Being In Service

Here we are now, a couple of weeks into the year-long month of April. While it feels like we’ve be at this forever, what I’m really appreciating at the moment is the clarity.

So much of the busy-ness I had allowed to creep into my life was just noise. Without it, I’m able to really remember what matters. In that way, I’m incredibly grateful for this giant “pause” button we’ve been granted, even though we are under a lot of duress and pressure.

We can’t really control the situation. So where are the threads of promise and hope that we can follow?

Years ago, I was listening to Tim Ferriss interview Sebastian Junger, author of the book “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging”. Junger spent a lot of time with people with PTSD and who deeply needed healing and recovery. In this interview, he talked about how giving people who needed healing a place to be in service deeply dropped suicide rates and rates of depression.
While it seemed almost impossibly counterintuitive, his research resonated deeply with me. Being in service gets us out of our own way.

Here’s how he put it in his book: “Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary. It’s time for that to end.”

In my recent podcast with Chelsea Mills, she speaks about this principle with one of her coaching clients. When we give what we lack, somehow we get what we lack.

Modern society is a hardship in and of itself. As many of those trappings have fallen away, I’ve truly come to appreciate the moments of hearing the birds sing, of listening to the wind and of just being. And we are still going to need modern society.

When we return to whatever new normal we will have going forward, I’m going to remember to be in service. Writing these blogs, bringing new people and ideas to the podcast and doing experiments on better ways to grow under pressure have taken on new meaning for me. When my mind starts telling me that no one will notice if I decide to feel sorry for myself today, I’m going to remember to show up.

Where will you show up and be in service? How are you getting clarity during this time, whether you are on the frontlines or sidelines? What new way of being do you want to carry with you going forward?

This year’s tax season involved digging waaayyy back for old records. There are so many reasons I don’t want to open old boxes of files. Wasting time is at the top of the list. But then – I don’t help myself, because I start opening other files and then reading old stuff and before you know it, I’m walking down memory lane.

Secretly, my hope is that there’s a pearl in the oyster – that I will run across something that makes the yuckiness worth the effort.

It rarely pays off. In most cases, hours go by and before I know it, I have forgotten to find the form I’m seeking.

This year, I found a little pearl. The kind of pearl that might have saved my life. You might ask, how could I find a lifesaver in a buried file box? Well, here’s what happened. I found a long-forgotten piece of writing that never really saw the light of day. I did it for a workshop, and when the program ended, my files went into the archives. So I decided to share it today.
Read on and at the end, I will tell you how it saved my life. Here’s the piece:

I was listening to David McCullough, Pulitzer winning author of the book 1776, interviewed on NPR a few weeks ago. He was speaking about the historical context of his latest book and he remarked that most of us don’t know the many ways we enjoy the benefits of decisions and acts of courage taken by those who came before us. That simple remark caused me to pause with gratitude. As I drove down the road in a fully operational vehicle, heading towards the haven I call my home, with the option to listen to the music I want, my thoughts to turned to what could be, what could have been, but for countless decisions and acts of courage by people I don’t even know. Because of others that I can never thank, I earn money without having to pay homage to a king. I am free to dress as nicely-or shabbily- as I want. So many choices are now mine to make-because of people I will never know. And because so many are unknown to me, it’s virtually impossible to get my hands around what could have been. So I decided to bring it closer to home.

In my reflections since listening to that interview, I have started to pay attention to the ways I get help. This has not been the easiest meditation, as I easily fall under the delusion that I am an independent person capable of taking care of myself. And the “help” that I get doesn’t always show up-at least initially-as something I welcome. For instance, just recently I was driving over a winding mountain road when I came around the bend to see another car in my lane. I quickly jerked the car right as my nemesis returned to his lane. About the time the adrenaline wore off, a small pickup turned onto the road in front of me and proceeded to amble down the road at about 20 miles per hour. Within seconds, I felt like honking and going around him. Suddenly I thought back to my encounter a few miles before. Without that, I would have been tempted to do something stupid, like go around this slow poke. I settled back in my seat-still gritting my teeth but firmly in my lane-and aware of the help from unseen forces.