Ol’ Fred had lived a good life and was now lying in a hospital bed near the end of his life. The family was gathered around along with their pastor who had come to say a few words and offer some encouragement.
As the pastor stood next to the bed, Ol’ Fred’s condition appeared to deteriorate and he motioned frantically for something to write on. The pastor lovingly handed him a pen and a piece of paper, and Ol’ Fred used his last bit of energy to scribble a note, then suddenly died.
The pastor out of respect thought it wise not to look at the note right then, so he placed it in his jacket pocket to read later.
At the funeral, as he was nearing the end of his message when he realized he was wearing the same jacket he had on when Ol’ Fred handed him the note. He pulled it out and said, “You know, Ol’ Fred handed me a note just before he died. I haven’t looked at it, but knowing Fred, I’m sure there’s a word of inspiration and encouragement here for all of us.”
He opened the note and read out the last words of Ol’ Fred, “Please step to your left — you’re standing on my oxygen tube!”
What is standing on your oxygen tube? What is putting stress on your supply of air and your ability to live a full and satisfying life?
Two feet often standing on our oxygen tube:
- Over-work or over-commitment
- Excessive rest or too much leisure
Both extremes cut off the supply of oxygen and keep us from breathing freely and well.
When I had my accident, I was forced to rest and recover. I had to cease from work and slow the pace of life down to a crawl. And be put on oxygen to survive!
Eat. Sleep. Stretch. Nap. Operate. Medicate. Recover. Sleep. Read. Eat. Visit. Nap. You get the picture.
That worked for a while because it fit the situation. As I started to heal and recover however, I needed to insert some “work” into my life. I was running out of air but for a different reason! I needed to find purposeful activity to fill the gaps between naps, meals, x-rays, and trips down the hall in my walker.
I started to do more writing, reading with a purpose, intentional conversations, helping people, and anything else I could think of to call “work.” It wasn’t about the money. It was about finding purpose.
I was breathing again. I did take the necessary time to rest and heal especially after each surgery, but as I progressed through my recovery, I learned to start dancing again.
What’s the key to breathing and living well?
- Finding the proper rhythm between work and rest
If either work or rest dominate, we begin to struggle and run out of air. We may never “arrive” at perfect rhythm but I do believe we can learn to live with a sense of rhythm that keeps the air flowing and our lives full of life and meaning.
It’s like music. You need notes but you also need rests. Beautiful music is created when you have noise but balanced with quiet gaps!
Too much work without proper rest increases stress to unhealthy levels. Too much rest without purposeful activity leads to emptiness and a lack of fulfillment.
A lesson learned from Ethan
In the movie The Searchers, Ethan Edwards (played by John Wayne) joins up with a few ranchers to chase down some Indians who had stolen their cattle. After they ride for a while out into the desert, they realize it’s a trap to lure them away from their ranches. They must turn around and go back!
At this point in the movie, Ethan says, “No, if we head right back, we’ll kill the horses! We need to rest and feed grain to the horses before we go back.” The other ranchers disagreed and took off on their horses.
Sure enough, after Ethan fed and rested his horses and started his journey back, he came across the other ranchers on foot because their horses had all died.
To find rhythm is to find life!
Some keys to finding and living with rhythm:
- Decide to make music through meaningful work and proper rest
- Identify what may be stepping on your air hose
- Describe your life as you’d like it to be and why that’s important
- Find work you enjoy and what you’re good at
- Find healthy activities that give you rest
- Enlist friends and partners to help you grow and change in this area
Now add your own ideas as you live with healthy rhythm in your life.
How would you describe the state of your rhythm?
If you need to make any adjustments in either rest or work, what are they?
Image source: Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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