Stop and ask yourself

I’m on vacation with my family in the Napa Valley, and my Mom is telling a story about a man who suddenly asked himself this question (he was a stressed-out ad executive): “If I could do any one thing before I die, what would I most want it to be?” For him, the answer was wine-growing, and he set out to become a vintner – and succeeded. That question has stuck in my head ever since.

We may go through our whole lives without even asking the question, and if we do ask it, it’s kind of a “what if” game, not anything real. Not anything we intend to follow through on, as this man did. OK, I can hear you with all the objections – “but he had money” “but his wife supported him” etc. All too easy to come up with those “buts,” isn’t it. “But” I say, “we have only one life.” Or so I believe, anyway.

Sometime after reading this, stop and ask yourself this question. Don’t overthink it. If you’re intellectually going through the pros and cons of different options, you’re not really doing it. Listen to the first thing that comes into your head. See the first vision that appears in your mind’s eye. What is it? Share it, if you feel like it.

Next, don’t judge it. Don’t immediately come up with all the reasons you can’t do it. (why do we do that to ourselves?) This is possibly the most important question you could ask yourself for the rest of your life, so give it time to percolate. Months, years, if necessary. Turn your vision over and over. Does it surprise you? Explore various facets of it and see what details are revealed.

Now, take little steps toward your vision. Little steps don’t have to change anything, they can just be research, or learning, or imagining. These little actions may make you feel more in tune with your mind’s eye. Little steps may turn into bigger steps over time, and bigger steps into making it a reality. You have nothing to lose by giving your idea full consideration. Even if all you do is dream about it, your dreams will be pleasant.

When I asked myself this question, I had a visual image, no words or thoughts, just an image. The image was of myself, relaxing outdoors in a house in a peaceful place, working quietly. I just know in that vision I am healthy, relaxed, and calm, living in a place that nurtures me, doing work that is balanced with the rest of my life, somewhere where nature is nearby. A slower, more rational pace of life that is sustainable for me.

What my vision has none of: commuting, cell phones, e-mail insanity, constant meetings and conference calls, massive mortgages, endless work to make ends meet to the point of stress, lack of exercise, poor health, consumerism, SUVs, the politics of war and greed. My whole spirit says no to all this. Someday I will make it happen.


4 thoughts on “Stop and ask yourself

  1. My Mom sent me this after I got home:

    Here is the correct quote from Goethe and a blurb from Trust Cellars home page [the name of the winery the man in her story created]:

    “As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”

    “Trust–to change, to shift. To move from a lifestyle rooted in technology and speed to an existence focusing on soil and sun. Taking a giant step requires trust. The trust of your family and friends…and trust in yourself.”

  2. Valerie says:

    Hi Teresa,
    I don’t mean to be presumptuous, since I only know you rather peripherally in a virtual sense, but my readings of your posts suggest to me that you’ve already achieved much of what your vision showed :) You may not be in Costa Rica, but you seem to be surrounded by friends and family and you live in a beautiful place.

    I too was caught up in eletronic vices, but found after being forced to devote more time to other things that it’s not sooooo hard to turn off the computer at a reasonable hour. Having a cell as my primary phone, learning to ignore or turn off that has taken more effort. But it can be done as well. Taming one helps to tame others :)

    As a writer, I’m relatively desk bound – so to combat the lack of exercise, I’ve bought a mini cycle that fits under my desk. Is it perfect? No, it’s not the same as running 5 miles per day. I also had to buy a few 2x4s to raise up my desk so that my knees didn’t bump. But I feel a lot better with even this little step.

    Personally, I am fascinated with technology and I think it’s possible to achieve a balance. Soil and sun are essential, and somewhat easier to access in a sunny clime like FL where I live. But watching the evolution of techology persuades me that it’s a good thing that will eventually be present but not omnipresent.

    Thanks for your thoughts, I enjoy your blog.

  3. Soulwright says:

    I am writing about Existentialism right now and I have been running the phrase – “Today is a good day to die” through my mind…

    I told that to someone and she said – “But I don’t want to die!” Neither do I! And I want to live my life so that when my moment comes – there are no regrets.

    AFter my father died, I made some changes and did some things that I had been putting off until “if only” happened. I now – most days – could say I lived my life with no regrets. I would have to credit my partner – my husband – in allowing me the space and freedom to accomplish this.

    I love your writing and musing from the dark side of the moon.

  4. Carol Ramsey says:

    Hi Teresa,
    Who said, “The answer may be beautiful, but how much more beautiful the question”… ee cummings?

    I read the question and closed my eyes… there I was in my backyard on a golden Fall day, in the garden near my house w/my dogs. Lots of dogs.

    Thanks Teresa,

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