Robin Williams’ passing is one of the first celebrity deaths that has really thrown me. He made me laugh more in the 90s than any other actor. My siblings I quoted his best lines from Hook, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Good Will Hunting frequently. He was a part of the entertainment of my youth and today I am grateful for the part he unknowingly played in that time in my life.
But today, the laughter he gave to so many is replaced by questions. So many questions. How does seemingly one of the more entertaining and funny actors, and by all accounts, a true gentleman off the screen as well, find himself in a place where taking his own life is the answer? Where a man loved by so many finds himself absolutely alone and ending his own life is the choice he makes?
A friend of mine in high school that I lost touch with committed suicide after college. A good friend went through a really dark time and hinted at suicide a couple years ago but fortunately is in a better place now. Another good friend fights depression daily and openly and has taught me so much about the grip it can have on you. And those are just the friends and circumstances I know about. Who did I talk to last week that was laughing on the outside but destroyed on the inside? Did I even think to truly ask how they were REALLY doing? Not just the “fine” or “really busy, wow!” answer we all give in the 140 character at a time attention span world we live in. Am I spending time with people because it is on my calendar or am I being present with people and fully engaged in what is really happening in their world?
For over three months earlier this year, I lied to every single person that asked me “How are you doing?” Good friends, family, everyone. I wasn’t doing well and had let my world spin my head in such a way that I was convinced if anyone knew how not-well I was doing, the house of cards I’d constructed to conceal the confusion and hurt would come falling down and I’d be exposed for the fraud I believed I was. It was a really dark place and it took a lot to pull out of that nose dive.
It took hugs from friends who didn’t know how much that hug meant.
It took hard questions from folks that were willing to call my bluff when I responded with “fine.”
It took some one foot in front of the other honesty in my journal to unpack how I’d allowed my mind to live in that dark place.
And above all, it took time.
Time for me to get back to understanding that every single person I was talking with was fighting their own something.
Time for me to be okay with not having it all together and that other people knew. (Even though they already knew, I just now knew they knew.)
Time for me to get back to learning and growing and asking for help without forcing myself to go through the mental gymnastics I’d become accustomed to in my hide’n'seek phase.
And while there is, and always will be, the possibility of a quick slide back to that dark place, there are things that can be done right now to strengthen the good in the places where we are now. Life is too hard to try and do this by ourself. There are too many ways life can beat us up to go it alone. Every single one of us is fighting something inside and making it up as we go. You aren’t the only one.
And the sooner we all realize that, the sooner we can work together to fight through this beating known as life, rejoicing with those that rejoice and mourning with those that mourn.
“The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.”
I’d been riding pretty hard. 100 miles in the past two weeks. And in between rides, I’d been feeling the burn. And then yesterday I blew out my back tire a couple miles from home. Anytime I go from riding to walking that quickly, I feel like an infant, unsure of their next step and as though I am moving so slowly. Instead of being home 10 minutes later, it was more like 45.
My urge to get out and ride this morning was hundred by the blown out flat tire that awaited me. I walked my bike to Ride Brooklyn (best bike shop in the city IMHO) and asked an enthusiastic bike mechanic named Ricky to help me out. He not only fixed my flat, but he tightened my breaks, cleaned the chain, and pointed out that I was severely underutilizing my bike because of one simple adjustment that he could make for me. He told me that my seat was way too low and that he wanted to raise it up and see if I could feel the different.
Now, he wasn’t the first person this week that had mentioned it. My sister Katie, the bike pro in the family, pointed it out and said I should make the tweak. So two people I knew knew their stuff both mentioned it, I was game to see what kind of adjustment should be made.
Six whole inches later, my bike seat looked awkwardly tall and almost dwarfed the height of the rest of my bike. I wasn’t so sure that Ricky was overestimating how tall I actually am and that we’d need to scale back the adjustment once I hopped on. And sure enough, it felt as awkward as it looked. I was hunched much further over to reach the handle bars and sitting on the bike in the shop, I felt like a giant riding a trike. But, Ricky told me to take it out on the road and give it a shot, if we needed to change it we could, but to take it for a spin and lean into the adjustment and see if it wasn’t a welcome fix after the awkwardness subsided.
So I took it for a spin. I headed up the slope of Park Slope and realized I wasn’t struggling near as much as I had been in previous rides. My legs were getting fully extended and I was using the whole rotation of the pedals to power up the hill. My posture was leaned forward and my core was much more engaged. So I keep riding and before I knew it, I was 10 miles into my afternoon and barely breaking a sweat.
All because of one adjustment that aligned everything else.
It almost seemed to simple.
But there it was. As a result of a blowout requiring me to slow down in order to get back up to speed, I was back in action utilizing all of my potential with much more intention and far more impressive results. I was aligned with natural ability and height and making my bike do the work for me instead of slouching in my seat and only getting 30% of the power that I could.
Sometimes it just takes a little time and some outside help to understand where you are, what you have, and the higher potential that you could be achieving if everything was aligned.
We’ll be talking about achieving that potential with all the resources, tools, and natural abilities you already have at this month’s Exobase here in New York City. There are still seats available and I’d love to have you be a part of the experience. (SIGN UP HERE)
If we’re being honest, I waited too long. But hard things are hard to do. I’d seen it coming for weeks if not months. But the excuses were plentiful. I was busy. It wasn’t that bad. I was probably the only who’d even noticed. Maybe it would stop. This was my first time and maybe there was something that I didn’t know.
But, this evening, I finally did it.
I pulled all the weeds in my backyard and the flower beds.
And while I put my lower back through a new exercise regime, some thoughts occurred to me about weeds.
- They’re there because we let them be. We see them popping up and could stop them immediately, but we don’t. We let them grow because “it’s not that bad.” Yet.
- They blend in and aren’t that different from what is supposed to be there. They’re not that bad, we can let them stay a little while longer right? We’ll get to them.
- The longer they stay, the deeper they’re rooted. If we’d taken care of them right when they first showed up, it wouldn’t have been a big deal, they’d barely established their place. Now they’ve got an entire root system.
- They’re choking out the good that is supposed to be in their place. They grow faster and bigger and have an easier time showing growth. But, the longer they stay, the more space and resources they’re taking from every else around them.
- When we do get ride of them, they leave a mark. If we go for the whole root system, they’re gonna leave a bare spot in the yard. It is going to be obvious to anyone looking that something use to be there.
- We won’t get all of them the first time around. No matter how thorough we are, there will be some that come back that we’ll have to deal with again and again.
And whether the weeds we’re pulling are in the backyard or in our life, everyone has them. But, not everyone is willing to living with them. And not everyone who wants to do something about them will. But, when you do, even through it will leave a mark and you’ll get your hands dirty, you’re making room for the good that can grow in their place.
And that’s worth the pain.Tweet
Every time I think life can’t spin any faster, it does. There are some amazing things happening right now that I can’t wait to share, but the culmination of all of them happening so closely together has lead me to need this holiday weekend more than ever to find the bottom of my email inbox and more importantly time to slow down, take a breath, and unplug.
After Waze was acquired by Google in June of this year, Annie and I completely unplugged in Kiawah, SC. It was four full days of no email or social media for me and it was incredible. I found some incredibly clarity during that time and will look back on that trip as a turning point for some big things to come. The luxury of that length of time to slow down wasn’t available to me this weekend, but the choice to treat this holiday like one was. I knew I had meetings this morning, but committed to spending three hours offline and with my phone on a different floor of the apartment. I made an ask this morning for any reading that had inspired folks over the past couple months and was incredibly grateful for the amazing responses both on Facebook and on Twitter.
I intentionally didn’t offer parameters around my requests as I was hoping for things further outside my normal strike zone of nonfiction business books. From books of the Bible to cyber thriller fiction, TED Talks and Royal Society for the Arts videos, I found my mind exploring thoughts not directly related to a single thing I am working on right now, and yet applications and take aways that helped me punch through a couple mental road blocks I’d been hung up on.
I wrote about the value of slowing down to stay sharp for Forbes last year HERE and full endorse the wisdom in the story of the lumberjacks. And while most of the time it is much easier said than done, today it was done and I am even more ready for a huge month ahead.Tweet