Friday, May 2, 2008

Down to the Basics

A balanced pile of smooth river stones . . . what does it mean?

It speaks to me of simplicity and symmetry.

I've spent a chunk of my life thinking a certain symmetry of achievements will make me happy: big house, fat salary, cars, success, fame and a bunch of other things. If I could only amass certain items I'd have the symmetry I wanted. Yet I've had some of those things and now that I'm looking at the latter end of my life, I realize my life lacks the very thing I wanted - symmetry. Why? Because I left out simplicity.

I could organize and put my life together but if I am using the wrong stones, it doesn't matter how good I look. A good looking appearance made out of the wrong building blocks will soon crumble and fall.

When I hit forty, I wanted to stop achieving for a while. I hit a plateau. I knew half my life was over and all I saw ahead of me was more steps on the ladder. I looked at my job and the stepping stones still ahead of me; I looked at my son who was 3 at the time and realized I needed to pour my life into his. My marriage was rocky . . . some issues belong to me and some to my spouse. I was not happy. So I made myself happy by getting involved in my son's life.

Achieving personal and monetary success was boring me. I wanted something more than a pile of good-looking stones.

Even my relationship with God was not cutting it. I needed something more than God could give me. That may sound irreverent; however, it is an honest statement that some religious people are afraid to utter. God said, "It is not good for man to be alone." He never said, "All you need is a relationship with Me . . . your Creator." Yet I'm sure some Christian can pull enough verses together to make a case to say "all you need is God." That might work using your concordance; however, it doesn't work in the human soul.

Hitting forty was my crisis. I asked myself one morning while working out at Gold's Gym attempting to get a hard body, "What in the world is this all for? I can't keep living day in and day out serving God, barely paying bills, trying to be the best Dad and knowing something else is missing."

Hitting fifty was suppose to be the start of a new era . . . the golden years. A lot of wonderful friends celebrated this important day with me. I felt appreciated but rather than being the golden year's, the fifties turned out to be fool's gold. A lot of symmetry but I was missing the simplicity of what I truly wanted in life.

When I turned sixty I felt like hiding in shame. In fact, I refused to celebrate because I had not found true happiness yet. My older son was in college and my precious younger son was poised at the cusp of adolescence. My marriage was still far removed from giving me what I wanted in life.

In a summer visit to see my parents in South Florida, I went into a Publix market to do an errand for my mother. I watched this couple in their 80s interacting in the check out line. "Morty, go get me the pickles. I forgot to get the pickles." His response? "Get it yourself. Why can't you remember anything?" A light bulb went off for me. These two people . . . after at least 30-40 years of marriage . . . did not like each other and ended up bitter and took it out on one another. I said, "I don't want to end up in life like the embittered Morty and his crabby wife. I'd have nothing to look forward to other than age and sickness and a jar of pickles. I must do something drastic to get back to the simplicity of life."

Then I realized what I need the most is the simplicity of a loving relationship. Like the pile of smooth stones, the bottom rock is a healthy and fulfilling marriage . . . and everything else stands on that one thing.

I don't buy the myth that after awhile the romance is gone or the thrill leaves the marriage. What happens is the romance is replaced by decorating a home, the kids, the job and the recreation money buys you. The romance is never gone if everything else is built on the bottom smooth stone. But once that stone is replaced, the decision has been made to seek joy elsewhere.

What have I learned after 60 years? It is not good for man (and woman) to be alone. Everything else really doesn't matter much. if it takes simplifying your life in order to get to that point, then do it. I don't care how high you've piled those stones and how impressive your pile looks. Without a loving, warm relationship with someone of the opposite sex, you've built your life on a pile of dust that will blow away when you die.

This is my life path. I want one thing. I want the bottom stone . . . that stone that has been smoothed out by years of remaining in the river of life and allowing the waters to smooth out the rough edges.

I still have my rough edges and still need more time in the river, but I know what the raging waters of life are doing to my soul, and I like it. My life path is a road to simplicity . . . a life where the so-called blessings of life never have a chance to destroy the relationships in life that matter the most.

Life needs to be simplified not complicated by our possessions, luxury SUVs and stock portfolios. I am unimpressed by anything but two people who really love each other. Now that's an accomplishment. That's a life path worth walking on.

Written by Louis Lapides January 2008 and re-posted from his EONS page.