The phone was ringing when I opened the door to my office this morning. I answered and was harangued by a lawyer on one of the cases I am handling. It did not end well. Then I looked at my desk. The “Shit I Am Trying To Ignore” pile is, well, impossible to ignore. So I decided to dive in. I called a tenant at a building we own who has been complaining about a tree branch that keeps brushing against her window. “When are you going to fix it?” she demanded. Then it was on to a clerk in a court in Corpus Christi who doesn’t understand the law or my need for immediate, unmitigated justice. I also banged out 2 acceleration letters, a sideways scowl, numerous rolls of the eyes, six or seven cynical references to the present shape of the world and countless expletives directed, in no particular order, at the aforementioned lawyer, my computer, the legal system, my fat fingers, the lazy lawn guy, the New York Times and the nozzle at the gas pump.
So what gives? Is it a typical Monday or is there more at play here? Truth is, I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately. So as lunch time rolled around I decided to try to pull myself out. I usually start by comparing myself to those less fortunate. But this does not have the same ameliorative effect it used to have. Reminding myself that some poor bastard is in worse shape than me only heightens my sense of morosity.
Then I remembered a conversation I had with a friend of mine at Christmas. We were having lunch when I brought up the topic of New Year’s resolutions. He is a goal oriented guy and we have discussed resolutions in the past. He usually has a lengthy list.
“I don’t make resolutions anymore. Except one,” he said.
Must be a good one, I thought. It is.
He explained that he was sitting in his kitchen one day with his seven year old daughter who is profoundly handicapped. He was sick with a cold and looking at a pile of bills on the table. He was regretful of the past. He was worried about the future. Then he glanced over and saw his daughter staring at him….and smiling.
“It was the most beautiful smile and I almost missed it,” he said. “That’s when I made my resolution.”
“Live the life that is right in front of you.”
So when I went to lunch today I decided to try it. I took full inventory of my immediate surroundings…a car that starts; a road that gets me to a restaurant where I can order a fresh meal prepared and served by someone else; a clean place to wash my hands and sit quietly; a warm breeze; iced tea….the list went on and on.
But how realistic is that? I mean you can’t walk around in a constant state of present tense. And how can you be present when you are tense? It’s not easy. But if you try, even occasionally, to make a careful assessment of all that is good in your life at this moment, you may be surprised at how fantastic is your here and now.
I’m going back to the office to call that lawyer from this morning. We have some unfinished business to discuss and it may even be a bit unpleasant. But I’ll have a smile on my face anyway.