How To Stop Worrying And Start Living
On a long stretch of country road surrounded by tree-sized cornstalks, the hum of an invisible world was busy at work. My mind was a couple of miles ahead of us, thinking about the business, what I had to do, and how I couldn't wait for it to take off. In an effort to bring myself back to the moment, I turned to my Dad riding beside me and asked: "Is there anything you'd do differently when you were my age?" I could tell he was giving it some real thought as I watched his mind turn, wanting to tell his son something that could save him from experiencing the same pain. But that's not how life lessons work. Their value lies in the personal experience that's thrust on us by a desire to change. This time, he said it in a way I heard him loud and clear. "I'd spend less time worrying about the future." Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to accomplish something big, that we fail to notice all the little things that give life its magic.
I knew all too well what my Dad was saying as his words echoed inside my head. Don't jam your life with plans. Leave space. Be where you are. When you understand this, you find peace in trusting the journey, even when you don't fully understand it. A lot of times, what we want isn't what we need. Life will teach us the lessons we need to know when we're ready. We don't know what we don't know to ask. It's far too easy to become a hoarder of knowledge. It's not what you know that changes your life, but what you put into practice.
Life's lessons aren't overnight success stories that shine with brilliant clarity. They're buried 100 miles into the earth, heated to about 2,200 degrees, and ruthlessly squeezed under 725,000 pounds per square inch of pressure like the birth of a diamond.
You go through the shit you do so you can rise from the depths with a new sense of appreciation for life. Life unfolds in imperfect perfection. There is no rhyme or reason to many of life's experiences beyond the meaning we attach to them. We attach meaning in an effort to feel like we have control over the situation. The same reason you prefer to drive, rather than being a passenger. You feel safer, thinking you're in control. The idea of surrendering to the unknown sounds like witchcraft to many. Many of us are miserable because we're unwilling to bend to the reality that it's impossible to plant your feet in a flawless vision of perfection.
Slipped in the back of my Dad's wallet is a piece of paper that speaks of a profound message, reminding one to embrace the journey of life. It's a 250-word essay called The Station by Robert J Hastings.
Tucked away in our subconscious is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long trip that spans the continent. We are traveling by train. Out the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hillsides, of city skylines and village halls.
But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. Bands will be playing and flags waving. Once we get there our dreams will come true, and the pieces of our lives will fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering - waiting, waiting, waiting for the station.
"When we reach the station, that will be it!" we cry.
"When I'm 18!"
"When I buy a new 450SL Mercedes-Benz!"
"When I put the last kid through college!"
"When I have paid off the mortgage!"
"When I get a promotion!"
"When I reach the age of retirement, I shall live happily ever after!"
Sooner or later we realize there is no station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us. "Relish the moment" is a good motto. It isn't the burdens of today that drive men mad. It is the regrets over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who rob us of today.
So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot more often, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more, cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.
Torn, covered in coffee and the size of a credit card, The Station now has a home in my wallet. I don't read it often enough but just like life's lessons, I seem to read it when I need a reminder of what matters most in life.