It is well recorded that the one thing people on their death beds regret most, is that they were not more true to themselves. “I wish I pursued my dreams and aspirations, and not the life others expected of me.” Or “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” These two statements or much the same; one alludes to dreams and aspirations not met, while the other remarks on not having the courage to live true to oneself – to not have the guts to let the child within run free. Both point to a big mistake we all tend to make: living a life based on the expectations of others. Or rather: based on what we believe to be the expectations of others.
From a very young age we learn to conform – we are taught to “fit in”:
“Don’t make so much noise – people are looking at you!”
“Don’t wear that – they’ll laugh at you!”
“Don’t say that – you’ll sound stupid!”
“Don’t do that – its not done around here!”
And then the inner voice kicks in: “Don’t try that, they will scorn you if you fail.” And so the fear of failure kicks in: “What if I don’t have what it takes?” It takes control of you – sometimes for life. Based on the fear of not conforming with others’ norms and expectations, we allow others to dominate and control the way we set out in life – to control (and destroy) our dreams and aspirations. For the sake of conforming. For the sake of being bland and boring. Killing our uniqueness.
An old man lay dying in his bed. As he looked back at his life, at the little time he was granted on this Earth-school, he noticed how much time he spent trying to be, trying to live like others expected of him.
The truth is, no one expected anything of him – they couldn’t have cared less. They were far too busy living their lives the way they thought others expected them to!
My wife described our first three months in Austria the best: She compared the craziness of it all to the first three months after the birth of our triplets. That precious human messiness that changes your heart and soul forever – beautiful and brutal at the same time!
At times we wanted to cry (and did!) and at times we laughed and laughed ‘till our bellies ached (we did that too)! But probably the most beautiful thing I have learned from our new Austrian friends so far, is the concept of “egal”. It is usually used in a sentence like: “Es ist egal” meaning: “It is all the same” or “it really makes no difference.” But for me, there is a deeper meaning to “egal” and the way it is used. It also means “let it go” – almost in the same way that Elsa meant it in “Frozen”. It is like dropping a small twig into a stream. A gentle but intentional act. You are letting go of the twig by opening your hand and letting it slip out. You see it dropping into the water and watch as it is slowly carried away, going further and further, being carried away with the flow of the stream until you see it no more. It is gone.
A child drops her melting ice cream into the grass beneath her feet and begins to cry. “Es ist egal”, her mother says softly. Let it go – it is not that important.
A businessman just heard he’s been retrenched. “Es ist egal”. Just let it slowly drift away. For when it is gone, it can do no more harm. Things can only get better.
I am standing in a room full of people, alone with my glass of wine. I take a sip every now and then whilst glancing at the people around me. My eyes meet those of a beautiful stranger, also standing alone, seemingly entertained by the buzzing noise of the people around her. I quickly look away, knowing that someone so gorgeous wouldn’t be here alone. I wouldn’t want to intrude. Later, I see her leaving. Alone. My assumption was wrong, but now she’s gone.
Sometimes we make a lifelong, life changing choice in a moment. Very often, that choice is based on assumptions, which are based on our frame of reference – our experience. We don’t realise that it is life changing right there at that moment, but we still make that choice – for better or for worse.
Do I make the call to him or not? If I do, he may reject me. Maybe not even answer the phone. The story ends right there.
However, if he shares my infatuation with him, it may be the beginning of a lifetime of shared experiences – a lifetime of magic!
We make these choices all the time, not knowing that the consequences of each of our choices open up, or close countless doors of opportunity. Every opportunity not taken, ever person not met, every experience not experienced ends the magical wave of possibilities which could have grown from that first encounter, right there.
It is better to do, despite the fear of failure. Do it anyway!
Better to try than to shy away. Better to hope than to live in hopelessness. Better to move now than to wait for the right moment.
That moment may never come. Do it right now!
Yup. That was about it – the day I surrendered. I wasn’t actually wearing a suit, but I was doing the corporate thing – a man on a mission to make his mark in the world of project development and construction. I was in a training session regarding high voltage safety for a power plant we were managing when my phone rang. It was the one time that I was not able to attend the sonar with my wife that day. She said it was important, so I stepped outside before phoning back. I could hear the anxiety in her voice and felt nervous. I wasn’t sure whether she was excited or scared when she started speaking, but the next few words I could never have imagined: “There are three.” “What do you mean?” I asked. “Are there two?” Long pause. Too long. “There are three. Three little hearts beating, daddy.” What?! I was totally dumbfounded. My mind was utterly and completely sealed off for the concept of three. “Three?!” I asked, hoping for some better explanation. I mean, we said we were going to try for a brother or a sister for our firstborn boy – that would mean two kids in total. Two makes sense, because the world is designed for parents to have two children – you see it all over the place: In magazine ads where new sedans are shown with mom, dad and two perfect-looking kids in the back. On TV where two kids come jumping excitedly on their parents’ bed on Christmas morning. Or the ad where two brothers grow up being best buds and then have a whiskey together when they’re old – still best buds and still just two of them! I tried again: “Do you mean two?” I was kind of trying to make sense of the possibility of twins. “No, three. We are going to have triplets.” Bang! The concept fluttered into my mind like a head rush leaving me feeling freakishly dizzy. I had no idea what to say. “Triplets…” I murmured in a hypnotized tone. I can’t remember the rest of our conversation, but I believe there might have been a teary eye. But that’s because cells will die if they are not kept moist, right? Right. No really, I shed a tear. Because I was **** scared! (very scared :))
So, all our plans – out the window. The ones we had up to that point, anyway. The car would be too small (remember the two kids at the back concept?) The living room would be too small. The house became too small. The bank balance too small! But while figuring all this out, I felt very proud. Although many things suddenly seemed inadequate, I felt very adequate in a very manly way. My wife was pregnant with triplets. MY wife. With MY triplets!
When your first baby arrives, your life changes forever. I knew that, because we already had our first boy. But I had no idea what I was in for. I could never have imagined how my life would change – in ways that I did not even know was possible at the time! Welcome to the world of multiples – plus one!