Thursday, January 29, 2009

Stop and watch the dog chase the ball

I think the usual saying is "stop and smell the roses," but I live my life in dog analogies...

This morning I got up at around 7:30. By 8:30, I'd learned that my mother is in the hospital and my dog has cancer. Not a great start to the day. As many of us know all too well, life can be going along cheerfully enough and then suddenly hit you with a right hook out of no where.

This unfortunate duo of wake-ups ties in to another lesson that I've lived and learned during my 39th year of introspection and change:

Its a good day when the dog is chasing the ball, so stop, watch and enjoy. As we were all vividly shown in Marley and Me, a dog's life is short, but oh so joyful. We should all aspire to live such full and exuberant lives. Dog's are masters of living in the moment, enjoying what's right in front of them, and not holding back actions or emotions out of fear. I think loving a dog, and participating in their shorter lifecycle can give humans a deeper perspective on our own lifecycle, which although longer in years speeds by just as quickly.

I so vividly remember being 12, doing the math, and saying to myself, amazed, "Wow. When I'm FORTY it will be 2009." In 1981, this seemed impossibly far away.

Last June, I suddenly looked up from my career desk and didn't like what I saw. For the previous 17 years, I had focused almost exclusively on career, career, career. Bigger, higher, faster, better, and more were my primary hallmarks. But, I didn't really know what I was trying to achieve.

So, with no plan, I abruptly decided to quit my job and take six months off.

It was slightly terrifying to just quit. I had no idea if I'd be able to sail back into my career if I decided to go back. I had no idea how I'd make money if I decided not to go back. I just knew that things were out of balance and I needed to reorient my life.

I took a step to the side and spent six months hanging out with the dog, focusing on writing, getting in shape with a trainer, cooking, enjoying the Bay Area, prioritizing friends, and cultivating a new relationship.

I realized that even though I got off the career merry-go-round, the world didn't come to an end like I feared it might. The opposite happened--the world came to life. All the pressure I'd felt over the years about career, job, day-to-day BS, were all pressures I'd put on myself. Newsflash to self: No one else had any expectations for me but me.

And, when I was ready and excited about going back to work, a fantastic job presented itself that was right in line with the new life I was trying to build. Now I'm excited about marketing again, have a strong belief in my company, am working downtown in San Francisco for the first time, riding my bike to work, and thinking about how to make my marketing programs "sustainable."

Life throws things at us, both good and bad. That we can't control.

But, we can control how we're living our lives in the spaces between those unexpected right hooks.
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