Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Luck Is Where Preparation Meets Opportunity

A friend of mine told me recently that she didn’t think she’d ever have a “light-bulb moment” into happiness the way I did last month. She said she thought she’d have to work at it a long while before it happened for her. When she said it, she sounded a bit disappointed in that realization. It made me think about my situation and my light-bulb moment when I found the passion drummer.

After some reflection I came to the realization that my journey to happiness wasn’t overnight, but literally five years in the making. Happiness didn’t happen for me in a moment; although, the juxtaposition in my perspective did happen that way in my case.

Five years ago, I really thought I had it all. I was reasonably financially secure, had enjoyed academic and professional success, was respected by my peers, and had little difficulty in setting and achieving my goals. I felt fortunate and successful. Then I met Jason (who is now my partner.)

In our first conversations on Match.com, it was obvious to me that he viewed the world through a completely different set of glasses than I did. But opposites attract, and we had common interests that allowed us to connect on a few different levels.

I remember one of the first questions Jason asked me was: “What do you do for fun?”

I was like, “Fun? What do you mean? I work full-time as a database designer. I have a special needs child at home with around-the-clock nursing. I manage a staff of 18 nurses, hire, staff, train, schedule and deal with their personnel issues. I manage weekly inventories for medical supplies and pharmaceuticals. I coordinate occupational, physical, and speech outpatient therapies as well as home schooling. I take classes (as my son’s hospitalizations allow) at a local college toward an undergraduate degree that I started around the time my son was born and still maintain a 4.0 GPA. I maintain a beautiful home on 2-acres as any self-respecting DIY-er does. So you see, I really don’t have room for anything else.” What I was thinking in my head though was, “Fun isn’t important. It’s frivolous. It doesn’t get me anywhere. There are so many more productive things I can (and do) do with my time.”

Frankly, I’m surprised Jason didn’t hightail his butt out of my life after seeing how stark and driven my world was. I was the epitome of efficiency, productivity and seriousness. I had to be. That was my world. But he saw something of interest in me, and was able to overlook the seriously different modes of operation we prescribed to.

As I got to know him better, I learned how truly different his world was from mine. I learned how genuinely happy he was with life in almost every aspect. He had so little stress and few negative elements in his daily living. It seemed like he sort of just floated by in life while I struggled, tooth and nail, to make ends meet each day. And just weeks earlier, I thought I had it all.

Eventually, Jason and I moved in together. There is value in seeing someone that lives in the world of the passion drummer on a daily basis. I started to recognize the choices he made and the values he set and the way he evaluated things as different from mine at a basic level. I frequently asked how I could have a life like his. He would tell me what he thought, and I usually just discarded what he said because I felt it was too simplistic for my complicated life. But I did start setting goals for myself gradually that were a bit different. I started to focus on balance (work/play) and simplicity. I started spending less time with friends and family that were really negative to be around and gravitated toward people that were positive and authentic and who I felt good being around. I started taking time out to play and have fun. The more I did these things, the more I wanted to do them. It’s funny how “fun” works that way.

Each year, I moved closer to a world like Jason’s, but I wasn’t really completely conscious of this, although some of it took a huge amount of work and courage to do. It wasn’t easy. I was tied pretty tightly into the world I had made for myself so extricating myself was a slow and arduous process, a five-year process in fact.

I got out of the job that paid a great salary and gave me little self-fulfillment, and took a job that paid less but gave me more freedom. When I found myself in a situation without enough nursing coverage to bring my son home after a 7+ month hospitalization, it took time but eventually an ideal placement was found that is able to sustain the level and quality of nursing my son requires in a non-institutional setting (no easy feat with the national nursing crisis we’re experiencing) where he has other kids like him to share experiences with. He is so happy and his life is so much richer than I could have ever hoped to give him. And I now have a life again for myself too. That change was the single most difficult thing I’ve ever done and not everyone has agreed with the decisions I made and I’ve lost friends as a result. I did other things too. I sold that beautiful home that was too much work for me to maintain and that didn’t really suit my needs and that held me to a place that I wanted to leave. I took work on the other side of the country, in a warm climate, which is something I've wanted to do for decades. I committed to completing my undergraduate degree in 2009. Looking back, I was slowly but systematically closing a chapter in my life that was no longer working for me.

Today my life is irrecognizable to the life I had five years ago. Nearly every aspect has changed. I made room in my life for a new way of thinking, for a new set of values, for a new type of decision making. I simplified, and removed the negative, and acknowledged my own limitations and needs. I learned to focus on what I valued more instead of focusing on what others thought I should do or be. In actuality, I don’t think I was ready to hear the passion drummer before now. I don’t think I would have comprehended it, even if I had heard it. I had to make room. I had to prepare. I had to ready myself.

Everyone’s journey is different and special. We come from different places with different needs and passions. My journey only proves that it can be done. You can unhook yourself from a life you didn’t intend, or did intend but now realize isn’t what you want. If you’re not happy, you can be. It’s a choice. No, it may not be easy. Mine certainly wasn’t. But when I finally “got it” it seemed like the easiest thing in the world. I just forgot to acknowledge (for a time) the preparations I made that allowed me the personal capacity to hear the passion drummer’s beat that first time.

As the saying goes, luck is where preparation meets opportunity. I guess I just got lucky. See you on the other side.

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