“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” ~Carl Rogers
I had just gotten settled into my hospital bed after two hours of preparation. I had 32 electrodes taped to my bandage-wrapped skull, plugged into a machine that monitored my brainwaves, with just enough room to go from the bed to the bathroom.
After two ambulance rides and multiple seizures, I needed to find out what was going on with my brain.
The full diagnosis of my disease was still unknown then. The doctors told me it could be serious and to prepare for the worst.
“Yes, they said. Your time on this earth could be seriously limited.”
Weeks? Months? A year? Years? They said “yes.” In other words, they didn’t know yet.
When the nurse left my room, I was there by myself with nothing but my thoughts about my life and death.
It quickly dawned on me that at some point, most people would be in hospital beds, facing their mortality and asking themselves the hardest question they will be forced to ask: Did I live a fulfilled life?
I began to audit my life and smiled.
If the worst news came, I knew I’d be leaving this earth walking the path of fulfillment. Granted, I wanted several more decades to walk the path, but my brain condition forced me to answer that question of all questions.
The phrase “the path of fulfillment” was a revelation I’d had nearly 20 years ago on the plane ride home from my mother’s funeral.
Fulfillment is a constantly moving energy. It’s a path, not a place. You’re either walking on it or away from it. That’s why you have to work at it everyday to stay on the path.
Back then I wasn’t doing what, in my heart, I knew I always wanted. I wanted to make movies and music, to influence others, to make the world a better place. There were so many things I always wanted to do.
But they were huge endeavors, and fear superseded these dreams.
I had to face the fear of failure, the fear of success, the fear of rejection, the fear of what people would think.
So I acted. I wanted to make a movie. It was 1999, so the first thing I did when I landed at home in Austin, Texas was buy a computer, Final Cut pro editing software, and a digital camera.
I had never used a camera or editing software, but that didn’t matter. I took one small step at a time, and in two years my wife and I were travelling to New York, Los Angeles, and Muskogee, Oklahoma to view my documentary at film festivals.
Guess what the documentary was about? That’s right—fulfillment!
As a part of the documentary, I produced two of my own songs. Those songs played all over the world. That’s when there were 25,000 Internet Radio stations begging for music, so radio play over the web was accessible as long as you had a radio-ready produced song worth the airwaves.
Again, one small step at a time, and I had a movie and music under my belt.
I wanted to run a marathon. I was overweight and never really ran long distance before. But, all it took was a start, commitment, and follow-through. It took three years to accomplish, but I took small steps to make the big run.
I started by running one mile, then two, then a 10K, then a ten miler, then running a marathon in four hours and forty-seven minutes. Not a record setting pace, eh? Didn’t matter. To me, I had won the gold medal.
Fulfillment transcended again on March 5, 2007. That’s when I held my beautiful daughter in my arms, looking at all of her beauty, as she was perfect on that day she was to born. But she was dead. And it was tragic, no doubt about it, but if reinforced that life is fragile, and we need to honor it.
So I’m not going into the darkness that lay ahead, just the light that came from her death.
The revelation of fulfillment had elevated to the connections in our lives. Through all of this hardship, I was glad I’d married my best friend, as I don’t know how we could have survived otherwise.
All of our friends and family stood with us and were there for whatever we needed. I had made it a commitment and priority for my 40-something years on this planet to nurture true and deep friendships.
Those deep relationships paid off when I needed them the most. And still do.
I am close friends with those that I connected with in first grade, sixth grade, high school, and college—those relationships where you can peel off all of the layers and just be yourself and laugh and cry all in the same breath.
Again, it was a commitment I made to be a true friend for all of those decades. You have to be a friend to have friends.
You have to make time to call them, Skype them, have a drink with them. In the end when you’re in your hospital bed facing your mortality, it is those connections that will truly matter.
To build those connections, first and foremost, you have to connect with yourself.
You have to know who you are, what you stand for, and how you want to connect with people and the society we live in.
When you connect with yourself, you can face your fears. You can build the confidence to act on your passions, to commit to them and follow through. And in doing this with deep connections, you can walk the path of fulfillment.
We now have a beautiful four-year-old daughter who is the brightest connection in our lives. My brain condition is in check as long as I take my handful of pills each day.
I make sure I cherish every moment with my daughter, my wife and best friend, my friends, and my family.
And I make damn sure that I honor my commitments to connect with myself, my loved ones, and the world where we all live.
Remember, one day, you will be in your hospital bed auditing your life. When you do look back on your life, you want to make sure you smile.
Photo by SilentMind8