bottling up and get out there and get after it!