This should take you 5 minutes to read. Be sure to make it to the end, there’s a link down there you’ll want to click after you finish the blog.


I remember when “car phones” were new.

Growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta, Ga, I would occasionally accompany my mom on her hour long commute to work.  If you know Atlanta, the drive from Stone Mountain to Mableton was like the last leg of the Oregon Trail—long, slow, and if you’re not careful, you may die of typhoid.

For me and my brother, there were two things that made the commute bearable:

 1)   A cassette of the Broadway Soundtrack of CATS. Yep.  My brother and I would sing the entire show , word for word, in the back seat. Over and over.  Did I mention my mother’s a saint…

2)   The new, payphone sized Motorola “car phone” that sat on the console of her 1990 Diesel Mercedes.  

“No, you can’t use it like a regular phone.”  

 I wanted to call the radio station.  On the evening drive home, Rebecca Stevens, the on air DJ for B98.5FM, would dedicate a song to your one true love.  I was desperate to dedicate a song to Robin Griffeth.  

“It costs money every time you call. So, we can only use it for work.” 

I guess the sentimental patter of my young heart didn’t qualify as work to a mom who had been busy breaking glass ceilings all day. 

“Ok, be quiet boys.  I need to call work.”

Then, for the next hour, mom would scuttle between work calls and calls to our grandmother who couldn’t quite believe we were in the car on the phone.

“Well, lo and behold! Isn’t that a marvel!”  

I could hear my grandmother’s pre-war, southern accent through the phone, as Rebecca Stevens made another dedication on the radio.

 To Crystal, from Cory, this is “When I See You Smile” by Bad English.


I’m turning 40 this year. 

I don’t think 40 is old. I do remember when 40 was considered “over the hill” (do they even make those birthday cards any more?)

I’m not old, but I’m also acutely aware of the ever increasing rate at which time seems to be passing.  

iPhones aren’t new anymore; everyone’s on their second Prius; and, Robin Williams? That was 5 years ago.

It’s like time is worth less than it used to be.  A dollar doesn’t get you much anymore…seems like an hour doesn’t either.  

Better get on with living before it’s too late.


Here are 5 things I’d like to do before I die.

In no particular order, of course.

I hope you find this beneficial (or at least, interesting).  You’re not going to get these 4 minutes back.

  

Hug a Giant 

There are a lot of things I’m still scared of; a lot of giants left to face.   

I’m scared of needles.  I’m scared I’ll let you down.  I’m scared I’m too far away.  I’m scared you won’t like this blog.  I’m scared I’m insignificant. I’m scared I’ll die from something stupid. I’m scared the mole on my knee is growing. 

We all have giants to face.  

Before I die, I want to hug the things I fear.  I want to thank them for showing me my limits, keeping me humble, and reminding me of my vulnerability.  Without my giants, I’d have no need for others, no need for courage, no need for God.  Without my giants, I might think I am better-than, indestructible, and all powerful. As long as there are things bigger than me, I don’t need to prove myself.

I’ve got giants, and I want to hug them all before I die.

I was born when all I once feared, I could love
— Rabia of Basra

 Bend in the Storm 

In nature, storms come and go.  Where I’m from, in the south, a storm can pop up at a minutes notice, rage and blow, and then move on as quickly as it came, leaving the air clean, the ground wet… 

…and a few broken trees.

 The Taoists tells us that in a storm, the tree that doesn’t bend, will break.

 If you’re like me, you’ve weathered some storms.  Sometimes I bend, sometimes I break.  But, the more storms I weather, the more I realize that forgiveness is the key to my flexibility.  My breaking point is often directly related to the depth of my forgiveness.  Where my forgiveness stops, so does my flexibility.

But, forgiveness is hard.

 It requires a love deep enough to hold those who did not hold us. It asks that we extend thoughtfulness, concern, and empathy where we did not receive it, and it asks us to humble ourselves to those who did not humble themselves to us.

It doesn’t make the pain magically go away, rarely tastes as good as revenge, and sometimes it feels unsatisfying.  It doesn’t restore trust, or replace justice, and it doesn’t make everything “fine” again. 

Forgiveness doesn’t ask us to stand strong, it asks us to bend.

 Before I die, there are some storms I still need to bend through.

 

Kneel Before a Blade of Grass

I’ve been told that we’re all addicted to intensity.  That we crave the highest highs and the lowest lows. That unless we’re experiencing intensity, we don’t feel alive.

 Makes sense to me.

Everywhere I look, it seems people are addicted to drama, to problem, and to unhelpful narratives that hold them in place.  Not to mention, alcohol, drugs, Instagram, and the Kardashaians.  

 Intensity, like a fog, makes it difficult to see the beautiful ordinary in front of us.  Pretty soon, we forget we’re surrounded by all we need.  I could pay a life coach to teach me how to live, or I could just look at a flower, a tree, a blade of grass.  A flower is not embarrassed or self-conscience; a tree is not concerned with being perfect; a blade of grass doesn’t believe it’s insignificant.  Everything I’ve forgotten about myself is reflected back to me in the ordinary if I pay close attention.  

Before I die, I want to kneel before a blade of grass and let it remind me of what I’ve forgotten.

 

Drown a Little

Let’s face it, we live in a 140 character world full of headlines and swipe-rights.  We’ve become puddle hoppers, jumping from one shallow experience to another until we wonder where we are and how we got there.  We go to church once, we try yoga for the free class, we meditate for a month, we stay in a relationship until it gets hard, and when one acting class gets boring, we move to another one.  

 It’s like scraping the bark off an ancient tree, getting bored with it, and saying “I’m sick of trees, I want a rock.” 

  The people I respect the most all have one thing in common—they committed to something, went deep, jumped in the waters of life and found, by drowning, a oneness that looks like truth.  

Before I die, I want to let the water rise and come over my head; let it swallow me whole and make me a part of something bigger.  I want to swim with my wife in the deep end and discover who she really is, and who I really am.  I want to go the distance with my few close friends and find out what we’re really made of.  I want to stay out of the shallow end, and find out what happens if I drown. 

With gratitude to my teacher, Catherine Fitzmaurice, who first told me to “drown a little”.

 

Drop My Shield 

In the year 2000, I lost my stepfather, Roger.  It was the first time someone close to me died. I was almost 21 years old.  A few days before he died, I went to Piedmont Hospital to see him.  The room smelled weird from a body ready to quit, and he was in a coma.

I asked if I could have a little time alone with him.

As soon as everyone left the room, I sat down beside him, grabbed his hand, and told him everything I had been too scared to say when he was more alive.

I told him how much he meant to me, what I planned to do with my life, and how much I was going to miss him.  I told him how much I loved him for loving my mom the way he did.   

When I said that, he squeezed my hand.  Even in his coma, he had been listening.

Then I left the room, hugged my brother, and cried.

Roger had been sick for years.  I knew this was coming.  I knew it, but that didn’t make it easier.  

In a way it made it worse.   

I had time to tell him the important things; I had time to thank him and let him know he mattered to me.  But, I never did.  Maybe I would have been too embarrassed and unable to handle the seriousness, the nerves, and the discomfort of being that open with someone I loved.  Maybe the vulnerability would have felt too exposing.   

So, I kept my shield up until he was in a coma, and waited until the very last moment to tell him I loved him and he mattered to me.   

At least I know he heard me. 

But, why wait?

If you love them, let them know. If you miss them, let them know. If you've been thinking about them, let them know. If you respect them, let them know. If you admire them, let them know. If they hurt you, let them know. If they raised you up, let them know. 

Give them something true to hear.  

Before I die, I want to drop my shield, and risk being known

 


Today, I spoke to my mom on a phone we couldn’t have imagined evolving from the old Motorola car phone.  We talked about all the things that are happening now: work, family, her recent trip to Costco, and some more work.  

At the end, I told her I loved her, and we hung up.

I’ll probably call her tomorrow, or the next day, and we’ll say mostly the same things.  I’ll get updates on work, family, her plans for dinner, and her excitement about her next trip to Costco.  

Then, I’ll tell her I love her, she’ll say the same to me, and we’ll hang up.

Life is happening, time keeps moving along, and it’s wonderful.  An hour may not be worth what it used to be, but somehow, it feels more valuable.  

I’m looking forward to 40. Maybe I’ll finally get through to Rebecca Stevens and dedicate a song to my wife; or maybe, I’ll go for a drive and belt CATS at the top of my lungs; or maybe, I’ll just call someone and tell them I love them.  

Life sure is good. 

And all the things that make it good sure are sweet.

I wonder how Robin Griffeth is doing?  

I hope she’s well.

I know I am.

How do you face your giants? When have you bent in a storm? Have you knelt before a blade of grass, dropped a shield, and are you willing to drown?

For more writings on the power of listening, check out my new book: Short Paragraphs on Listening


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