I have the great benefit of having the opportunity to cross paths with many unique individuals from a wide variety of diverse occupations and backgrounds. These encounters come about for many reasons, from clients, to friends, to colleagues, to strangers.
Recently I was with an individual (I will call "Bob") who I have known professionally for a while but not real well on a personal level. We were at a reception of sorts and standing off in the corner chatting. After the normal small chat he told me that a while back he had had a medical episode that resulted in what he first thought was very serious but later turned out to be nothing major. He ended up with a ride to the hospital and all of the resulting medical tests but in the end all was OK.
While there were no substantive medical issues discovered the incident forced him to review things going on in his life and what may have led to this. He said he did not feel overly stressed with work issues, although he is in a very stressful profession and does work a high number of hours. He admitted not working out on a regular basis and not speeding as much time at home as he wanted to. Over the last few years he had also struggled to take much of a vacation.
After this incident though he did take about a month off, started working out, hung out more with the family, and tried to de-stress. He said he felt better and had returned to work with some modifications. But he still had lingering questions from the incident. Apparently, like most of us, in facing his own mortality he began to examine his life, asking questions about his priorities, his work, and all of it.
After explaining all of this to me he mentioned that he had read up on my history and past experiences (google is an amazing thing I suppose), and said that with my past I probably had faced these issues, either in my own life or in my work. I explained that yes I had. I waited and then he eventually asked me about "finding the balance" and what was the sense of all of this and where in the hell was he going with his life.
Not sure why or how this kind of thing happens to me but it does on a somewhat regular basis. Don't know if other people have read my "google bio" or what, but invariably they know of my background and experiences and somehow maybe all of that makes me more approachable. Not sure and it doesn't really matter, but I am used to hearing these kind of stories and being asked these kind of questions (and do not mind at all : ).
Despite the fact that I have heard similar stories and been asked similar questions over the years, I still do not have a standard or pat answer. You think I would after all of these years but the simple truth is that even with everything that I have done, seen, and experienced, I have concluded that there is no "one-size-fits-all" kind of answer to these types of questions. All stories, all people, all situations are different. And even more important is the reality that the only secret to all of this is that there is no secret answer. Life is complicated, our spirits, minds, bodies, relationships, dreams, visions, hopes, fears, and all the rest make us who we are and make all of this a swirling, evolving, beautiful, wonderful and yes sometimes tragic mess.
So I waited some time again and then finally asked him, "well, what are you doing?" He looked at me and restated the question, "yea, what am I doing?" He talked about his family, his job, his income, his health, and in all of it he said again, "what am I doing?" The medical issue had shook him and raised issues and questions and now he was searching. For exactly what did not seem entirely clear on (and most folks are not) but he was searching. And I thought to myself what an amazing gift! To be shook from the normal day-to-day grind and routine and suddenly find your self awake, looking, searching, asking questions, reviewing possibilities, and moving toward more intentionality in one's life.
The one experience I have had is that there are many people that never get to this point until, and unlike Bob, that it literally is too late to do anything about it. But here Bob was, still upright, still in good health, with a good job, great family, good friends, and many years ahead of him, searching through these questions. Again, what a wonderful and beautiful gift this little medical incident had been.
We never really got to finish our conversation as some other people came over to us and we had to change directions with our conversation. But it got me thinking (again!) about all of these issues. Finding meaning in life, finding our purpose, living with intentionality. Its not easy. What is easy is to just fall into a routine and then the next thing you know 5-10-20 years have gone by and then where are you? Older yes, but also with fewer options, less ability to make changes, less able to possibly get to where you wanted to get to if you had only seen it earlier.
So sometimes the windows we get are oh so small and brief. But yet they can be so important if we are able to seize the moment, grasp onto the opportunity, and take advantage of all that the gift has presented to us. To look at our lives, to ask questions, to see the road we are on and affirm (or not) that it is indeed the path we want to be on. Life happens. How we respond to what happens, along with the choices we make, is where I believe the real substance of life is found.
I am confident Bob and I will follow up on our conversation at some point. I will make sure of it as I know it does a body good. May we all be so lucky as Bob.