This is a true story so please don’t laugh. Okay, I allow you to laugh because I already did. The other day I was putting on my socks, and I must have bent down incorrectly, because I hurt my lower back. I never thought about it until it happened, but I don’t usually sit down to put on socks when I’m in a rush, at least not until this happened! My body reminded me that I’m 40 for the first time. I don’t say my age often, because to me, it’s all about how young you feel.
But, really! How can I hurt my back doing such a simple gesture? I mean, if I’m going down, might as well go out with a bang. Who wants to say that they hurt their lower back like that?
The “sock incident” happened on a Wednesday morning. Not realizing how much this little accident was going to affect me physically, I still left for work feeling hurt that day. By lunch time, my back demanded freedom even from the ergo dynamic cubicle chair.
I excused myself out of the office and started the long journey back to the car. Just to give you a perspective on how long that journey is, it takes me the same amount of time to get to my car from my cubicle as does my commute home – a whopping five minutes! Only this time, everything was in slow motion. It must have taken me at least twice the amount of time to get to my car that afternoon. Still, I was instantly relieved when I got home and hit the nice, fluffy couch.
As I lay there, I realized that suddenly my life came to a halt. Wifey and I had plans to salsa-practice that day: cancelled. We had a salsa outing planned with friends the next day: cancelled. Plans to exercise and play basketball: cancelled. Doing minor repairs on the rental property that weekend: cancelled. The schedule emptied out, and all I wanted to do was go from the couch to bed and have comfort food to forget the pain, and slowly await my recovery.
This incident reminded me of how fragile life is and that one shouldn’t take things for granted. One day we’re here chatting about financial independence and the next day, you are having a “sock incident”. We don’t know what’s going to happen next, which is why I make it a point to make every encounter count; feel every interaction that I have with my loved ones; treasure every hug and kiss, as if it was the last one.
I wasn’t always great at making the most of the journey. I missed special moments in the past. I missed family events, nieces’ and nephews’ birthdays, because I was too busy putting 80+ hours a week working on my magazine. I now know how important it is to pause and be present. This is why we took a break from this blogging hobby a few weeks ago to fully enjoy our recent vacation in the DR, mostly unplugged.
We could have headed to another destination, since we’ve been to the DR several times in the past 12 months, but it was essential for us to visit my parents again. My wife suggested the trip, and it was the right balance between time away from the office and time spent with them. I got a chance to stay by their side, enjoy conversations with my father and make him feel that I was there, in the moment. My mom has been bedridden since late last year and it’s been a life-altering experience for the entire family. I treasured the time together sitting by her bed, cooking her some yummy meals, and watching her eat them with joy and appetite. I can always write another post, but those precious moments with my parents had to be seized then and there.
Like Paolo Coelho wrote in The Alchemist: “The secret of happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon.” In the book, a young man was tasked with taking a stroll around a palace and returning in a two hours’ time. The only condition was that he take a teaspoon with two drops of oil and not let the oil spill.
…The young man began to climb up and down the palace staircases, always keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. At the end of the two hours, he returned to the presence of the wise man.“So,” asked the sage, “did you see the Persian tapestries hanging in my dining room? Did you see the garden that the Master of Gardeners took ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?” Embarrassed, the young man confessed that he had seen nothing. His only concern was not to spill the drops of oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.
“So, go back and see the wonders of my world,” said the wise man. “You can’t trust a man if you don’t know his house.” Now more at ease, the young man took the spoon and strolled again through the palace, this time paying attention to all the works of art that hung from the ceiling and walls. He saw the gardens, the mountains all around the palace, the delicacy of the flowers, the taste with which each work of art was placed in its niche. Returning to the sage, he reported in detail all that he had seen. “But where are the two drops of oil that I entrusted to you?” asked the sage. Looking down at the spoon, the young man realized that he had spilled the oil. “Well, that is the only advice I have to give you,” said the sage of sages. “The Secret of Happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon.”
It’s important to enjoy the scenery along the journey, without forgetting your obligations.
One last point I’d like to make is that you have the power to make the best of every situation. I felt partly handicapped for a bit, but I enjoyed asking my wife to do things for me. I’ve also been declining yoga invites from her, but now promised to join the next class to built up my lower back muscle strength and, hopefully, prevent any more “sock incidents” in the future. When life throws you lemons, make this lemon slur and let me know how it tastes.
What has prompted to pause and think about your journey in life?