When I let go of thinking about how my life was supposed to look…

Alex's first hike.

Alex’s first hike.

 

So here I am.

I am soon-to-be-45 year old.

I am married to the love of my life and I have two children whom I adore.

Of the hundreds of times someone has asked me what I do for living over the past 20 years, I don’t recall an instance when I’ve had an answer that satisfied either party. I should probably just start saying, “I make it up as I go along” because that would be the most accurate answer.

I have a house in the country that I love. Lots of land. Sweet views.

I am healthy and my body is strong.

My hair that still bothers to show up for work grows whiter.

I’ve always had enough money to do and have what I want.

I got it good. Really good.

 

But as good as it is, I notice that I’ve still hung on to some projection I had about my life when I was 20 years old or something.

 

I was supposed to have millions in the bank by now.

I was supposed to be quite famous in my niche by now.

I was supposed to have a handful of New York Times bestsellers by now.

I was supposed to be jet setting across the country and globe, gracing others with my presence, picking up a hefty paycheck, and partying from town to town.

I was supposed to be… well, kind of a big deal like Ron Burgandy or something…

 

Now, I mention this because even though I don’t really think about these things too much anymore — I am too busy with the life I have created for myself — yet somewhere within me, I still cling to these vestiges of who I thought I was supposed to be. And when I do this, when I measure the life I have compared to the one I thought I wanted a couple decades ago, I notice that I feel bad. I don’t feel like a failure, exactly. It’s more subtle than that…

It’s more like feeling that I’m somehow behind in the race. That somehow I still have to figure out how to get “there,” even though I’m really not interested in chasing my dreams of yesterday. (I’m still down with having the millions in the bank, though.)

And that feeling of being behind — even just a little bit? No, it’s not exhausting. But it is annoying. Like that oil leak that stains your driveway. Or that one mosquito buzzing in the ear, trying to drive you from the lovely patio back inside for the night.

 

I noticed all of this this morning. A Monday. A rainy Monday. After being on vacation.

I woke up with the kids around 6AM and we did our thing. Cereal. Fruit. Entertainment.

By the time 8:30 rolled around, that 20 year old version of me wanted me in my office. Working. Doing shit. Getting back on the success train after such delightful, relaxing week of kayaking, swimming, biking, hiking, and drinking beer with my family (the kids stick to wine only).

I had to get back in front of the computer. Shake some things up. Make some things happen. Get myself back into fighting shape.

Instead, before I knew it, I was covering up my feet with a blanket on the couch, falling back asleep. Now I am not a very good napper, and certainly never before 9AM… But listening to the rain (and Sesame Street), I drifted into unconsciousness. And it was wonderful.

 

I loved hearing the voice in my head squawking at me, poking me to get to work, and deciding to just say, “No, I don’t need to listen to figments of the past anymore,” and rolling over.

I loved making the decision to say, “Phucket, I really want my whole life to be a vacation and here’s the perfect opportunity to live into this NOW.”

I loved allowed myself to sleep when I wanted to sleep.

So I conked out for an hour or so.

And I woke up so appreciative for the life I have created… the one that allows me the freedom to fall asleep on the couch pretty much whenever I want to, any day of the week. The one where I spend more time with my kids than working. The one where I am surrounded by nature. The one where I have a true partner in my wife. The one where things are quiet, both literally and figuratively speaking. The one that has me home instead of traveling. The one that’s so simple and mostly drama-free that it’s pleasantly boring. The one where I have what I want and I want what I have.

When I remember this… when I allow myself to see this… I tear my paper number off and drop out of my old race.

There was a time when I was very interested in races. And in winning, whatever the game.

But that was then.

This is now.

My dreams and desires have evolved.

And I have no interest in races to prove something to myself. I have no interest in the grandiose versions of success that I adopted when I was younger (mostly because that’s the only version I knew to be valid). I’m not interested in taking massive action in hopes of creating something down the road, that ironically, looks a helluva lot like what I have right now.

But I am supremely interested in relaxing myself into everything I want. That’s the game I wanna become masterful at playing.

How good and easy will I allow it to be?

When I look around and take stock of what’s around me, taking stock of the life I have instead of reflexively comparing it against the one I used to want, I see how well I am doing. I don’t notice anything missing, because nothing is missing.

And when you focus on how well you’re doing, right where you are, well, that’s the whole damn jam, right there…


What if you did exactly what YOU wanted, ALL THE TIME?

IMG_0360

Yesterday when I checked my voicemail, there was a message from Margaret, a customer in one of my businesses. She calls rather frequently as she struggles with technology, and when something doesn’t work, her first instinct is to call me to walk her through the issue. Typically, I call her right back, we spend 10 minutes to click a checkbox or something, she apologizes profusely for not seeing something so obvious, and I justify this time-suck as a “small cost of doing business.”

So upon hearing her long-winded message, my stomach sank. Ugh. Not again. Reflexively, I hit the re-dial button to connect with her, rationalizing how I should just call her and get this over with as quickly as possible.

Her phone rang once before I realized what I was really doing. I hung up.

The simple truth is that in that moment, I did not want to call her back. I could list all the reasons to justify my feelings (and you would likely be nodding in agreement with me), but it’s the very habit of justifying our feelings that takes us further from having our desires.

Here’s how these dynamics played out in my example…

Even though I could feel myself bristling very clearly when dialing the phone, not calling her back wasn’t an option. Right? Well, that’s how it seemed to me. Allow me to list my perfectly logical reasons why I simply HAD to call her back…

First, I am a good, helpful person. I help people. That’s what good people do. She needed my help. So I needed to call her and help her.

Second, Margaret’s a customer. Gotta keep the customers happy. Timely service is good customer service. And I am good person, remember?

Third, (and likely most important to me) by using my service, her company puts a few dollars in my pocket every month. In other words, she’s paying me. Cash money. And because there’s money involved, well, everyone knows that every so often (or perhaps, always), you just gotta suck it up, bite that bullet, and do some shit you’d really rather not do. That’s just how money works, right? And to the larger point, isn’t that just how life works?

Well, recently I hit my threshold of approaching my life this way. I’m weary of biting the bullet in hopes of feeling some relief later on. The main reason (which I’ll expand on further in a moment) is that in the longview, this strategy never really works out. Biting the bullet just cracks my teeth.

So I’ve decided to give up. To quit. To surrender. In this context, I’ve decided that to the best of my ability, I’m going to enter the practice of doing only what I want to do — what feels better to ME — in every moment.

The most fascinating thing about diving into this decision is noticing how many butterflies the thought launches within me.

 

Whoa… Can I really do this?

Um, should I really do this?

Sounds kinda risky, for sure…

Oh, phucket! Something about this feels so right… like complete letting go and relief. 

Yes. I’m in.

 

Back to my example, after hanging up the phone and not connecting with my customer, I rose from my office chair and walked outside to my garden (I really love seeing things grow). Back in the house, I stepped into gym and did 30 minutes of Pilates exercises to awaken my body. I mixed up a wonderful fruit smoothie and returned to my desk where my phone blinked with another voicemail from Margaret. Picking up, I listened to her laughing, telling me she’d figured it out, all was well, and to disregard her past message.

Now this may not seem like a big deal. But to me… well, this was kinda huge. This was the evidence I’d asked for.

By setting aside my logical programming regarding what “I had to do” in favor of what felt better to me, my desire was fulfilled. And I really like having my desires fulfilled, especially in ways that feel the easiest to me. While deep in my bones, I know how easy my life can be, up until now I’ve still been entertaining the voice that lectures how a life of freedom isn’t really free, especially on “big” subjects like relationships and money.

I think if you decide to start paying attention to all the times you do things you don’t really want to do —  for whatever reason — you’ll notice that you’re doing things that you don’t really want to do A LOT. And it’s perfectly understandable.

Most of us were taught that you had to shovel a some shit today if you were to hope for a flower or two tomorrow. Most of us have interpreted our experiences to conclude that it’s what we DO that determines what we GET (rather than who were are choosing to BE). While these belief systems still dominate, there’s also an emerging subculture that’s awakened to the truth that suffering is optional, that the purpose of life is to be free and have fun, and that you never have to justify your desires in any way, ever. And, of course, these are the folks I am writing this for…

Now the big cultural taboo pushing against the idea of doing exactly what you want is the looming accusation that would indeed make you THE SELFISH ONE. The one with the audacity to be happy all the time. The one who believes that if they take care of their own happiness by prioritizing it, that they have a full tank of happiness to freely share with others. The one who’s not willing to swim around in the suffering, the self-sacrificing, and the continual grumbling like all the rest.

Look closely and you’ll notice that those who would bother to call you selfish for following what makes YOU happy are only irked because you’re not living the way THEY want you to. So who’s really the selfish one in this scenario? If you want to feel the freedom of living in the full faith of your intuition, you’ll just have to get over any concerns about “them.”

Make no mistake, doing exactly what you want to do is not always easy. Paying attention to how you feel and acting in alignment with your preferences takes effort. It’s work. It’s THE work. The truth is because it’s work, because it takes deep courage, most people aren’t interested in the adventure of creating their lives on purpose. And that’s all well and good.

However, if you are interested in the very real possibility of living in total alignment with your preferences, you’ll want to explore the real reason you don’t trust yourself to do exactly what you want. I’ll give you a hint to start…

 

The real reason you don’t trust yourself to do exactly what you want to do is because you fear you would lose something.

 

Here’s the awareness that gave me the confidence to let go in ways I’d never allowed before… When you live in the fear of losing something, you can never feel the freedom of really having it. 

When you don’t allow yourself to let go and stop pushing in your approach to your desires, those desires remain at arm’s length from you, just out of your grasp. Metaphysically speaking, when you resist the idea of NOT having something, it moves away from you. In other words, if you’re pushing to get something because you don’t want to feel its absence in your life, that desire will continue feel elusive to you. (For instance, if you’re working to get more money so you don’t feel poor, you’ll never feel like you have enough money). So as always, the key to allowing yourself to have what you want now, is to drop your resistance by letting go.

If you resonate with the idea of doing only what you want to do all the time, then take a moment to think about a specific aspect of your life where you’d really like to let go… Consider the soldiers of reason that arise, ostensibly to protect you from doing something foolish, if you were really to allow yourself to do exactly what you wanted in any given moment.

 

Would your source of money evaporate and leave you worrying about money?

Would someone not like you, or maybe leave you?

Would you eat yourself into the shape where they’d have to roll you into your grave?

Would your business go down the tubes while you sat on the beach, eating grapes and reading a good book?

Would you wreck your relationship by jumping on top of anyone who would have you?

 

When you identify your chief concern if you really allowed yourself to do what YOU wanted in any given moment, I’ll wager that you’re already dealing with that concern.

In running this revelation past my wife, she told me the story about a woman she’d just connected with who was afraid of letting go of her emotions. She was angry and afraid that if she let go, she’d tell everyone around her exactly how she felt and be perceived as a bitch. It took courage for her to admit this, and yet it was clear to all around her that by trying to stifle her feelings and desires for so long, she was already acting like a bitch for a long time now. The logical straw man she wanted to protect herself from had already taken up residence in her living room.

Likewise, if you fear that you’d eat every cookie in sight, you’re already torturing yourself with negotiations over every cookie you allow yourself. If you’re worried that you would never work in your business, you’re likely always worrying about how your not working enough in your business now. If your concern was that you’d run wild and ruin your relationship, you’re already concerned about your relationship. The point is that despite your fears and your best defenses to protect you from yourself, the fox is already living in the henhouse.

Biting the bullet only continues to break your teeth.

Returning to my example with Margaret, the bottom line as to why I reflexively called her back was because I didn’t want to lose the money she represented as a customer. While this makes some logical sense, I know that the whole reason I want lots of money is to feel the freedom I believe having that money would bring. Yet even though my desire is to feel free, I picked up my phone with a heavy sense of obligation, somehow believing that if I carried the cross of worrying about and working hard for my money long enough, someday I would reach the freedom-filled promised land where I didn’t have to worry about money. And I’ve awakened to see what total bullshit this is.

You don’t suffer or worry your way to freedom. That math just doesn’t add up. Instead, you decide to be free, and then freedom expands all around you. And deciding to be free means choosing to live in alignment with taking actions that feel free to YOU.

Now I know the idea that you can live very, very well by doing exactly what you want pushes people’s buttons. By now you’re likely either dismissing the idea out of hand (“This is not possible.”), or you’re quite attracted it (“Hmmmn. What if…?”). Either is fine, and I’m not trying to win over any skeptics.

In this piece, I’ve tried to lay out how the dynamics of letting go work and made the case as to how the logical excuses we use to keep ourselves “safe” don’t really hold water. If you can hear what I’ m saying here, and you feel the thrilling spark of resonance in the idea of Letting Go, then the next step is to begin experimenting.

You’ll need to begin to honor how YOU feel. And it’s likely that you’ll want to start saying No to lots of people and things you would have said Yes to in the past. It’s likely that you’ll have to start saying Yes to lots of people and things you would have said No to before. There are two key ingredients to entering into this new way of being…

1) Courage

2) Practice

First, we’re talking about living in a very leading-edge way here. That requires courage. That requires living from your heart. That’s the cost of living a very cool life. It’s edgy, and thrilling, and it will also test your courage for sure.

Second, this is not the kind of change you can make with a finger snap. Living according to your preferences takes awareness, focus, time, and practice.

I can write about this, but that will never do anything but introduce you to an idea. To feel the full sense of freedom, relaxation, and ease, I am talking about, you need to experience that for yourself. So if deep down you know like I do, that you can have exactly what you want by only doing that which you want to do (even if you’re not sure quite how it all works), then I’d love to guide you along the path.

That’s the basis of my work and the conversations in my coaching community. It’s easy to join (and easy to leave if it’s not super valuable to you).

Here’s a couple snippets from one my recent Freedom Sessions.

 

In the first you’ll hear me sharing about the basis of this coaching group while I’m channeling…

 

…and in this one, you’ll hear first-hand what it’s like to be a part of these conversations…

 

If you’d like to be personally coached by me in this way (and be part of a super-supportive community of like-minded people), then please join the experience by going here:

<<Freedom Sessions with Drew info and registration >>

(The next calls for this month are July 15th and July 31st)

 

In any case, I hope you’ll make today the day your start living your life in the exact way that pleases you, in every moment.

- d

 

* As an addendum, as I was finishing up this piece, Margaret appeared on my Caller ID once again. Upon seeing her name, I went inward and checked how I felt about answering it, and there was no resistance. I picked up the phone and yes, she needed another rather obvious question answered. But in answering the phone because I wanted to answer it, there was no resistance, no clenching…


For My Dad. On Father’s Day.

In honor of Father’s Day, I want to share a story about my Pop, Tony, because sharing a story connects me to him.

As my mind flipped through my mental Rolodex, one story kept coming back. Other stories were funnier (Like the time he surprised me and my friends in a wedding reception parking lot, smoking pot out of a makeshift Coke can. Instead of chastising us, he just inserted himself into the circle and waited his turn). Other stories were more electric (Like the time I had my right fist cocked, on the razor’s edge of unleashing years of my anger to his chin, while the stunned neighbors looked upon us in the backyard). And other stories were more obvious (Like the wonderful, rare occasions where he’d join me out by the garage, shooting baskets with his Felix Unger-style-leg-kick, and we’d connect over a friendly game of HORSE).

But this little story… well, it just seems poignant to me. And in the process of writing this, I appreciated my dad even more as a man and a parent.

Setting the live trap at camp.

* * *

I was 20 years old. Home from college for the summer. I spent the morning getting all of my wisdom teeth yanked from my head. Mom was out of town and so it would be just me and Ole Tone Bones back at the house. As he drove me home from the doctor, I still couldn’t feel most of my face. Little streams of blood mixed with drool oozed from the stitched up holes in my mouth, spoiling my shirt with pink stains.

He glanced over at me as he drove. Caring. But not concerned.

When we got home, he set me up on the couch and turned on the Yankee game. Then he said he had some errands to run and took off. He returned soon after with a London Broil, some potatoes, and a six-pack.

“You getting hungry?” he asked from the kitchen.

“You mean for steak? Dad, my jaw feels like Tyson hit me… I don’t think…”

He was already prepping. Steak was his specialty.

I said no more. It was no use. I rehearsed the old story in my head one more time.

He’s not paying attention to me. He doesn’t care.

I resigned myself to suffer in silence. I’d just scrounge in the fridge and find something soft to eat later. I slunk deeper into the couch, returning to the Yankees.

From there I heard the microwave whirring for the potatoes. I heard the aluminum door bang shut as he exited the house. I heard the loose wheels of the grill squeaksqueaksqueak as he dragged it to his favorite cooking spot — out of the sun, beneath the giant pine tree in our driveway. I couldn’t help but notice that he stood just a few steps from where we’d nearly come to blows just a few months earlier.

I rose from the couch and watched him through the window. Manning the grill. Silent. Purposeful.

He cooked the steak for himself, sure. He loved steak. But he cooked the steak for me, too. Because this is something he did well. This was my father showing me his love. I know this now because it’s what I do when I make my kids eggs and bacon in the mornings.

My father re-entered the kitchen, announcing triumphantly, “We got ourselves some mighty fine eating Sonny Boy!”

I still wasn’t having any of his nonsense. Chewing a steak with bleeding stitches and tender teeth is a just a very bad idea. Anyone with a drop of sense left in their heads knows that. Still, I couldn’t help but notice how good the meat smelled…

My dad cut the meat into strips. He set a plate in front of me, left, and returned with a beer.

“Here, this should help with the pain…” he said, handing me the bottle.

Oh, fuck it, I thought. Hot, juicy, and delicious, the first bite brought tears to my eyes. Better not use the molars too much. Take it slow. Wash the blood down with beer.

We ate watching the game together, the silence only broken when he asked me how I liked the steak. I told him it was great. Because it was. Just like the all of the steaks he cooked for me over the years.

After the first few bites hit my belly, the world became a sunnier place. Yes, my teeth still hurt like hell. But with every bite, I felt stronger. And the cold beer hit the spot. This was good. Very good, in fact. Together we were being men. Something new in our relationship. And on top of it all, by ignoring doctor’s orders, I felt the wonderful rebellion of being a man. With my dad. Fuck you and your candyass rules. We don’t need ‘em here. We got steak and beer instead…

Celebrating the Mt. Marcy hike.

Celebrating the Mt. Marcy hike.

But it wasn’t until I started writing this that I realized why I remembered this particular day…

Having a few years of fatherhood under my belt, I can see the reality of my relationship with my father through a different lens. In fact, I don’t know if you get to see through that lens fully until you become a father. Specifically, I now see and appreciate how my father cared for me without being concerned about me.

Now, it took me a couple decades to make this distinction between caring for and being concerned about… Growing up, I equated being concerned with love because this is how I saw all the other fathers behaving towards their sons. The other dads were concerned about their kids’ grades. Concerned about their athletic prowess. Concerned about their curfews. Concerned about their friends. Concerned about the drinking and drugs. Concerned about whether they were following the rules of polite society. And certainly, this made sense to me. Dads are supposed to be concerned… Right? So I spent most of the time that my dad and I shared on this earth interpreting his lack of concern and yes, his indifference, with a lack of caring.

But I just couldn’t see it back then. I couldn’t see how they’re not remotely the same thing. I just didn’t know what I didn’t know…

Today, reflecting on the man I’ve become, the father that I am, and the life I’ve created for myself, I know my father’s approach to be his greatest gift to me. My dad saw me as strong. He saw me as intelligent. He saw me as capable. And probably a whole lot of other cool things that I’ll never know. He fed me a steak because he knew I could handle it, even when I did not. He didn’t see me as needing his worry. And there is great power is seeing your children this way, for both the parent and the child.

While some might argue that concern is a form of love, it’s not.

Concern is fear. Caring is love. Polar opposites. Concern always feels heavy for all involved; caring always feels lighter.

Concerned fathers have concerned children who become concerned parents. That’s not who I will be toward my children. That’s not the legacy I will pass on to them. A lot of society wants to tell me — and in a very logical voice — all the reasons I should be concerned about my kids and their future. I don’t really have the bandwidth to listen or argue too much though. Too busy with the steak and the beers.

Seeing my children as they are — strong, intelligent, capable — has them continually rising to meet the truth of who they really are. That’s what we all do. We meet the expectations of the atmosphere we’re in.

In my house, we don’t try to control the future by worrying about it. We choose to bask together in the freedom of knowing that it will all be good instead. There’s simply no room for concern here. It’s crowded out by all the other wonderful stuff of life. And it’s all only going to get better from here, for all of us.

Knowing this? Knowing it in every cell of my awareness?

This seed of this power came from my father. Tony. By showing me concern is optional and setting me free.

It is his greatest gift to me.

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