Life Lessons

/Life Lessons


We got a late start for breakfast on Sunday morning, which landed us shoulder-to-shoulder with half of Nashville, Indiana in the tiny waiting area of Hobnob Corner. An eighty-something couple followed us as we squeezed through the door; the group behind them were left to wait on the sidewalk.

My wife is a serial eavesdropper. She says it’s research for writing; I say she may be overly interested in the business of others–nosy. Regardless, the way we were crammed together, I couldn’t help but hear the conversation between the eighty-somethings beside us.

Mr.       “You want to go someplace else?”

Mrs.      “I don’t think there is anyplace else.”

He shifted from one foot to the other. Tried to stand on his toes to scope out the room for tables with potential for opening. And then made a second pass . . .

Mr.       “You want to go someplace else?”

Mrs.     “It won’t be that long. Here she comes.”

The waitress secured a count for each group waiting, including the party of two, eighty-somethings and us. She made no comment or promise regarding wait time. He grumbled and returned to his shifting from foot to foot.

Third pass . . .

Mr.       “You want to go someplace else?”

Mrs.      “You can’t even wait five minutes!” She rolled her eyes in disgust and marched out the door.

I smiled at Debi and said “We just got our next blog.”

I would guess that the pattern in this conversation between the Mr. and Mrs. eighty-something was set long ago. Neither was direct or honest with their partner about their wishes. Obviously, he did not want to wait in line. He wanted to go someplace else, but never directly said so. He wheedled her into making the decision to leave.

She wanted to wait–eat pancakes at the Hobnob–understandable. But rather than saying “I want to wait. This is important to me,” she tried to redirect him, pacify him, even misguide him into believing that The Hobnob was the only place to serve breakfast in Nashville on Sunday. Simply not true and he knew it.

Maybe he was living up to a reputation of impatience or maybe he was in physical pain or couldn’t tolerate the sardine conditions. Who knows? Because he never told her. He just asked her the identical question three times until she gave up in frustration.

I hope they found a decent breakfast and were able to enjoy it–we certainly enjoyed ours. But the sad thing is, he probably paid for winning that stand-off. She was obviously disappointed and angry. She may have told him off on the way down the street or more likely, she waited until their adult kids were around and announced, “Your dad is such a grumpy old man that he wouldn’t even wait in line for five minutes for breakfast at The Hobnob on Sunday.”

The conversation is classic. Two people who clearly have a desire but are unwilling to clearly communicate it. They behave in a passive-aggressive way rather than being open with one another.  Closeness is sacrificed as the couple accumulates grudges that keep them at a “safe” distance. Intimacy suffers. I see it every day in my office and I couldn’t resist sharing this simple, yet clear example.

The wait, by the way, was about twenty minutes and with all the people watching and eavesdropping opportunities, it felt like five. For me, the wait time was irrelevant. I wouldn’t think of asking, “Do you want to go someplace else?” I know better.

Bass Ackwards

We have it bass ackwards. Ass backwards. Cattywonkus. Ass over teakettle.

We operate as if when A happens and B falls in line and we reach C and save D amount of money . . . then we’ll be happy. When in fact, that is totally backwards.

Happiness and fulfillment are achieved when we engage in creative expression, our brand of play. Play releases a sense of freedom and creativity, which encourages dreaming, which inspires, which motivates, which leads to a successful manifestation of goals.

It’s Like This:








Not Like This:

Good High School GPA

The “Right” College

Dream Job

Love Match

Big House

Healthy Kids




 So, let’s take a moment to ponder. What releases a sense of freedom through play? What activity encourages our creative spirit and allows us to dream, and motivates us to act, resulting in a successful expression of happiness? Once we identify our “play,” we on our way! Play may be our vocation; it may be our avocation. The spirit of play is inborn. We just forget to draw from it.

When we engage in “I’ll be so happy when . . . ” We limit ourselves. We look to the future for our happiness. We adopt the belief that true happiness will only be available after ________ (fill in the blank). One blank leads to the next. And as always, fulfillment hides around the next corner.

I conclude that the feeling of happiness actually leads to the manifestation of a goal and determines success. Rather than vice versa.

“True happiness is… to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future.~Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.~Charles Spurgeon

“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.~Omar Khayyam

“Life finds its purpose and fulfillment in the expansion of happiness.~Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Go Play!

When was the last time you gave yourself permission to play? It’s spring. Let’s go out and play!

Often, I ask my clients to recall an activity from childhood where they lost track of time and the world around them. Play provides a mental, emotional retreat from stress or indecisiveness, an opportunity to connect with our inner child.

I was a child explorer. With my sidekick and dog, Lassie, (original, I know) and sometimes playmates Terry and Kenny, the fields, woods, and streams surrounding our rural home in Eastern Ohio, were our frontier. We ran through the woods armed with “guns” (sticks,) built forts, climbed trees and turned rocks over in the creek unleashing crawdads and lizards. We fashioned a make-shift baseball diamond for our World Series. Timmy was their pony. We were delighted to watch through the fence when he was released from the barn in early spring. Timmy ran, kicking his heels and bucking into the pasture. The total image of release and freedom. It made us laugh.

Lost in play, in my sandbox under the apple tree, building and creating order were among my favorite pastimes. Roads for my trucks, bridges, factories, towns, and lakes with dams, all of my own creation.

When we release our creativity through play, we experience connection with our true selves, living in the moment. Spontaneity. Delight. Relieved of stress and distraction, we regain the balance that enables us to live harmoniously.

Sadly, I see many adults who, in the midst of responsibility, forget how to play.  The happiest people I know are those who “play” within their careers, chores, and tasks of all sorts.

Joseph Campbell writes in Reflections on the Art of Living, “What you have to do, you do with play” (16).

This week, we have homework: go outside and play! Seize the opportunity to amuse, live in the moment, just as I once did in the sandbox!