Somewhere Between Civilized and Stupid

Somewhere Between Civilized And Stupid 06 17 2014Finding balance is the mantra on many people’s lips these days. Balance—that rare blissful state where everything just fits—work, family, money, health, learning, community and leisure all melding in lovely balance. All flows together seamlessly. It is a joyful state of one-ness and satisfying happiness.

Typically, something happens to bounce you out of your happy place and you once again try and build back toward balance.

On a recent trip to California, I watched as dutiful citizens lined up on the sidewalk awaiting the “green walking man” symbol announcing that is was now safe to cross. How civilized it was to watch these folks calmly, patiently standing, without pressure to get somewhere for the electrified “OK.”  This sat on my sense of calmness and I bathed in the serenity, appreciating the flow of go and stop on signal.

Being from the East Coast, this happy place lasted only until I noticed that while I was standing on the sidewalk with many others, there wasn’t a car in sight.  I began to question my sanity.  WHY AM I STANDING HERE WHEN THERE ISN’T A CAR IN THIS AREA CODE, LET ALONE ON THIS STREET? To be honest, I felt kind of stupid. This wasn’t balance, it was stupidity! 

Several weeks ago, I met a man in his late 70’s. He had owned a very successful company that he sold for a great deal of money that he couldn’t spend in ten lifetimes. He was a frugal guy—a spillover from the Depression. I asked him how he spends his time now and if he is enjoying life.

“Thankfully, my health is great. I would love to travel and see the world before I am unable to.”

“Have you done any traveling since you sold your company?”

“No,” he laughed, “I just can’t seem to find a trip at the right price. I keep looking, but they’re all so expensive.”

Even though he had enough real-world resources to never worry, his depression mindset ran deep. Here he was, frozen on the sidewalk, waiting for the light to change and signal him across. It was as understandable as it was mystifying.

“So, let me ask you, if you found a great trip to a place you’ve always wanted to go, and it cost you $50,000, would that expense change your life, your life style or what you might pass on to your children?”

He eyed me like a Californian watching the countdown to red.

“Well, no. But I couldn’t imagine spending that much on myself. I don’t think I could do that.”

“OK, if $50,000 was way out of your comfort zone, how about $10,000? Could you find a great trip and get to see some of the world like you want to?”

“Hmmmmm, that’s still a lot of money, but it’s not $50,000. I might be able to figure something out in that ballpark. You know what, I am going to do it. I know exactly where I’ve always wanted to go and it’s right in that price range. It won’t impact my financial security, for sure, but spending does make me uncomfortable.  But if I just stay here in my comfort zone, I’ll die before I see anything.”

Walking across the street, against the light, with no cars in either direction left the other sidewalk inhabitants gaping.  They looked at my action, undoubtedly, as aberrant behavior.  When my foot hit the curb on the opposite side of the street, I turned and waved. So much for civilized behavior—I’ve got things to do.