I was at a pub last week in Nashville, Tennessee talking to a bartender about which whisky concoction to order. He went on about how ‘sometimes whisky just isn’t enough’ and encouraged me to choose one with a whisp from nature. Ok. Sure! I opted for the Beneficiary, a blend of bourbon and banana with a walnut infusion. Oh. My. Gracious. Good can be better. But like so many things in my life, I usually am ok with just pouring the whisky (sorry mom, this is meant to be a metaphor) and calling it a day. I forget about the walnut and the banana. I forget I can spritz life with a little umph and make something sing louder. My bartender friend was preaching to me from the other side of that bar and it was exactly what I needed to hear: ‘sometimes good things can be better.’
In April I started seeing a counselor. I can officially say that one hour a week has changed my life (and I have a fabulous one at that!). I am working a job I didn’t think was possible until further down the line, I have family and friends that love and know me scattered around the world, and I have a healthy body that lets me travel this planet. But I had hit a wall.There was a subtle something I was missing. I needed tools to see the walnut infusion in my life again.
College was such a colorful, turbulent, and wonderful chapter that was always changing and growing. The race gates seemed far behind me and the roar of the crowd was invigorating. My ego was pleased. And then this real world life hit me in the face and I realized that some people are just bad people and others who get too close have lied about who they are. I learned that not all security guards are there to help you and not every horizon is worth chasing. This real life can be tough stuff man, and it’s hard to be ready for it. Even with the overall mild river I find myself floating down, the idea that there are decades ahead (God willing) and rapids to face can sometimes scare me into an oblivion of anxiety! How am I supposed to complete this assignment that is life? I’m ok with the ‘in four years you will be done with college’ time frame but I have no idea how to manage forever!
Life is loud and stressful. Adding more noise and hooplah does not help. My ‘walnut infusion’ came one morning when I realized that everything is already alright. It was a still, cool Doha spring day when I grasped that I needed to be quiet and still to be able to enjoy the exciting noise. I needed to calm down, put down my phone, and pray to my God at the start of every morning. Texts could not come first. Reading the Word and prayer had to supersede everything or else everything would be out of balance.
Have you ever tried fitting rocks into a jar of sand? You can’t. But, if you add the rocks in first, the sand will spill in around it. Order matters. How you start your day matters. Prayer and meditation for me is the only way I can see clearly and begin to taste the walnut infusion in my life and start saying thank you for it.
Life is a lot and life is good, but perspective and time in silence at the start of any day erase the distractions (if only for literally one minute). The crux of my happiness tends depend on the amount of time spent on my phone. My phone isn’t the only issue, per se, but how much time I spend on it usually acts as a canary in a coal mine for me to judge just how I’m really doing. I try so hard not to check it as soon as I wake up. I try to silence my alarm, get up, have coffee, read, and pray. I try to focus on my heart, soul, and mind and ask for wisdom in silence. Once I am ready for work I will check my phone, but not until then. It has taken me a long time to get to this point but I feel happier and healthier for it.
Do you check your phone first thing? Try not to. It’s hard, especially at first, but like working out you will soon crave it. The itch from addiction is real when your phone is sitting in plain sight and you’re away from it soaking in silence and actually listening to your own thoughts. The thing is not a baby that needs constant love. It’s a piece of plastic that rules your mind and steals your attention and conversation.
Did you know the tech and science industries are working together to make your phone more addicting to your brain? Julia Roberts knows all about it. In the June 2016 issue of InStyle she said she doesn’t reply to messages straight away and keeps her phone on silent so she can focus! Hold on. What? Julia Roberts doesn’t answer texts immediately? Nope. She says she has nothing to prove about how quickly she responds to someone who may only be robbing her of time with loved ones or the ability to focus at work. Recently I started keeping my phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ all day long, deleting Facebook from it and leaving it in the car during meals. Why? Because if I do read texts my minds takes me hostage: What time was I meeting that person? Oh gosh, but I haven’t done the laundry, ugh but I have to go to that place first because I promised someone something. And then BOOM I have robbed myself either from starting the day in meditation or from talking to the person siting across from me and actually listening to what they are saying. Sometimes I need to focus on my soul and care for my own thoughts before I am owned by every else’s.
I’ve heard it said that the devil doesn’t want to make you bad, he wants to make you busy. He wants to rob you of the ability to have or taste the walnut infusion that is usually already there but that we routinely shut down and miss.
‘Like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased’ (C.S. Lewis).
My bartender buddy taught me more with a bottle of bourbon in his hand standing behind a bar than many do holding holy books behind a pulpit. We are meant to taste and enjoy the walnut infusion, the long uninterrupted walks, the quiet mornings alone. I rob myself of joy and too often forget that less is more, that good things can be better.