One day, after a critical hospital stay, I was sitting in my sun room contemplating the complexities of life. Suddenly it hit me, life is not complex at all. All of the “problems” we experience throughout our lifetimes are of our own doing. In truth, life only has three parts; we are born, we live, we die.
I began to take a closer look at my life. I go to work, come home, go grocery shopping, go to church, and begin the cycle all over again next week. My immediate resolution was to jump off of the merry-go-round. A glimpse backward in time reminded me of formative school playgrounds where jumping off the merry-go-round resulted in injuries, bumps and bruises. How painful! Now, my cognitive senses began to take flight. Bumps and bruises heal, often with no lifelong reminders. Scars are there to remind us not to repeat the same behavior again. Looking at the “scars” of my life, I can remember how most of them occurred and the lessons learned. I wasn’t afraid to “jump” even though I knew the possibilities of being injured.
Many of us get trapped in life because we know its easy to just stay still and ‘go with the flow.’ The problem with this is that staying on the merry-go-rounds of life will always show you the same scenery. You will never see the stars, mountains, oceans, rolling plains, glaciers, and forests. The merry-go-round is designed so that the closer you stand to the middle, the safer and easier the ride. You brain is hardwired for self preservation so you are reluctant to take chances that could leave you physically or even mentally injured. Before long, many years and opportunities have long passed the time when they could have been profitable. So you take the safer alternative and hold on to the safety bars as tightly as you can. You scarcely notice the scenery flying by anymore as you make every effort to maintain your position on the ride. If you dare to become more adventurous and move toward the edge, the anxiety level rises as the spinning force increases.
Fast forward to present. Once I came to realization that I was only going through a cyclic existence, I was disappointed at how I could have allowed that to happen to me. Then, I decided to change my circumstances. I had two options; I can choose to jump off and incur a few bruises or play it safe and stay on the ride. I decided that the latter will no longer define my life. I am reaching out, jumping off, and enjoying my life. When I die, I plan to do so with the scars of a life focused on living.
The Teeter Totter
Sandra was my best friend that I dearly admired and loved. She has since moved on from this realm of existence but, I am reminded of her whenever I see children playing on a playground. You see, this woman lived a life of extreme exuberance followed by deep depression. As her friend, I celebrated the highs with her and offered comfort during her times of depression. No matter how I tried to convince her to get off the teeter totter, or see saw, she would respond with the phrase, “It won’t always be this way. One day, things will get better and I will be happy.” Sandra clearly was blind to the fact that her life was a series of ups and downs. My philosophical advice to her was its okay to have ups and downs, but if she was not moving forward, she was on a teeter totter, not a roller coaster.
The main goal of life should be a one filled with the excitement of roller coaster rides. It is imperative to have lows so you can fully appreciate the highs. Sandra, unfortunately, could never appreciate my advice. She was trapped on the perpetual teeter totter without the wherewithal to get off. My friend died before she had a chance to value the highs of her life. I hope my new friends will take a moment outside of themselves, assess their life, and move from the teeter totter that only goes up and down. Step onto the roller coaster, anticipate the lows, scream through the highs, and enjoy the ride.
The Jungle Gym
Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a people watcher. But, I am also a people helper. As a child, my favorite playground equipment was the jungle gym. You could choose to climb from underneath or go for the gusto and climb from the top. Either way, there was adventure as you were only as high as your last lift. You see, the jungle gym is designed so that every step moves you forward. If you had a strong upper body, you could climb all over this monstrosity while exerting seemingly little effort. However, if your arms were weak, you would soon find that this did not belong in your playground. So it is with life. From the outside, it isn’t hard to see people fall into deep ravines or try to fjord high mountains while a totally easier path goes unnoticed. It sometimes seem as if experiencing life the hard way has more substance than living a quiet, uneventful life. Those with strong will and determination will use the strength required to master this metallic menace to hone their instincts. The weaker ones will make every attempt to avoid this task altogether.
The important fact to remember is that if there are no obstacles in your life, there is no room for improvement. All that is left is the wait: The wait for old age, loneliness, and despair of a life with no lessons. However, if your life is a series of jungle gyms, there is so much wisdom inside of you: Wisdom to be shared with new generations. There are so many grand stories of how you’ve overcome situations that seemed insurmountable or struggled through deep despair. Stories of how you stood on top of the tangled mass of steel and aluminum and took in all your surroundings had to offer will permeate your life. You will be a source of respite for someone still in the throes of financial ruin, declining health, or disparaging grief.
The people who chose the merry-go-round have nothing new to offer. They keep visiting the same situations and getting the same results. The ones who prefer the teeter-totter may experience the highs and lows of life. However, they never learn from them because the teeter-totter offers no forward motion. Wisdom is a life littered with conquered jungle gyms in its wake! Spread the wisdom. Spread the knowledge. Climb higher!
The Swing Set