I have a neighbor who inspires me with her self-honesty. We should all be so lucky as to know ourselves the way she knows herself. Almost every day – rain or shine – hot or cold – she is up before dawn and heading out to run miles – a lot of miles.
It would be easy to label her as obsessed with running or exercise in general if you saw her running full out in snow and ice or in the pouring rain. I’ve come to understand that for her it is all about self-honesty. Running is her meditation. It is what gives her strength and serenity. It is what allows her to re-frame the dark parts of life into something good – into something that is supportive and life giving instead of taking. And, so she inspires me to know myself as well as she knows herself.
I began studying T’ai Chi a couple of weeks ago. In fact, I will be leaving here shortly to meet with my instructor. In our first class he addressed the students with a story about his journey with T’ai Chi. It was the last sentence in that story that left me with an indelible impression.He said:
“And for the past 35 years it is something that I have done almost every single day.”
That’s over 12,000 days of practice. He also inspires me. In 35 years when I’m 97 years old I hope to be at his level of self-awareness.
In any given week I probably see dozens of postings on Facebook, Twitter or a blog where someone asks the writer or entrepreneur, “How do you find the time to do all the things you do?” Quite often the answer is, “I don’t have a life.” Does that answer mean they have chosen to put all their energy into creating their business or promoting themselves at every opportunity only to wonder if they are being honest with themselves – to wonder if they are connected to their true self?
Are they focused on making a living rather than making a life? I believe that knowing and being honest with yourself gives you access to the way to create a life of happiness for both yourself and for those lucky enough to be part of your world.
Funny how life works sometimes.
I was in the middle of writing this when my best friend who I’ve written about many times, Walt Zastawa, called to tell me his brother Tom passed away Tuesday. Tom Zastawa was a simple guy. He liked the Steelers and his beer and his friends and family. He made you smile and laugh no matter how down you might be feeling. He was a genuinely wonderful person.
He didn’t have what anyone would call an easy life. A truck driver by profession, Tom spent years battling chronic back pain, bad surgery and in the final years – lupus and all it can entail.
And yet he was one of the most self-honest people I have ever known. The world has lost a good guy this week. But, I have to come back to what I wrote a couple paragraphs ago because if you have read this far it is important for you to read it again.
Tom focused on making a life. He wasn’t rich in terms of money. He didn’t have fame or glamor and he was lousy at playing cards. But, he did have something a lot more valuable and precious.
He KNEW who he was. How many of us can say that?
He has family and friends who love him and will miss him terribly. But, we’ll also remember what he taught us. Just be yourself. First you’ve got to figure that out but once you do – then live it.
Thank you Tom for the lessons and wonderful memories.