Norman Mailer and I have a few things in common. First, I’m selling his home in Brooklyn Heights. But mostly, we both have had a fear of heights. Here is how I deal with my fear.
I saw a man kill himself on the F train last week.
I was coming from a real estate closing with two delightful clients who had purchased their first home. The air was crisp, my buyers were happy, my business was doing well, … it was a good day.
I positioned myself on the subway platform to minimize the time spent at my eventual exit from the train as we New Yorkers often do. Then that voice came in: “Look Up”. As the train approached, I saw him flying sideways in front of the train, an athletic move, his faced turned towards me so he wouldn’t see the collision, a woolen hat on his head. At that moment time slowed down. I wanted to run and stop the train. I knew what was happening. I had to avert my eyes. He neatly slid under the force of the train.
Large flocks of crows have been visiting my bird feeder upstate of late. They scare off the goldfinches, and juncos, and nuthatches, and they even spook the large mourning doves. Yesterday morning I heard their loud arrival and went to my window to watch. Part of me wanted to shoo them away for disturbing ‘my’ songbirds and another part said no….just watch. They were beautiful, chaotic, loud and a bit scary. Then all hell broke loose. They started to fly in all directions, some bumping into my windows, frantic. A hawk flew into my vision, not unlike the flight of the poor soul in the subway, capturing one of the crows mid-air. It took the squeaking bird to my terrace floor and gradually killed it with it’s talons before flying off with it’s breakfast.
Both of my parents killed themselves. It would be so easy for me to fall into story after witnessing that tragic event last week, to relive those events in our family’s lives and how it has affected us. And I did, for a short while. But ultimately, that serves no one.
That state of watching, of observing events is a gift, a choice, a practice. I diminish the vitality of life when I create a tale around ‘my’ little songbirds being pushed away by the murder of crows. Nor do I honor the man in the subway when I make it about my pain instead of his.
I do not know his name. This is the only article I could find online. I wonder what stories he was telling himself? I wonder what stories my mother and father told? And what stories am I still distracting myself with?
My heart goes out to his family and friends and to the subway conductor who had to see this and feel some very difficult feelings. But mostly my heart goes out to the man with the woolen cap … may he find peace and healing.
“Meaningful Work” by Shawn Askinosie is one of the most important books I’ve read in the last decade. It covers those topics which I hold dear in my life: what does your soul desire most; turning sorrow into joy; and finding meaning in your life’s work. (Edited audio interview from Real Estate Success Rocks Podcast)
To buy Shawn’s book: Amazon Link
In 2004 my nephew Charlie and I traveled to Bhutan. It was a glorious trip: his first international destination, discovering Aman Resorts, falling in love with Chai tea, our first Rimdo in a small monastery outside of Thimphu, bringing in the New Year with our guide’s family while sharing their porridge, but mostly being together and experiencing a different way of being.
A decade later I more or less invited myself on a trip that my friend Cheryl was considering. Bhutan was pretty much the same; Thimphu had grown somewhat and a very large gold Buddha was planted on a hill above the city which seemed un-Bhutanese to my eye. But it was still that glorious, mystical land of the Thunder Dragon.
So many lessons learned that second time around…
Our band of merry travelers were an interesting amalgam of souls. Most tourists who visit Bhutan have a strong spiritual side as was the case here. We were easily divisible into three groups which I later discovered had great meaning for me.
My friend David, along with Mark and Rock made up the highly competitive, funny, smart, successful, ‘Type A’ guys. They are goal oriented, in-shape, spiritual, and focused on building wealth. It is a sexy combination.
The second trio included David’s daughter Cheaven, who was studying Transpersonal Psychology at Naropa University, grounded and funny Leigh who was our yoga instructor, and the insightful and deeply connected Anna who left a very successful business career to become an amazing painter. The contrast between the men and the women, the masculine and the feminine, was dramatic.
And then there was one of most beautiful families I’ve ever encountered. The Perkins are open, loving, curious, and smart, raising two very wise children while owning a whiskey distillery in Utah.
We were led by our travel guide, the elegant and exotic Cristy who like me was searching for something….some knowing, some clarity, some thing.
My Dad use to say “If you are going to do something, then do it right.” I saw the guys as doing their business and financial futures ‘as right’. I was doing less than. I saw the gals as deeply connected to their bodies and to God. I was not on that level. And I could only imagine having a family and being in relationship like the Perkins.
I wasn’t doing anything as well as my fellow travelers; or so I thought. Mind you, this was 2014 and in most peoples’ minds I was successful in business and in life. So why did I feel less than? Well, that is a long story and ultimately doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I was continually comparing myself to David and Mark and Anna and Leigh and the Perkins and even to their young son, let alone everyone else that I would encounter.
And what is really funny is that I didn’t want to live my life like the guys or the gals or even the Perkins.
It is painfully obvious that comparing myself to others is a futile and damaging mental process.
So what did I eventually learn?
- Defining myself through others is folly
- If I’m hell bent on comparing, then compare myself today to the Patrick of yesterday, or last month, or last year.
- Let others inspire me. What actions, thoughts and beliefs do I want to incorporate into my life?
- And mostly, let me be clear what my soul desires for that is the core of a successful life
On a side note, I commissioned two paintings from Anna including the one below. Her ‘Knowing’ is deep and is reflected in her art. Anna’s Web Site
I’ve been dreaming about writing this blog for many years. I was never clear what the message was, so I waited. And now it is time.
OomphBlog is about my journey and the lessons I’ve learned. It is about turning sorrow into joy, exploring who you are on a soul level, and what does it mean to be fully alive.
And ultimately, it is about other ways of thinking, feeling, working, living and being.
This is my gift to me and to you.