Dandelion puff

Self Work: A Story

When anyone claims to be on a journey towards finding and knowing self, we think they must be making huge life changes like meditating 2 hours a day, eating only raw foods, or removing all excess from their life and living in solitude. But, I assure you that my path towards knowing myself better, and becoming a better me, is really about making simple, everyday life choices consciously and, when appropriate, differently.

An example occurred about a week ago when I was making my way from meeting my new nephew in Upstate New York to Hoboken, NJ (which for those not familiar with the area is about 2 – 3 hours away).

Taking this route was quite normal for me as I used to live in NYC and often went upstate to visit my family. Thus, when I embarked on the usual train ride from Middletown, NY to Hoboken, NJ, I didn’t expect any life lessons. I was simply looking forward to shutting my eyes for a few hours and resting.

That wasn’t the case.

On the day in question there was work being done on the train tracks, and so we needed to take a free shuttle bus to a more busy train station to avoid said work. This wasn’t abnormal either. In fact, I’d done it several times before without event.

Unfortunately on this day, our shuttle was late and we missed the next train putting us passengers an hour behind schedule. When I boarded the next shuttle, and realized we’d miss yet another train putting us now two hours behind schedule, I started to consider taking a cab the hour drive from somewhere in Northern New Jersey to Hoboken.

When this idea came to mind, I felt my heart start to race at the panic of being two hours late. I consciously chose to calm my thoughts. I then reminded myself it was Saturday, I had nowhere to be, and I wanted to save money. So, I came to the conclusion that getting a cab was unnecessary. I was disappointed in this realization, because I was SO TIRED and just wanted to get back to Hoboken to rest.

In this simple moment, I surrendered to the universe and accepted my fate of having to get home late putting the cab idea out of mind. Then, I disembarked the second shuttle bus to wait the hour for the next train.

As I was on the elevator to the train track with the other late passengers, a man about my age said, “Does anyone have the Uber app on their phone? I’ll pay for our ride to Hoboken. I can’t be late for work or I’ll lose my job.”

This was an ordinary moment, you see? It was a moment when most people would choose to ignore this stranger. I mean, who gets into an hour long cab ride with some strange man? Many of us would instead continue along the certain and safe path of catching the next train.

The old me would have made this choice, anyway. But the new me? The new me was conscious, and I saw the opportunity to get back faster while both saving money AND helping a fellow person out. So, I consciously chose differently.

“I have the Lyft app on my phone. We can split the cost of the ride,” I said.

“No. I’ll pay for it. Trust me you’re doing me a huge favor,” he replied.

With the free ride confirmed, I saw the universe supporting my decision. The man seemed normal enough, AND he was echoing thoughts I myself had had only a few minutes ago.

I took a chance.

Several minutes later our Lyft driver, Jean, whisked us away toward Hoboken. During the hour long ride, I watched as we became a unit. Jean laughed at the fact that Sean (the man from the elevator) and I were complete strangers taking a cab through New Jersey, and he told us about his band, his wife, and his work.

Sean, a bartender in the West Village neighborhood of NYC told us how he once talked to Lady Gaga who is best friends with a co-worker, and then described his history in bartending.

Jean was conscious about getting Sean to his train and to work on time. All of us were curious about each other. We were in it together.

We were human together.

You’ve heard me wonder here before about the point of these very short term, but intense, connections I make.

In this case, in the moment when the three of us were saying goodbye (PS Sean made his train on time!) I, again, lamented having this deeply connective moment which felt like it should last forever, end right in front of my eyes.

These moments make me emotional every time. I start to believe that surely these beings were meant to stay in my life to keep me human and connected. Then they are gone! It’s very hard on me.

This time, however, as I felt the impending loss, I also remembered that our human connection never fades, as long as we keep it alive within us. It can and should remain with us, even when the individuals who help reunite us with the connection are no longer near. This IS the point of these moments; to remember and internalize that connection to others and ourselves.

If I had decided to stay on the safe route of the train, I’d never have felt the warmth and laughter of other people experiencing life. I’d also never have those feelings to look back on when considering my own life.

In one moment I made a conscious, but different, choice which gave me a huge payoff that would extend beyond just the moment.

Now, as I reflect on this story while basking in the beauty of The Columbia River Gorge (where I’m housesitting for a dear friend) I again see that how we choose in the simple life moments, determines how we’ll make the bigger life choices.

Further, if in these simpler moments, we choose to be conscious and choose more for ourselves instead of for what we want others to think of us, we can then make the bigger life choices more confidently and more purposeful. I see it all as a practice to get us to a place where we’re confident and loving of who we are.

In the end, isn’t that what doing “self work” is all about?

Backwoods brewery flight
Cheers to that!

Published by Lis

I’m a location independent woman, consultant, and writer on a quest to see and learn about as much of life as I can. I believe it’s possible to live one’s fullest life on our own terms, and I plan on proving myself right.

3 comments on “Self Work: A Story”

  1. Lis, I enjoy your posts so much! Always so much food for thought. Your take on the choices we make and their impact especially strikes me this morning.

    I wrestle with the concept of karma, or serendipity, as I tend to think of it. As a student of human behavior and decision making, I know that we are wired to seek and find patterns, even when they may not exist. We want there to be meaning that we can understand This gives us a sense of control, and it satisfies our desire for justice. It’s comforting to believe that everything evens out. That life is ultimately fair, even if we have to extrapolate over past lives to make the equations work.

    I am skeptical of there being universal forces that balance fairness and intentionally set up connections like the one you describe between you and Sean the “needs to be at work on time” man. I believe that there are currents and eddies of human experience, behavior and energy, but I imagine they’re largely random, and I doubt that we’re not positioned to see the overall patterns. Someone who thinks of using Lyft to save themselves some train trouble is likely to be in an upper-middle or higher income bracket. And though we’re conditioned to fear strangers, the percentage of people who would exploit such a situation is smaller than our fears suggest.

    The most influential factor I see in your vignette is what you’ve zeroed in on: choice. When we look at each moment, each opportunity, as a series of choices, we are so much more free, and open, to finding what we seek.

    The fact that you choose to look for, to be open to, those deeper connections makes it much more certain that you’ll find them. I’ve seen that play out throughout my life — what we look for, we find. What we project, we create. It doesn’t always happen, but by being open to it, by seeking it, you create the conditions for it to occur.

    I’m on the choice journey with you, Lis. I’m participating in two coaching programs, both of which are helping me spot those moments of choice that produce freedom, power, and (shall we call it) magic in all situations. Especially those where I feel uncomfortable and disempowered. What I love about your posts: you remind me to look for these opportunities not just when I’m upset or struggling with a chronic problem, but in those everyday moments. You’re making your life so much richer. Thanks for enriching mine!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your perspectives, Susan. I always find them inspiring and thought provoking!

      I wrestle with the same concepts… knowing, as you state, that I’m wired to find meaning (and worse, that we’re good at creating that meaning!), but also believing that life is, in fact, meaningless. All we have is each moment in the end, and if we hold on to the stories we create, we often miss the moment of actual experience.

      I love your point on the “currents and eddies of human experience”… I too doubt our ability to gauge the overall patterns. All of us have different perspectives, privilege (or lack of), backgrounds, etc. I’m so conscious of this as I move throughout this journey, and I am not hopefully generalize my own findings enough to not just be the privileged person preaching from her perch. To me that’s not useful.

      Choice is the key! Of course are options differ based on so many factors, but ultimately that choice is ours. I do believe in what you mention about what we project we create… not always, but many times! And yes I use the word magic to describe this… in fact I believe that is what “magic” in stories is representing… this unknown knowing of life.

      So glad to hear about your coaching programs! I hope to hear more about what you learn and experience through them. Seeing the ordinary moments as THE moments has been so monumental for me, so I’m delighted to hear my experience is helping you too! What an honor!

      I’m humbled to say the least.

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