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What is the secret to life?

Last night I served the most beautiful woman. She was 93 years young and had a real zest for life. When I asked her what her secret is to living a joyful, long, and healthy life, she responded with, “Attitude. It’s all about what’s in here,” as she gestured towards her head. This lady came in around 5:30p.m. and was my only table for about 45 minutes. Immediately as she sat down, I introduced myself and asked her if I could get her anything to drink. She reached for my hand and said, “Oh sweet. Is it okay that I’m here by myself? It will just be me tonight.” How precious is that? She then went on to tell me that she really likes to drink merlot, but we unfortunately don’t sell a merlot. She asked me what I would recommend instead and I listed off the three red wines that we had, but I could tell it didn’t mean much to her. She said that it’s taken her a long time to find a wine that she likes because it isn’t too sweet, so I offered to bring her a couple of samples. She grabbed my hand again and said, “Oh thank you. You’re so sweet and kind. You’ve really made my day you have.” Completely puzzled I thought to myself, but I haven’t done anything for you yet. I then went up to my bartender and asked for a couple of samples of red wine and he said sure, which ones? I said all of them. He looked at me and I begged with my eyes, please? Typically we are only allowed to offer two samples to guests, but I was adamant on ensuring this lady was satisfied with her choice. So I came back with a tray of four samples (apparently we had a new wine). She was overwhelmed. She grabbed my hand again and thanked me profusely. She began to explain how she has driven past this place numerous times and never thought to go in, but today she said the Man upstairs told her to stop being silly and grab herself a bite to eat. “There was a reason I came in here today that is bigger than the both of us. And I think that’s because the Man wanted me to meet you, you sweet, sweet soul.”

So how did I seemingly make her night before even doing anything for her? My best guess is this: I offered my time and I did so willingly. She told me that she is extremely independent and goes out to eat by herself occasionally, but she has never had service like this. I asked her what she meant by that and she said that most people would just have selected a wine and brought that out to her, she’s never had someone bring her samples before. I explained my rationale behind it which is that honestly, I don’t know the wines (or beers) well enough to offer a single recommendation. Additionally though, we all have different taste buds. So what I like, might not be what you like. So to me it makes sense to offer samples and have the individual select the wine that they like the most, after all, it is about the taste and not about how fruity or sweet or acidic it is. You like what you like and you typically know that better than some random server.

After she successfully sampled the four wines and selected one of the cabs, we continued to talk. She thanked me for allowing her to touch my hand because she’s a very touchy person and I said absolutely, I love that she’s a touchy person. Often times she’s had people remove their hands from the table so she can’t touch them because it made them feel uncomfortable. She said, “We all need each other in this world.” And there is so much truth in that statement. Granted, I do not believe we need any single individual in this world, but we as humans need other humans. We need social interaction. We need touch. We need love. We need to belong. We’re social creatures for a reason, but instead of accepting affection readily, we instead act like robots and avoid physical connection as though it is plagued with disease. My friend Kaleb from Australia did a fantastic experiment in which he held up a cardboard sign that said “Free Kisses” – and he received 100 kisses in 6.5 hours. He said that the experience was extremely interesting because he had people who would initially decline his offer and then come back and change their mind. He also stated that he had some intensely intimate exchanges with these strangers, exchanges where he felt a connection to them. Exchanges that he would never have had had he not been holding this piece of cardboard. So his question to his viewers was, what is stopping us from having beautiful interactions with strangers? His answer? A piece of cardboard. Here is the video for those of you interested in checking it out

This experiment is powerful because society would usually frown upon any individual who would randomly make out with 100 strangers in a couple of hours. Yet because of this piece of cardboard, his behaviour was deemed acceptable. These are interactions we can be having every single day, but we don’t because we don’t think it’s “acceptable” by society’s standards. This beautiful lady liked to hold hands and to some people, that’s weird. But to me, it was intimate. It was personal. It conveyed love. And it conveyed a sense of belongingness. We all need physical affection, but we deprive ourselves of it because it’s not deemed “acceptable” to go around holding hands with strangers or hugging strangers. Imagine an individual approached you and just held you for 30 seconds. Would you cringe? Would you push them away? Or would you embrace them back and revel in the beauty of that seemingly random, but intimate exchange? We all need each other. And the sooner we realise and accept that, the sooner we can start experiencing more moving exchanges like these.

I loved this lady. And she loved me. We spoke about life and the purpose of it. She made a distinguishing difference between peace and happiness; peace being permanent and internal, and happiness being temporary and external. She told me that she had words with the Man upstairs to extend her life because she’s having “too much fun”. I asked her how? And she said that she’s reached a point where she just doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. Not her family, not strangers, not even the Man upstairs. She’s doing what brings her joy and I could sense how liberating that is for her. And the truth? We are all capable of getting to that point. Instead, we are so caught up in comparing ourselves to others, concerning ourselves with others’ opinions, and attempting to do right by others when in reality, we just need to do right by ourselves. She said that she doesn’t fuss or fight with people because that’s unnecessary angst; she just does her own thing. My Oma (grandma) has a very similar philosophy and it is no wonder that she too, has a real zest for life and can live joyfully. She doesn’t concern herself with matters that are insignificant or irrelevant. She forgives and forgets quickly. We’ve all heard that phrase, “Forgive, but never forget,” and I think that’s bullshit. Because if you never forget, then you’re continuing to hold onto this negative energy just waiting until it repeats itself. So instead, I encourage you to forgive AND to forget. Let go. Move on. Be present. Only then will you be free.

I asked this lady what she likes to do and she said she likes to paint. I asked her what she paints and she said, whatever she feels like. She lets inspiration come to her and then she acts on it. For creativity to truly flourish, this mentality is absolutely essential. Creativity needs to flow freely; free of expectation, free of pressure, free of limitation. Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic states that one of the worst things you can do when chasing a creative life is to give up your day job to pursue your creativity. Why? Because when you make your “creativity” your living, you now place pressure on it to provide for you. You need to write so it can pay your rent. You need to paint so you can eat. Creativity can’t be forced. Creativity is natural and free. This lady and I we spoke about this. And I mentioned how often times inspiration comes to us, but we are not seemingly receptive to it. Perhaps this is the same with messages from God; perhaps he tries to communicate things to us, but we are not receptive or ready to receive his message because there are obstacles in the way. Obstacles in the form of our ego, pressure, society, expectations, plans. Once we remove these obstacles and start to live authentically, we will find that inspiration will flourish around us. And there will be one residual feeling that overwhelms us: love. Without these obstacles we will then be able to experience the true core and meaning of our existence. And that is to love. This lady, she told me that. She told me that she loved me. And I told her I loved her. What a beautiful human to have an interaction with! She made sure to clarify that it wasn’t the “lesbian kind of love”, which I had a decent chuckle about. I was so overwhelmed by her energy that it transformed every interaction I had that night. When people asked me how I was doing, my standard robotic response was, “I’m doing alright thanks how are you doing?” But I quickly retracted my statement and said, “You know what, I lied. I’m not doing alright, I’m doing bloody excellent! I just served the most beautiful human who has made my entire day.” And that energy caused a ripple effect in the guests that I served. My interactions were warmer, friendlier, and just a lot more enjoyable, again, all because of the energy this beautiful lady had shared with me.

I asked this lady how long ago her husband passed away and she said it’s been 30 years. She’s been living by herself for a significant time. I asked her if she had dated after him and she said that she had, but never allowed someone close to her again. To which she admitted, “Truth is, my husband cheated on me our entire marriage and I thought all men were like that so I never let anyone that close to me again.” And that broke my heart a little bit. She mentioned that she met him in high school; she did track and basketball and was extremely athletic and he liked what he saw. She admitted that she hated him at first, but again, thought that all men were like that. So she married him and was married for 45 years. Imagine being married to someone for 45 years knowing that they were cheating on you the entire time, but not believing in divorce and believing that all men were like that?

Ironically enough, I watched another of Kaleb’s videos today and it was about marriage. One of his favourite phrases is when people say, “We already live together so it’s not going to change anything.” If it’s not going to change anything, then why get married? He called it a delusion – society has conditioned us to believe that success involves marriage and kids, even though 50% of marriages end in divorce. He posed the question, if 50% of planes crashed, how many people would get on a plane? No one would, right? Because those odds are not too favourable. Why is it then, that people continue to get married when the odds are not favourable? Because of their delusions. We as humans become attached to anything good, so naturally, when we find someone and things are good, we want to keep them to ourselves. So we get married. Now this individual is legally contracted to being with you, even if they don’t want to. Would you want to continue being with someone, even if you didn’t like them anymore? Or would you want them to continue being with you, even though they didn’t want to? Recall in one of my former posts how daunting it is to choose a career that you want to do for the rest of your life. It’s overwhelming. And it rarely happens. Statistics have shown that the majority of people change careers numerous times. Choosing a partner to marry is no less overwhelming, but I think people underestimate that. People believe and are conditioned into thinking that marriage offers security. But again, 50% end in divorce and over 50% involve affairs, so what kind of security does that really offer? The answer? It doesn’t offer any. It’s a delusion. Divorce is expensive, yet it’s extremely likely. Aren’t we all a little naïve to believe that our relationship will “beat the odds” when clearly statistics suggest otherwise? So what if instead of marriage, we just continued to date people? Perhaps then, stories like that of the beautiful woman above might have been avoided and she instead could have experienced many more beautiful interactions with strangers. Here is the link to his video for those of you interested by this discussion

So what can I take from this interaction with this stunning woman? Many things. Your attitude is the secret to living a healthy life. And your relationship with yourself is the most important relationship because it determines your relationship with everyone else. Doing what is right for you and not caring what others think is the most liberating experience. We all need each other and we all crave physical touch. So again, stop worrying what others will think of you and give that person a hug. Hold their hand. Rub their back. Tell them you love them. As far as marriage is concerned, it is not the logical next step. If you need a piece of paper to validate your feelings, your relationship is over before it even began. And last but not least, time and presence are the most precious gifts you can give. So precious, they can transform someone’s day. Week. Year. Or who knows, maybe even their life.

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