Lila tossed and turned in the poppies. Finally, after an hour of staring at the moon, she rolled over, opened her book and tried to read. But Lila couldn’t focus. Not so deep down anymore, feelings of dread struggled to the surface. She knew what she had to do, and she begged for the timing to feel right.
How had her life gotten away from her? How did she have a job she hated and a lazy, unsupportive mate? Working for Awesome Life, Corp. was depressing. They bought life insurance policies from those who were dying so they could cash them in, sooner rather than later. She was Head Field Investigator. Her job was to check in from time to time to see how the clients were doing. She felt predatory and cold.
Company policy was strictly enforced. When anyone was asked, “How are you doing?” “How do you feel about the company?” or, “How was your weekend?” they were to reply, “Awesome!” Or they would be fired immediately. She hated it. Compensation was excellent, and she felt guilty for feeling ungrateful. Her mate was unsupportive of her quitting, as he had no intention of working, ever.
One day she was checking in to see if her young client might die soon. She was shocked to find him swimming laps in the pool. Her files indicated he should have been on life support or receiving hospice care by that time. She had not seen him in six months.
“Hi, how are you? So sorry to just pop in like this—I hope I’m not interrupting…” Lila watched him emerge from the pool with all the energy and musculature of an Olympic athlete. Giving her a huge grin, he replied, “I’m awesome!” He laughed.
Lila laughed along as if she’d never heard it before. “You look good—so healthy,” she said with mixed emotions.
“Thank you,” he said, still beaming at her. “I’ve made a full recovery since our last meeting. There is no sign of disease anywhere in my body—it’s all gone. Isn’t that amazing?”
Suddenly Lila felt a change come over her; she felt his happiness, and she actually was happy for him. “Yes, that is amazing. What changed?” Lila asked, genuinely interested.
“Well, I found myself at a crossroads without much time to choose. I fast-forwarded my thoughts to me on my deathbed, one day in the not so distant future. I wondered what I’d regret once it was all over. The answer came so fast and so simply. I was going to regret never using my gifts to make a difference for others. I worked at a job that paid well, but I hated it. My relationship was over a long time ago, and that was how I would die. In a sea of regret over the two things I spent the majority of my life doing. I would regret not living my life. Doing what gives me joy instead of doing what others think I should do. So I quit. I ended my terrible relationship where I felt used and abused, and I started my own business. I now do what I love and make others smile.”
He wrapped a towel around himself, and she followed him into the house. Her nostrils filled with the most soothing scent. She watched as he pulled a tray off of a rack and proudly handed Lila a gorgeous, chocolate butterfly, its wings resplendent and artfully decorated with tiny, ornate and delicate designs.
“This is a work of art,” Lila said, sheepishly taking a bite out of one of the wings. It melted in her mouth as chocolate and orange did a succulent dance on her tongue. Lila closed her eyes and smiled.
He continued. “I’m making more money now than I ever dreamed of, but that’s not the point. I’m doing what I love, so it doesn’t feel like work at all. But what I didn’t expect was how good I would feel about myself for taking action before it was too late. As I felt better and better, I felt a shift: I love being me—all of me, unconditionally. All my life, every person, every event, was perfect in what I learned. It all prepared me for what I needed to know, to be here now, doing this. The doctors are baffled. Three weeks after starting my business, my symptoms vanished. Sure there are some struggles, but they are small compared to watching others feel good by me sharing what makes me feel good. I feel I have a purpose for being alive—it all makes sense.”
Lila felt like a mirror was being held up for her to see her own life in his, only she didn’t like what it was reflecting. It was everything that kept her up at night. Everything she knew she had to do but needed the faith and courage to do it. Right there, she decided she would do what he did—and before it was too late. She too felt a shift of exhilaration fill her as she saw her current struggle with new eyes. She felt powerful as she thought about going back to the office and seeing how “awesome” they thought his story was.
And then she would quit.
They talked for a long time before she left with two more chocolate butterflies in her briefcase. Lila was excited about the idea of living a life created especially for her, by her.
She arrived at the office late, having spent a beautiful afternoon with someone living rather than dying. Sitting down across from her boss and his “Yes, sir” assistant, she told them the client’s story. She watched their faces drop at his good fortune. Then she told them that she would be leaving to open her own sleep disorder clinic.
“Isn’t that awesome?” she added, smiling as she walked out the door.
As she arrived home to find her mate sleeping in the sun, she calmly informed him she’d quit. She listened to him go into a rage that carried on well into the night. Oddly, she felt so utterly calm inside—like she would be fine because she was finally doing the right thing for herself. After he calmed down, she told him it was over. She realized it was a lesson that needed no further teaching. She got it.
As she wandered out to her poppy field she could still hear him. She slept fitfully for 10 hours. Life really was awesome.
“I’ve learned that making a living is not the same as making a life.”