Late last year someone challenged me to write a piece that wasn’t tinged with sadness. I haven’t, and I’m not sure I can.
Thanks to Susan Cain, I have a better understanding of why. The same author who helped me understand being an introvert has now written ‘Bittersweet.’ Bittersweet is a way of being, “a tendency to states of longing, poignancy, and sorrow; an acute awareness of passing time.”
I’m bittersweet. To the core. I think about death daily. Susan Cain reassures me that’s okay when she asks the question, “How should we live, knowing that we and everyone we love will die?”
Thinking about death daily means I think about life. About the people, values and things that matter most.
About my daughter, who just had an epic Sunday morning meltdown, sparked by her fear of being alone in the home, when I took my coffee and laptop to the front porch.
A front porch I chose because it offers me beauty and silence, a cool breeze, flowers, and bees.
Epic meltdowns are not uncommon. Our daughter is highly sensitive. She feels joy intensely and sometimes rages uncontrollably. I’m proud of her though. Twice in the last two days she has used breathing – one minute of quiet deep breathing alone in her room – to calm herself and end her tantrums.
I’m trying to use breathing to better myself. Over the last few months, I’ve started to meditate almost consistently. The essence of that meditation is the breath. Focusing on the breath, recognizing that thinking will interrupt that focus, and then returning to the breath.
Meditation is training for the mind. It need not be religious or spiritual. Its benefits are supported by science and by high performers – elite athletes, Navy Seals and Fortune 500 CEOs are meditating and they’re speaking very publicly about it.
I’m not searching for a Holy Grail. I’m just trying to be a little bit better. A better husband, father, cop, and human being. And a little bit happier. Maybe even ten percent happier.
All those things are possible. I feel it already from my brief foray into meditation. I know it, because of books like ‘10% Happier’ by Dan Harris. I’d known about this book for years and listened to Harris’s podcast occasionally. But I only read the book a few weeks ago.
I couldn’t put it down. I recommend you pick it up and not put it down either. Harris is a journalist who writes honestly about his career and the highs and lows of his life. He holds nothing back as he takes you on his journey of inquiry, scepticism and ultimately commitment to a life that includes meditation. It’s also a life that recognizes the impermanence of everything. Dan Harris thinks about death too.
I exercise daily – running and strength training. Days off are rare. I now understand that meditation needs to be a part of my daily routine. The mind and body are not just inextricably linked, they are part of the same whole.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time with Susan Cain and Dan Harris, diving into their books. And then earlier this week, Cain appeared on Harris’s ‘Ten Percent Happier’ podcast. It was one of those moments where I felt like my worlds were colliding in the best way possible. If you have an hour, please listen. If you have more time, get your hands on ‘Bittersweet’ and ‘10% Happier.’ Both books will enrich your life. Read together, their power grows exponentially.
It’s tranquil on the front porch now. My daughter has calmed down, she’s in the backyard with my wife, happy and calling for me, “Mr. Daryl … Dad.” She’s excited about going swimming later today.
I’m sipping coffee. Writing. Content. Knowing that I can be both bittersweet and happier.