I was startled by the noise. "What was that? It's the alarm clock. It's time to get up. It's 5:30 am." Hearing those words from my wife, Linda, made me groan. With darkness covering the house, I slowly and reluctantly began my journey. The warmth of the bed's comforter was replaced by the morning's cold air. The ritual of cleansing and dressing occurred without any thought. I kept my eyes closed for most of it. I watched the news while chewing cold cereal. Not even a hot coffee, though welcomed, was able to provide the stimulus to ignite the senses. I was anxious to challenge the road to avoid the onslaught of travellers to the downtown core. The New Year's rush was about to begin. Hopefully, I'd escape the traffic congestion on the QEW/Gardiner and minimize my morning commute to an hour. Where's my scarf, put on the winter coat, don't forget the briefcase, the cell phone and the security pass card. I need to hurry.
It's time to open the garage door, try and negotiate into the right position behind the wheel of the car as the suit jacket, the over coat, and the seat belt fight for dominance while I simultaneously balance a second cup of coffee to drink along the way. I was on my way. Thankfully, I remembered to fill up with petroleum remembering how many times I had forgotten to do so before and how my forgetfulness added unneeded stress.
As hoped, within the expected hour, I was making my way down the parking lot ramp into our office building. Moments later I was sitting behind my desk. A few other employees had also arrived. The need for absolute quiet at such an early hour was honoured. I emptied my briefcase, organized my desk and attempted to prepare myself for what I knew I had to face. But I didn't rush it. I selfishly procrastinated about doing what ultimately I thought would control my life. I believed that as soon as I turned on that computer, the systematic process of the "daily grind" would begin. Ugh!
Does it have to be this way?
In some form or another, what we call the daily grind cannot be ignored. In his book, "Living Beyond the Daily Grind," Charles Swindoll reminds us the daily grind is forever present for:
- the homemaker with ever present children who need constant tending;
- the professional who must deal with people who would rather scream and argue than smile and solve;
- the truck driver exhausted by traffic snarls, weather hazards, thoughtless drivers, and monotonous miles;
- the athlete who has to live with the unending repetition of practice and the stress of competition;
- students and faculty who must live with the ceaseless barrage of daily assignments, class preparation, evening projects, multiple presentations, perfect papers and decisive exams;
- the salesperson facing unimaginable quotas, the therapist trying to encourage the depressed, the pilot fighting fatigue during transatlantic flights, the broadcaster chained to a clock, and the bureaucrat who cannot escape the hassle of red tape.
How do I overcome this? There must be a way to do more than succumb to routine mediocrity and plod along a tiresome path.
I remembered the words of a seasoned mentor. Her simple message confronted my internalized life's complexity and potential surrender.
Eileen, at age 82, on her way to India to chair an international meeting dealing with the unacceptable practice of sex trafficking of women said, "Merv, wherever you are, be there!"
I was sitting in my car on my way home, surrounded by a multitude of cars, trucks, guard rails and buildings, covered in darkness again. I hadn't seen the light of day for 10 hours. It would be at least an hour and a half before I made my way to Oakville and enter our home's front door to find peace from this overwhelming feeling of being imprisoned by life's daily grind (and literally by the irresponsibility of Toronto's city planners). I was thinking, "Yes, here's where I am, and I'm there, stuck, going nowhere!"
But Eileen's true message revealed itself to me clearly. We may have a tendency to always wish for a better place, an improved situation, a climate of sunshine and warmth to replace a down filled coat, more money, less stress, open highways, a fulfilling job, an understanding and caring boss, a successful employer, security, new friends, and the list continues. We always want to be somewhere else. But here we are. And where I am, I need to be engaged. And if I am engaged, what I seek I will find.
There are three simple points relating to "wherever you are, be there!":
1. Life - only one to live. Cherish it.
2. Time - it's limited. Respect it.
3. Purpose - find it. Commit to it.
With these encouraging thoughts, I welcomed 2013. And then I turned on the radio. The words of Willie Nelson rang true.
Without a song, the day would never end;
Without a song, the road would never bend;
When things go wrong, a man (woman) ain't got no friend;
Without a song.
I got my trouble and woe,
But sure as I know the Jordan will roll,
I'll get along as long as a song is strong
In my soul…
As bestselling author and executive coach Dr. Marshall Goldsmith said, "I at times am so wrapped up with what I don't have, I can't see what I do have!"
Happy New Year!