Tuesday, July 26th
This week, I’m having what you might want to call a quarter life crisis. In the aftermath of online poker meltdown, it’s a pertinent time for reflection. While questioning is often a healthy activity that can lead to personal development, if left unattended, it can cause unnecessary stress, leading one to fret over every permutation of their future. Unfortunately, I’ve fallen victim to the latter. I’ve been all over the place, bouncing back and forth between activities like a pinball. Even focusing on the most trivial task such as taking out the trash seems overwhelming. If my mind were a computer, it would be running at full capacity with far too many items in the recycle bin and perhaps a virus. To illustrate, we’ll back track three days.
On Sunday I got up ambitious about writing a book. On monday I was pursuing an online business venture. Today I am planning a backpacking getaway to Alaska. This Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde existence has become quite the burden. In all seriousness, I envy the two of them, for they’re fighting a battle amongst themselves, while I’m taking on an army of personalities, each one with a different agenda. Surely this is normal for one in their 20’s and I’m merely the victim of a disillusioned reality. Perhaps I just need time, rest and sleep. In my frenzied state, it’s easy to blame the fast paced culture for all the opportunities it presents, friends for wanting attention and Vegas, for well, being Vegas. But, regardless of whom I chose to blame, one thing is for certain: my situation isn’t improving and the distractions continue to plague me like mosquitos.
In a confessing conversation, I was offered a way out. “Why don’t you just turn off your cell phone and unplug your internet for a week. See what happens.” “You’re crazy,” I retorted, as if the notion were akin to Full Tilt unexpectedly stealing millions of dollars from its players. I dismissed this nonsense without giving the idea much credence, as if I was somehow contractually obligated to carry a cell phone. But after another day of distress and bordering on insanity, I conceded. As I unplugged my phone charger and disconnected my cable modem, I felt my heart pulsate. It’s the feeling after you pass through airport security and finish storing your luggage in the overhead compartment, only to realize you might have left something at home. What was I going to do for a week without my cell or the internet? I couldn’t imagine such a world. Had I already forgotten the simplicity of my life in Parma?
I miss you Italia.
Wednesday, July 27th 9:00 am
I woke to the light shining through the curtains. I laid in bed for a half hour before moving, since, of course, there was nothing to do. I decided to make myself some food. Something felt different but my breakfast was the same: oatmeal seasoned with cinnamon and pumpkin, topped with mixed nuts and fresh fruit. I took a bite, the delicious berry combination exploded with flavor. As I was enjoying the bowl, I realized my problem. It had been a long time since I’d simply eaten breakfast, or simply done anything for that matter. I neglected to mention that during the course of a meal, from the time I lit the stove to the time I finished the last spoonful, I also managed to stretch, checked my email, chat on Facebook, sent at least three texts and made a phone call. And I eat fast. It’s the online poker player in me, wanting to 12 table every aspect of life. Damn you, Full Tilt! Unfortunately, while being able to play 12 tables simultaneously is a valuable skill in the poker world, it doesn’t translate well into stretching while making oatmeal.
Try doing 12 things at once and all you end up with is nothing.
Wednesday, July 27th 10:00 pm
The rest of my day continued in this manner, enjoying each activity independently. Is this what I was so afraid of? For the first time in a month, I spent the day doing what every moment should be full of, just living. It was a breath of relief, like finally paying off an overdue bill. I viewed the activities which I previously deemed stressful through a new lens. While working, I asked, “Is this something I need to be doing right now?” During times of leisure I asked, “do I really want to be doing this? If the answer to either was no, I skipped them. Why stress when I can come back to it later, when the activity can be filled with passion? I came to terms with the fact that most things can wait till tomorrow. Life is short and if I’m going to do something, I best be enjoying it. I needed to be warned by Christopher Walken like he did with Adam Sandler in “Click”: “You’ve been living your life on auto pilot.”
In poker, as in life, auto pilot can be an expensive habit. On the table, it means not being fully cognizant instead of analyzing each situation independently. In life, it means going through the motions instead of being fully aware in the present. In a recent conversation with my friend Alan Keating, he shared some valuable insight on a recent experience. Seeking a change of pace, he escaped the Las Vegas Strip to spend an afternoon at the mall. While drifting through the shops, he struck up a conversation with a sales lady who was standing outside a woman’s shoe store. She was twice his elder. He asked her a simple question in passing: “how are you?” Mistaking it to be rhetorical, she didn’t respond which has sadly become the norm. He waited with fixed eyes, a mixture of arrogance and genuine curiosity. Realizing he was serious, she muttered, “I’m okay.” Pause. “How… are you?” she asked sheepishly, aware that this was the first time she meant it in a long time. One phrase, sparked a catalyst of conversation, and four hours later, Alan left the store with something not even the nicest pair of handmade Gucci’s can provide.
I measure the level of simplicity in my life by the amount of time I spend reading and writing. To no surprise, this month was zero, save for this pithy piece. If I had a magic button that I could somehow press to see how many times I’ve asked: “How are you?” and waited for the response, I’d dare not push it. Am I really too busy to care? Sometimes, I mistakingly think so, but I must prioritize, for what could be more important than sharing a connection with those around us? Instead of merely accomplish a task, I should simply enjoy it. Instead of running an errand, I can use it as an opportunity to take pleasure in the people I encounter. It doesn’t have to be a four hour heart-to-heart, but can be as effortless as three little words: “How – are – you?” To care for the answer to such a fundamental question can make all the difference, for it is a recipe for humanity.
Simplicity. Patience. Caring. Three ingredients of the dish we savor the most, happiness. ♠