Sensational Living®

August - September 2007
© 2007 by Bret S. Beall


I've had a great life. Of course, from the perspective of someone looking in from the outside, there might be some disagreement, because my life has been anything but predictable or traditional. For me, it is indeed a matter of perspective, and my perspective is to set my own priorities. Those priorities revolve around several important philosophical concepts about which I've written before: "Everything Happens For A Reason" (http://www.god-dess.com/webhintsMar04.html), "Go With The Flow" (http://www.god-dess.com/services_lifestyleJan05.html and related essays), and "Try New Things" (http://www.god-dess.com/services_lifestyleAugust04.html).

Of course, I'm also a big believer in luck, or Divine Intervention (use whichever term you care to). I've been lucky/blessed in so many areas of my life that I have given up trying to count them. Of course, it does help to also believe that "Everything Is As It Should Be"; if you don't believe that, you'll find yourself embroiled in disappointment, sadness and bitterness.

My Life

It is the potential for those negative emotions that inspired this column. Recently, I uncovered a cassette tape to which I hadn't listened in quite a while, and put it into my car's tape deck. It was the soundtrack to a musical, "Dirty Dreams of a Clean-Cut Kid," a play I had seen a couple of times when it was staged in Chicago. It was written during the early days of the AIDS epidemic, and I have always found it poignant. What caught my attention during this most recent listening was the refrain, "This isn't how it's supposed to be." It was a lament that when one has so many hopes and dreams, they aren't supposed to be dashed by the then death-sentence of an HIV-positive diagnosis.

HIV and AIDS caught everyone's attention because it struck so many young, vibrant, talented people in the prime of their lives. And even though it spread rapidly through the gay male community, it is far more abundant today among heterosexuals around the world. Even though no one is excited by death, we are somewhat more accepting of it when a mature individual who has lived a long, full life dies. When we learn of a young person dying, we call it a tragedy. When we learn of hundreds of thousands of young people dying, we call it a crime against humanity.

Death is the ultimate punctuation mark to our lives. I don't really want this essay to be about death per se. Rather, I want to use death as an example of the concept of "attention getter." Warning: Bret is going metaphysical right now: If we accept that we are spiritual beings, then we have the capacity to communicate with God/Spirit/The Universe. I would argue that the Universe will try to communicate via a "whisper" initially; if we are paying attention, we will get that message. If we aren't paying attention, The Universe might give us a nudge, then a shove. If we are so out of touch that we STILL don't get the message, don't be surprised if the Universe smacks you over the head with a 2x4 (metaphorically speaking, of course).

The Universe got my attention when I was 11 and 12; in less than a year, all three of the grandparents whom I had known died. At that time, I thought it best to put my nose to the grindstone, and try to accomplish as much as possible in as little time as possible (ie, "efficiency maximization"); I was VERY good at it and was stellar at everything I did (except jumping hurdles in gym class, but that's a horrible memory that I refuse to share here, LOL). The Universe got my attention again when my mother died of cancer at the end of my first year of graduate school; through the pain, I elected to adopt a philosophy to live every day as if it were my last, and I maximized every experience: research, public speaking, cooking, décor, travel … I ended up living much better than most of my fellow grad students. I thought I was on top of the world when I got a job at Chicago's Field Museum, my dream position; the Universe redirected me in 1989 when my advisor stabbed me in the back, and I left paleontology behind. I began pursuing GOD-DESS and a healthcare management career at the same time, and that was punctuated both by an extreme corporate environment that forced me to seek healing, and the death of my dear friend Larry Reed of AIDS, the first of many friends to die of that disease. With this "final" punctuation, coupled with healing, I set out to live my life even more fully than before. However, in each of these cases, I would have argued at some point, "This isn't how it was supposed to be."

Not My Life

I've shared some of my life's ups and downs, but two key elements have not yet become explicit: 1) While I was experiencing my own life, everything I did impacted others' lives, and everyone around me impacted my life to some degree, as I was not living in a vacuum, and 2) the Universe may have plans for our lives of which we are completely unaware. Both cases are difficult to recognize when we are "in the moment," but by keeping them in our awareness as an explanation for what we are experiencing, life becomes much easier.

If someone believes s/he is the center of the universe, s/he will be completely clueless of his/her impact on others, both positive and negative, and thus miss out on important life lessons. Sometimes, even if one is aware that s/he could be impacting others, or following the Universe's plans for us, it may not become apparent until years later (hence the adage, "Hindsight is 20/20" which I've addressed at http://www.god-dess.com/services_lifestyleSummer2006.html, http://www.god-dess.com/services_lifestyleJanuaryFebruary2007.html and elsewhere).

Of course, that long-term perspective doesn't make a current conflict feel good. For me, it does help to realize how emotionally immature many people are. When I was a healthcare executive, I knew there were many ways to accomplish a project, and that each individual has his/her own skill set, so I would assign projects and outline the desired outcome, but avoided micromanaging and thus avoided imposing myself on others. Not everyone has such a generous managerial approach; recently, a colleague didn't like my approach, and asked in a haughty voice, "Why would you think that?" So, I had to take my time to outline all of the variables that led me to "think that." She agreed, but the attitude wasn't pleasant.

When you encounter anyone who adopts a "My way or the highway" approach, realize that they are emotionally immature, and adapt to deal with that. Sometimes, there are reasons for adopting a particular approach, so take it upon yourself to politely ask for the background of the situation. If you are feeling gutsy, you might be able to offer a more efficient, more practical, or more beneficial approach. It can be tedious to tip-toe around tyrants, but it can be done.

When making plans, the key to remember is that those plans WILL change. I'm sure I've shared this before, but I really enjoy the statement, "Man Plans, God Laughs." But, no matter what happens, if you approach the problem with flexibility (eg, http://www.god-dess.com/services_lifestyleOctober04.html), you will be able to recover. The end result may be vastly different from what you originally anticipated, but know that it is the "right" result.

My Life, Again

When I was in high school, I was a good student, a good artist, and a good writer, as well as a nice guy, but I was definitely in the "nerd" or "geek" camp. If someone asked for help, I helped. I was known for my brains, not for my fun. In art class, I often crossed paths with the guys who were into heavy-duty party/fun mode (drugs-sex-rock & roll). They often needed help with coursework beyond the art class we shared, so of course, I helped them as time permitted it. That was the extent of our interaction (though, to be honest, I had my own "fun" side, just more independent and more clandestine, LOL). Now, skip ahead about five years. I was in my first year of grad school in Ann Arbor. I was on the phone with my mother, and she asked, "Do you remember Such-and-Such from high school?" I did, and she said, "He was out here repairing the TV. He saw your picture on the TV, and asked if you were my son. I told him 'yes,' and he went on to gush about how nice you were, and how much you had helped him in high school. He thought you were just the greatest." I had no clue whatsoever that this student had that impression of me, but apparently, I had quite an influence on him.

You've also read my writings about my relatively recent "Client from Hell" (http://www.god-dess.com/services_lifestyle_Spring2006.html). During the entire period I was working with these people, I asked myself (and the Universe), "Why, Why, WHY am I here?" I laughed at times that I must have been some really horrible person in a past life to have to endure that Hell … "This isn't how it's supposed to be." But, I wrote about what I gained for that experience. So far, though, I haven't shared a very personal anecdote: One day, I saw one of my favorite people there with tears in her eyes; I told her that I was available if she ever needed to talk about it, and she shared that her brother-in-law had attempted suicide, and that the entire family was in denial about the causality; I was able to help her view the problem from a broader perspective, and she repeatedly reminded me that the help I was able to provide her was for her the best explanation of my presence at the "Client from Hell" (she knew of my unhappiness).

A while back, there was also a period of extreme financial difficulty that led me to wonder "What is the spiritual lesson in all of this?" At the time, I "knew" there was some sort of message from the Universe, and fairly quickly, I figured out that my level of empathy had grown exponentially; if someone with my education and talent could almost become homeless, imagine how easily someone with less skill could become homeless. However, never did I imagine that the Universe would soon guide me to work with "affordable housing" … as I type this, I am doing some event planning and project management for an affordable housing organization, and my background has led to considerable camaraderie and intense empathy with many of the key players. I feel so blessed to be in my current gig after having experienced all that I have experienced!

Your Life

Is your life the way it's supposed to be? If not, can you change it? Or do you need to "go with the Flow" until you can view your current life with hindsight? Can you step outside of yourself and see how you might be impacting others? Can you possibly see what life/spiritual lessons you could be learning by experiencing your current situation?

These are all guidelines for living your best life. The best summation of all of these guidelines is that no matter what happens, "This IS how it's supposed to be." It's YOUR job to figure out why it's supposed to be that way!

If you need help figuring that out, I might be able to help you. I want to emphasize, as I have in previous columns, that I am NOT a professional counselor. However, my scientific education and synthetic mind are trained to consider multiple working hypotheses for any problem or situation, and I can apply that training to your situation. Get in touch at 773.508.9208 or email me to start living the life you are supposed to live!