Do you find yourself wishing for some time to restart, get away from everything? You know, sort of a long time-out to rethink or redo life like Thoreau’s
time at Walden Pond, only shorter because really, who has time for that?
I executed the perfect plan. Here it is:
- save your money
- register for an event featuring the most inspirational teachers you know,
- put your activities and responsibilities on hold
- fly to another coast
- stay in a beautiful historic estate surrounded by a vineyard in southern California
- break your ankle when you get there
- come back home before the event starts.
Now, this worked for me but the magic started when I got back home. So let me help you save some time, pain and money.
Why did it work?
Warning. I’m about to use the “g” word. I know you’re sick of it. So am I.
Gratitude journals, quotes about gratefulness – it’s all so trite and overplayed. I’m sick of hearing it, so this is the last thing I thought I would write about this incident. It’s hard to feel grateful when your world seems to be falling apart or is at least unsteady. These are the situations that come to mind every time the word gratitude is used: today in my community I heard a women's teenage daughter recently committed suicide and a friend's partner lost a long battle with cancer. How can these people feel grateful?
Also, I’m tired of hearing how people have epiphanies due to dramatic events and find their world is suddenly changed. Am I one of those people? I wouldn’t consider breaking my ankle a death-defying event. On the Richter scale of tragedies it rates very low. I’ve had those events: suicide of my brother, my diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and a couple more. Also, I consider myself to be a pretty good grateful practitioner, if there is such a thing. Not that I keep a journal filled with gratitude, but I do spend time writing every day and most days I spend time to think about my life and I feel something very close to gratitude. A look at the news is all you need to know that if you feel safe and have shelter you are fortunate.
But this time - I felt full-on gratitude. What was different? Everything at home was the same, but it looked so much better. It was the same family, same house, same responsibilities and issues that I left; but I felt like Dorothy coming back from Oz; "hello Aunt Em, Uncle Henry!". These were my people, my issues, which involved a wicked witch or two along with a couple of flying monkeys, and they never looked better.
Here’s the difference. Breaking your ankle puts a serious dent in your independence/courage. You feel vulnerable and have to rely on others. I was scared to fly home. In pain and struggling just to move from one room to another on crutches; the thought of making through an airport with luggage terrified me. I couldn’t even carry anything.The act of coming back home from the other coast was harrowing. It wasn’t exactly tornadic proportions but it involved depending on a whirlwind of people I did not know. At each step someone could have left me stranded.
But they did not.
From finding a way to get to the airport, getting into a shuttle van then into the airport with a driver who helped me out of the van, found a wheelchair, called an attendant and didn’t leave me until he saw I was taken care of (I asked him to marry me, but he was taken); to the women who worked the ticket machine, the man who wheeled me through the airport, bought my water and continually checked on me until he wheeled me into the plane; the gentle woman in security who didn’t make me stand, the guy sitting next to me who put my luggage in the overhead and got it out; the flight attendant who helped me get into the bathroom and the man who wheeled me out of the plane; the woman who drove the cart through the airport; to the man who wheeled me to baggage, got my luggage off the rack, waited for me while my ride came – whew and wow. More than ten people did the work I normally could have done for myself. There’s a joke in here somewhere!
I didn’t want any of the help, but I needed it and I was so grateful.
So here’s the revised list for a life redo:
- Stay home
- Spend no money
- Take time to notice all of the good around you.
The types of good people who helped me are out there every day doing their work, helping others. Add to them the many inspirational teachers I’ve met while I’ve been elevating my ankle. There’s a whole inspiration revolution about which I was only subconsciously aware. There's an abundance of shared ideas. James Altucher
calls ideas the new currency of this century. This idea sharing is like an “all boats rise in a tide" thing. His book Choose Yourself
is extraordinary. He’s given many copies away for free because he wants to change lives – not just the ones of people who can afford a book. There are other teachers out there - some I knew and some I didn’t - Leo Babauta
, Brene Brown
, Daniel Gilbert
, Pema Chodron
, Austin Kleon
, Cheryl Strayed
, Seth Godin
, Amy Cuddy
and more. They are writing books, making TED talks, podcasts and blog posts all in the name of inspiring others.
You don’t need to go somewhere and break your ankle to realize there is always someone or something to lean into. And, because of that, life can be what you make of it. You don’t need to travel or break your ankle.
Reach out when you need help and take heart, dear ones.