Appearing fine with the rising of the sun, by nightfall he was no more. That’s a grim progression to experience any time, but to complicate this horribly unpleasant and unexpected bump in our highway of life, Jack’s passing occurred the exact morning I was slated to leave town for three months of contracted work. My wife and I, heartbroken, left the veterinarian and, upon arriving home, tearfully hugged each other as I slid into my rental car, and left her forlorn and isolated in our grievously hollow home.
Intertwined throughout the choking weight of sadness I carried was woven a heavy rope of guilt. But what are you going to do? It was three months worth of employment, planned well in advance. If your occupation takes you away – even when it’s more than inconvenient – you’re bound to go.
Life goes on – so to speak.
When my travel concluded, my wife requested, “I know you love what you do – and I want you to be happy. But, I really need you not to travel so often. Would you please try and earn more of your income here?”
I agreed, not only because of her request, but also because I had been growing weary of the travel hassles. Her vocalizing my thoughts cemented the decision. So, for the last several months, I have been “reinventing myself at 60,” not something I intended – nor something I recommend, but as they say, “Life is what happens while we’re making other plans.” Mostly, short of scurrying hither and yon sussing out new modes of income, I’m doing okay. To that end, I do more coaching, both in person and on-line. I’m producing my own local seminars. I’ve snagged more hours assisting clients with marketing and consulting. And, I’m pleased as heck that even after 20 years together, I really do still enjoy spending so many hours with my lovely bride (and how cool is it that she says she enjoys having me around).
Today however brought forth an unexpected revelation: The most difficult component of my reinvention is that I no longer know who I am.
For decades, I have been a “professional speaker.” I mean, technically I still am, as I continue to speak professionally. Yet the vast majority of income in this new normal is via on-line and local presentations. I guess my definition of “professional speaker” involved airplanes, hotels, larger venues, and going to places that were not “home.” I didn’t realize that until now.
Some say it’s a “guy thing” to have so much of who I am wrapped up in what I do. Yet I’m confident there is plenty a lady whose identity is evenly swathed in what she does.
I’m not looking for sympathy about my post-midlife crisis. Many, many folks face far worse decisions; and I’m grateful that I have the skills and resources to weather this transition. Yet, this readjustment in thought requires some support, which arrived today via one of my wiser associates (who is indeed quite successful in his own career). When others ask of him what he does, he replies, “In reaction to what?”
It made me realize that too many of us have given up the moniker, “human beings,” having exchanged it for “human doings.” None of us are here to “do.” We exist to “be” – and doing that to its fullest potential has next to zero to do with the title on a business card. I am reminded that nobody’s final thought will be, “I wish I would have worked more.”
Who we are is determined by the quality of the relationships we weave, and the appreciation we hold in each moment for the marvelous beings we are – no matter what label we choose.