Some days are busier than others. And some days are just crazy. My very last day at work included a long list, with no finishing until everything was done. There would be no ‘tomorrow’ in terms of coming back, and I needed to see everyone, do everything, and hear everything that needed to be completed and said. Closure. Nothing more. Nothing less.
In the midst of spinning plates I received an email from a friend. "Who would you be if you could be anyone??", it read. I scanned on, with "Miracles" and "Dreams" mentioned. “Later”, I thought. And later I simply thought, “Aren’t miracles usually involving red wine coming from water, and feeding the 5,000??”. A little silly. Really. An analogy I suppose, to get me thinking.
Later still that day I thought about who I wanted to be. Not ‘should’, ‘could’, or ‘must’ be. Wanted to be. If I wanted. And that was it. Just a thought.
And I had a restless four hours sleep, got up at 5am...and got my arse kicked at CrossFit. Just another day on planet earth.
Something was different. I couldn’t really put my finger on it. Everything was a little hazy. But not everything. Just some of what I saw. The day saw a cloud (of sorts) lift all around me. And this was the oddest thing I had ever experienced, with a new view of the world.
My previous view of all around me had been just fine. I could see forever in every direction, and everything had been crystal clear. Goals and destinations could be seen without distractions such as people and time wasting issues. Life’s little dramas could be ignored, and this allowed for results to be reached faster, with my time spent on what I wanted – getting to where I wanted to be. This new view was different. And it looked like a bloody nuisance.
Some similarities existed. I acknowledge that the view allowed a crystal clear vision of what I wanted to focus on. So I could still see forever. If I wanted to look that far. But now there was something different. And it wasn’t around me, but instead everyone else.
Surrounding everyone was a hazy / watery mist. No longer was I automatically seeing past everyone. Instead I could, when I interacted with others, find myself in their world. Now I am a curious person by my nature, so this would lead to some interesting conversations – I’d be fascinated about aspects of their version of the world, what made them tick, and most importantly who they really were in the context of their reality.
I was somewhat surprised. Oddly, not at what I was now seeing and experiencing – I could comprehend this – rather the notion I now had. That it was ok to lose myself in their world(s) for a while. To ‘just be’. To get to know others on their terms. To not so much cease being me, rather just park everything for a short while and later come back with a fresh perspective. I always thought that this would drain me, but it actually left me energised.
As I listened, asked questions, and filled in the blanks about their worlds, I realised that this was helping me to also understand my own view of the world. Aspects of my life that seemed known, fixed, and immovable, were now shifting as I realised that moving forwards meant leaving behind parts of who I thought I was. Moving forwards meant growing into the person I wanted to be. Moving forwards meant, (amongst other things), deciding who I wanted to be and staying true to that vision – even if it meant risking the occasional kick in the nuts.
And then. If I wanted. I could leave their worlds and continue towards my goals. Better for the experience, and knowing that sometimes to see the forest you also needed to see the trees. And then I’d carry on.
The day continued, and my thoughts continued to clear. Memories. Yes. Memories of happy moments flew by. Sometimes fast enough to be but a blur, and returning later for a fuller recollection. Smaller happier moments that I had forgotten. Where had these memories gone?? When did I forget these morsels of my mind?? Why did I let them slip away?? How had I given away these thoughts in exchange for empty promises and parts of my soul??
And in a moment of utter clarity I remembered what I had wanted to do. Long ago. Before I believed in others more than I believed in myself. When everything was simple. When a goal’s ‘success’ was defined by the quality of people and experiences that I would encounter. When I understood that the finish line wasn’t real – however everything leading up to it was.
I remembered, and realised once again – as I had long ago – what it was. What it was I’d do when I’d do something great. I hadn’t simply thought about it, and then let it slip away. No. I had actually mapped it all out. Ahead of me. Around me. Like a mist clearing as you walked through it, my mind cleared. ‘Who I am’. Yes.
Who I am. Not what I do. Not what I did. Not who I beat. Not how I felt. And not what is next.
It was like being at the summit. Finally sitting upon the very pinnacle of a great mountain, after the hard fought effort to the highest point – with obscured views all around while ascending – the moment arrived. Not perfection. Just beauty. Everything cleared. And I saw it all.
I finally remembered those last few moments before I was born. Two wishes. Everyone gets two wishes. And I had watched so carefully when asked the question. The faintest smile had given it away. It wasn’t meant to be seen. It wasn’t a smile of happiness. I knew instead that something was hidden. There was something more to this than I could see. I asked, “Can I wish for anything??”.
The answer was as cold as it was honest. “Yes. Anything. And all you have to do is later ask, and you will receive it”.
Moments now. I would soon start this new life. Something wasn’t right though. This new life promised everything, and with these two wishes I could have everything I ever wanted. But why ask now?? Why not later?? Why two wishes??
And I heard it. Now new voices. “Stu...you can do it”. It was my Mum and Dad. They had already named me. They already knew me. And I hadn’t even met them. I wasn’t even born. And I knew there was more to this. Something wasn’t right about this moment – why ask me my wishes now?? I had to believe in myself. I knew my soon to be met parents were right. They loved me. And I could do this.
I wasn’t the first one. Billions had been asked, and many had understood what they needed to do. These last few moments were the end of one existence, and soon another would start. A new life is just that.
“My two wishes”, I said. “My first wish is this – I want to be someone who gains a genuine happiness from defining who I am”. The reply in these last few seconds was swift. “This is granted. You shall have this when you later ask”.
“And my second wish”, I announced. No time now. I was about start this new journey. “I will one day be asked a question. The question will be to imagine that a miracle happened...and the miracle was that I could be anyone I wanted to be. And this would happen in a dream”. There was silence. “When I am asked to think about this, you will apply my second wish”. “No...”, came the answer. “...do not say it”.
“When I am asked to think about the miracle my second wish will be granted”. Silence. This was it. My new life was starting. But there was enough time. Enough time to get this right. “My second wish is this – when I am asked to recall the miracle I will remember the time before I was born, and I will remember making these wishes”.
“I will trick you”, came the reply. “No...”, I said, “...you have already tried that. We could have loved you. You chose this. These are your rules, and you are bound by the universe to grant the two wishes”.
There was silence.
Silence from the wish granter. The genie. There was not silence elsewhere however. Everywhere there was noise. Yelling and encouragement and crying and laughing and clapping and shouting and pushing and sweating and everyone – absolutely everyone – wanting the same one thing. Me. Me to come out safely and to start my new life. They had waited the longest time to have me, and I had a journey ahead of me that would take me all over this world. A journey that would have me meeting kings and queens and football teams. See the rise and fall of kingdoms. Watch historical moments that so few would ever imagine. A special journey. And it could all wait a few more seconds before it began.
“I know”, I said. “You know nothing”, came the genie’s reply. I knew them now. Who they were and what they did. Make two wishes and then forget them. Never asking for them to come true. I always had known. The genie could have had our love, but they wanted to instead keep our wishes. “There is another one”, I replied. “God”. “And he could kick your arse any Sunday – that’s why you hide”. “I will kill you”, the genie cursed. “No...”, I said while smiling, “...you won’t”. “But I will do something – I’ll tell everyone”. The time had started. I was being born. I looked back. “I will tell everyone who you tricked – I will tell them their wishes. Everyone will know”.
And it began. And I forgot.
I was standing outside. And it was raining lightly. I didn’t mind though. I remembered now. I had now been granted the Second Wish, and I summoned the First Wish. And it was done.
Those last few seconds before being born were not idol happenings. They were moments of clarity and calmness. I knew what I wanted, and I created my ‘Ten Ways Towards Happiness’. This was needed also. A plan. The genie thought I didn’t know. There needed to be a plan also – I never told them I had this hidden upon my soul when I was born. The genie didn’t even know that was possible for me to make this plan. I could however. We all can. If we believe.
I stood there. Outside. The light rain ceasing. And the sun’s rays now warming me. And I remembered. Everything. It was time. I walked over to a kauri tree and picked up a fallen limb. Then walked along a path, towards the ocean, while I recalled my ‘Ten Ways Towards Happiness’. My new commandments. To go alongside God’s.
A confidence filled me as I walked along the path. I had been here many times. On extended runs, and walks to the Saturday markets, and wandering to my son’s football matches. But never to simply reach the ocean. Never to write eleven words, and then live my life as I had wished. The confidence that filled me came from knowing that this could never be taken from me. I had wished for something that would grow stronger and better and greater everyday.
As I walked along the path the ‘Ten Ways Towards Happiness’ were recollected one by one. I chuckled as I recalled them now. How had I not remembered?? And what about everyone who was tricked?? They still didn’t know. The genie had no power over me now. They still tricked those wanting to be born, but I would tell everyone their wishes. That much was known. And I knew that other than that I could simply apply my Ten Ways, and enjoy the life all around me. And the Plan came to me...
i) Do what is right.
ii) Each day do something that makes you laugh.
iii) After a kick in the nuts, get up and move forwards.
iv) Smile at death. (In its many forms).
v) See returning to square one as a learning opportunity for both enriching my life and developing patience.
vi) Be happy with who I am, where I am at, and always know that my feelings can only be changed by me.
vii) Expect mistakes from myself and others, and treat these moments as learning opportunities.
viii) Know that everything will be ok. (And if ever in doubt - smile).
ix) Listen, and have my mind changed if I might be wrong.
x) Know that I can amend this list at any time.
I reached the end of the path. Before me was the ocean. I had been here a thousand times. In the early morning, sunny days, and also balmy evenings. However, never had I had the beach to myself. And I used the kauri branch to write out those eleven words – the ‘Ten Ways Towards Happiness’. A life worth living, worth waiting for, and one to be proud of. Not because of achievements or highlights of ‘success’, but because I saw past life’s blurred infomercials, saw through the facade of what we are told to pursue, and found the journey’s end. The promised land. Nevada. Heaven. And all before I was born. Now I remembered that too.
I remembered what I had told myself in that very last instant before this journey started. Where to look, if you ever needed to know where to turn for happiness. Where to look. Where the secret hiding place is. I knew it once, and now knew it again. This time I would not forget it. Everyone seeks out this place, and it is as elusive as it is prized. Finding it can take a lifetime we are told. Dedication. Focus. Resolve. Single-mindedness. Hard work. All required.
You can lock yourself away and study for years to find it. Or cycle and run up mountains. Or lose weight. Or race through the night. Or get married. Or have children. Or travel overseas. Or even chase your tail seeking it everywhere.
Or you can look in the last place anyone would think to look. Yes. That is a most marvellous place to hide the most sought after goal. It is there all along. Right there inside of each of us. Waiting to be remembered. And now that I have remembered - I will tell everyone how they can remember also.
And it will be great.