So in a previous blog, I talked about giving up coffee and alcohol and changing my habits to lead a healthier lifestyle. I’m working out more regularly. My diet is very clean AND boring (hummus, beans, chicken, salmon, salad, etc.). Since I did so, I’ve dropped about 15 lbs (and still dropping). I have a lot more energy though I tend to fade around 9 or 10 p.m. at night after the kids go down. I don’t have the highs and lows I used to have. I like this feeling. So I’ll keep going. I’ll call this the 2018 version of myself. Upgraded Michael. Sounds about right…
But something else happened that was less physical and more intellectual/spiritual at the same time. I somehow became AWARE of some important life lessons. They were inside me. But I was unconscious to them. Now that I am aware of them, they’re helping me out TREMENDOUSLY and I’d like to share some of them with you. These have all come to the surface after I returned from Jamaica (where we did our dental outreach program) and Oregon (where I presented to next year’s crop of dental hygiene students about joining us in Jamaica next year):
- We are so lucky. That’s right. We are. You are. How do I know? Because you and I are not walking around in Jamaica right now, with a mouth full of infection and broken teeth. We saw A LOT of that. It was sad. To think: we cry when we have the minimal exposure of dentin; yet not one Jamaican who attended our practice winced in pain when they opened wide for the dentist to do a filling or extraction. They came to see us. They wanted to come to the dentist. They were a little anxious, but so very proud to be there with us. Plus, think about this: if you wanted to, you can go out right now and buy a lunch and not think about the kind of pain it would cause you to eat! Most of the world is not like this at all. They’re in pain.
- So what will you do? So now that you know you’re a very lucky person, who makes more than USD$60 (which is what a typical Jamaican will earn a WEEK working full time), what are you going to do about it? What will your attitude be when you wake up? Will you think – as I do nowadays – “YES! I’m here for at least 1 more day!” And then try to make it the best day of your life? Will you do some random act of kindness for a stranger? Will you stop and slow down to smell the roses? Will you smile and breathe when the world seems to be crashing down around you? More on breathing next… But think about this: if one of those Jamaican patients had your life, how would they live? They’d probably feel that they won the lottery. And so should you.
- Breath. I took lessons on breathing. That’s not a joke. I know we all know how to do it. But I wanted to be conscious of it. I wanted to watch my body language and slow down my breathing so that I could get in all the oxygen I needed. For the body. For the brain. For the mind. When a situation becomes tense (usually around others), the first thing you should think of is: is my body relaxed? Uncross your hands, arms, and feet. Sit up properly. Then take a nice, slow breath. In through the nose. Hold it. Into the diaphragm. And exhale slowly through the nose again. You’ll feel better. But something else is going to happen: once you start to relax yourself and time seems to slow down, the other people in the room will feel it as well and start to slow down as well. Also, I highly recommend you get an Apple Watch or equivalent device for measuring your heart beat. It’s kind of like a great reminder and a GAME to watch your heart rate. Try to get it down. Being mindful is the key. The next time you’re rushing, stop yourself. Take a few long, deep breaths. Check your watch. Slow your heart rate. The world will continue and your stress ADDS NOTHING (except shorten your life expectancy). But you’ll feel much better when you’re in that state of mind.
- Be Happy First. This is a great little piece of advice I got from reading a book called “The Happiness Equation”. Basically, we tend to think logically, in steps, about when we can be happy. First, I will do something. Then I will do the next step. Then I will be happy. But then I have to do something else to be happy. And then there’s another step I must take before I can achieve happiness. And then when I achieve that I will be happy. But the problem here is that you’ll never be content. And so this wonderful book says to try this instead: “Be Happy First”. Don’t wait. Don’t put barriers. Just take a deep breath in the morning and resolve to be happy.
- Enjoy the Ride. I used to think that it’s the final goal that, once achieved, will make it all worthwhile. But I never did achieve that final goal. I’m the type to keep adding more goals (as I’m sure you are too). So when can I enjoy anything? I decided to enjoy the PROCESS. I know it’s a wild ride. That’s life. It’s a rollercoaster. And you know what? I like the thrill of the ups and downs. Makes you appreciate what you’ve got. So while I do set never-ending goals (because I believe you must always invest in yourself FIRST), you are allowed to enjoy the ride and SHOULD along the way.
- Do It For You. I used to do things to PROVE to others that I can do it; that I did it. But it was never-ending. And the person(s) you’re trying to do it for might not know; or might already think you’re successful. So here’s what I’ve learned. Do it for YOU. Upgrade yourself because it makes you happy. Not for others. For you. If all you’re trying to do is get others to like or love you more, you’re missing the point: no one will like or love you more than YOU! So do it for you 😉
- Seek Inspiration. Sometimes we all need to be inspired. If you don’t go looking for it, it may take a while to come. You may also not know where it’s going to come from next. When I, for example, was in London, England and I was sitting among the great dead people of their time at Westminster Abbey, I felt small. I went into the beautiful gardens there and started texting my law partner, David Mayzel, to tell him that we need to do something that is bigger and better than us. That’s one of the things that was a pre-cursor to our dental outreach program in Jamaica. The next time I was inspired to do something was more recently in Oregon. I went there seeking to be inspired by the beautiful nature (Columbia Gorge, Ocean, Wineries, etc.). But it didn’t happen. I took lots of nice pics. And I went all over the place. But I found inspiration where I didn’t expect it. In the homes of those who welcomed me; on the boat with those I went crabbing with; at the suicide prevention awareness walk I went on (more on that next).
- Community is Key. I was invited to a suicide prevention awareness walk in Oregon (where I went to pitch our Jamaica dental outreach program to next year’s crop of hygiene students). I didn’t have any connection to suicide or those who’ve taken their lives. But I still went. I wanted to see what was going on. And what I saw was scores of people, supportive of each other (strangers) for a common cause. It was very inspiring to see and be a part of this. And I felt that I was a better human being, spending my time doing something worthwhile by being there. As part of a collective. You should look for ways to be part of a community here at home.
- The Universe is a River. The universe is like a raging river. It’s chaotic inside. And it has no obligation to make sense to you. But when you feel it pushing you in a direction, opening up doors, etc. DON’T FIGHT IT! Take a deep breath and say: “I am here because you universe wants to show me something. And I will welcome it!”. If you fight against this raging river, you may end up drowning in the process. Stress adds nothing. But if you relax, enjoy the ride and look out for that olive branch that the universe is showing you, you’ll survive a lot longer and happier while going down that river of a universe (grab a hold!).
- There are No Bad Days. I used to think there were bad days. Everything just going bad. And I very much wanted someone or something to tell me that it was all in my head. But it wasn’t working. There were great days, followed by bad ones. And it’s almost like I set them up. If I had a good day today, tomorrow would be horrible. And if a morning started off bad, then the whole day was a bad day (write it off!). So I finally resolved (after coming back from Jamaica and Oregon) to acknowledge what a day actually is – neither good nor bad. It’s just a day. IT IS JUST A DAY. Nothing good or bad ever happens to you. Your reaction to what happens makes them good or bad. And so if I start to think that a day is turning into a bad day, I remind myself that I am living a gift (one more day here = bonus!), which most of the world would envy, and that there is no such thing as a bad day. A day is just a day. And I’m very lucky to have one more 😉
BONUS: Take Your Vitamins! I know it makes your pee orange, but ever since a dentist told me they take Vitamins C, B Complete, D, and E, they’re rarely getting sick. And guess what? I started taking them and (knock on wood) I haven’t been getting sick much either!