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Breathing Just a Little and Calling It a Life

time-and-money

Yesterday I rode my bike down to Laughing Planet on Belmont Avenue for a $4.85 burrito. The sun was out and all was well.

On the ride down I replayed the classic “time/money/no object” game in my head. You know, the one where you ask: “If time and money were no object, what would I do today?”

This is a fun game to play, and it’s even better when you realize that you wouldn’t change much about your plan. In my case, I had about $60 in my wallet—but the only thing I wanted to eat for lunch was the $4.85 burrito. I could have had a million dollars in my laptop bag, and I still would have taken my $35 “Craigslist special” bike down to the burrito place.

I’ve been overwhelmed with a few things recently, but I took this to be a good sign. Other good signs come from Mary Oliver, who was writing profound wisdom in less than 140 characters long before Twitter was around. Like this, for example:

“Listen—are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”
— Mary Oliver

I’ve also been thinking that it would be good to breathe more than just a little, but we’ll return to that subject later.

Speaking of Living

A great new book launches out into the world today. It’s by Neil Pasricha, it’s called The Book of Awesome and it is, indeed, quite awesome. I’ll be giving away a copy on our Facebook page later today, and I encourage you to check it out at Amazon, Chapters, or your local bookstore.

The thing about Neil is that his writing is a lot like Don Miller’s—you’re reading along feeling entertained, and then all of a sudden, you get hit with a big lesson somewhere. You can look back later and realize how he was leading you all along to this point, but while you’re on the journey, you’re just enjoying the ride.

In addition to writing about how cool it is to memorize the phone tree options when calling customer service, (“Press 1 for awesome!”), going to bed planning to hit the snooze button the next morning, and eating the extra french fries at the bottom of the bag, Neil sneaks in a few things that hit you pretty hard.

His point is basically: it’s good to be alive. Be grateful. Enjoy the beautiful (“awesome”) life that we have.

Naturally, I like this message. Here’s an example of Neil’s great work:

I met Chris Kim in September, 2005 in Boston.

A tiny Korean guy with thin eyes hidden behind thick glasses under a well-worn and faded ball cap, he looked kind of mousy under awkwardly baggy clothes and behind a soft voice. And even though neither of us drank much, we met at a bar — me speed-sucking a gin and tonic through a needle-thin straw, him warming a well-nursed beer and occasionally taking baby sips.

When he mentioned he was from Boston, I asked about the Red Sox and he played along well enough. “Big win last night,” he offered cautiously. “Maybe still have a chance at the playoffs?” Of course, that launched me on a rant about the bullpen and whether Curt Shilling had enough steam for another big run. He nodded on, listening intently, asking genuine and serious questions, and letting our friendship take root over sports, of all things. Of course, he never watched the stuff, but was nice enough to let me talk mindlessly about it all night.

Full of wry smiles, awkward pauses, and mock-serious faces, Chris was a complex, fascinating, creative person who grew into a remarkably close friend during the two years I lived in the US. He got excited about little things, like caramelizing onions perfectly for an hour on low heat, getting randomly selected to fill out a survey of his radio habits, or learning a new keyboard shortcut in Microsoft Excel.

But it wasn’t the bar scene that helped our friendship bloom. It was the car scene.

Read the rest here at 1,000 Awesome Things

Before I read this story, I had seen Neil’s site a couple of times and thought, “That guy is a great writer. He’s got a fun thing going, like the Fail Blog or Cake Wrecks or any of those other sites.”

And then I read that article, which shows Neil working at a totally different level, taking risks and getting really personal—and I knew that The Book of Awesome would be more than just a fun book to read at the beach, or wherever it is that you are supposed to read fun books.

I’ve had a review copy on my desk for a few weeks, and am happy to report that the book is… Awesome! Go check it out.

And don’t just breathe a little and call it a life. You and I can do so much more.

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Image: Magdzia

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27 Comments

  • Darrell says:

    Thank you for this.

    I graduate with my undergraduate degree in three weeks (Finally. I took a couple years off to explore life and faith). Part of my excitement is greater then the completion of papers and exams, but it relates to the freedom I will be finding. A freedom that will allow me to ride my $100 “craigslist special” to my favorite establishments etc.

    Thank you for what you write. More accurately who you are.

  • Mars Dorian says:

    “it’s good to be alive. Be grateful. Enjoy the beautiful (“awesome”) life that we have.”

    I can only share this message – I applaud every person that promotes creativity and the lust for life throughout the world.

    So many people rave about this book, and I think I am going to buy via Amazon – (currently not available in my area ;(

    here’s to our 1000 awesome things in life !!

  • Great to see Neil getting props from everybody and their brother for this book. He’s a fun observer of (and participator in) life, a fantastic writer, and an all-around great guy.

    In one word . . .

    AWESOME!

  • Devin says:

    Funny timing. I just sent off a note to a friend who send me a short description of why her life and the last five weeks of it were awful. My reply was about reminding her that she is “awesome” no matter how she views her life.

  • Ooh I love that game! It’s one that is so useful for getting everything back into perspective.

    And yes – the simple things in life tend to be the absolutely unforgettable ones. Great lessons in small things. 🙂

  • Etsuko says:

    Chris,

    Thank you for this. I read the entire article and felt his love for this Chris Kim so deeply. Awesome writing and story.

    Etsuko

  • Chris, I want to thank you for being an inspiration, not just today but every day. I just got back from a Barbara Sher retreat, and she talked about you to her entire group several times! I wouldn’t have even gone if I hadn’t read about you & your air miles. Despite being nearly broke, I cashed in 10 years of air miles & flew first class to France, then stayed in a nice hotel and had an unforgettable time in Toulouse. When I felt like I must be crazy to take off & go halfway across the world, I remembered you & thought – Just do it! So thanks for being an inspiration – probably to a lot more people than you even realize. PS I came home & got a job offer the next day. Go figure! The universe rewards action.

  • Carolyn says:

    Sounds like a wonderful book – look forward to reading it soon!

    Darrell – congratulations on your upcoming graduation and more importantly to the FREEDOM you mention. That’s probably my favorite word.

    My take-away from Chris: Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

    “For all the wayward searching for truth and authenticity in our lives, breathing is the most original, authentic, autonomous thing we do. You know to breathe, and only you can do it.” -Karen Maezen Miller

  • Looks like a wonderful book! Gratitude is such a key in creating an awesome life! The more one focuses on the good, the more one gets.

  • I never heard of that Awesome blog or book until today but it’s easy to see why it is so popular. I read most of the site and laughed my arse off.

  • Thanks for introducing me to Neil’s blog and book. I just checked it out, and I’m a fan already!

  • Cori Padgett says:

    Hmn..Off to Amazon to check out the book, now I’m intrigued. 🙂 I’m a big believer in gratitude and being thankful for the life you have right now, instead of coveting ‘someday’. Thanks for the review and heads up on 1,000 Awesome Things!

    Warm regards,
    C

  • Megan says:

    Thanks for introducing me to such a great website!

  • “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”

    — Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

    Love your game, “time/money/no object”…!

    Thanks for helping to take the overwhelm out of my day!

  • Peter Graham says:

    That little breath proves the existence of life. It is still a miracle whatever you do with it.

  • tc says:

    I’ll be looking into this book and blog. I love the sounds of it already. Thanks for a reminder on the value of everyday joys. There is so much to be joyous over in this world! No matter what challenges we face, we’re blessed to enjoy AWESOME things everyday! Thanks, Chris.

  • Susan says:

    You can’t make room for more awesomeness without acknowledging awesome. It’s easy to get bogged down and forget, but you end missing the most spectacular moments.

  • Chris – I love that your best day is to take a bike ride and get a burrito. My day was awesome too – went to a coffee shop, did some writing, video chat to one of my best friends, now listening to the Smiths with a cup of tea. Would I change this if I could – nah, it’s totally awesome!

  • Roberta says:

    Thanks, Chris, for pointing out Neil’s blog and book. I am adding his blog to my lists and will check the book at the library. Need to start being very, very frugal this year :). Saw a friend yesterday on a very warm, sunny day here in southeast MO – she complained about it being hot; I redirected her to the sun, clear sky, no rain and no ice – ENJOY.

  • Steven says:

    I am thankful for the “awesome” people around me and so, I press on. I have a great family and wonderful friends. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed at times, but mostly I feel privileged to have what I have.

  • juds123 says:

    I`m reminded of someone suggesting that we can make our own movie wherein we are the director-writer-actor…and the film is a continuing series on our daily existence. Yup, by the plans we make, the choices we take, the perspective we stake, we can really be awesome! 🙂

  • I loved your realizations, Chris. I had similar experience recently when I was thinking that I wouldn’t change much about what I do if I had million dollars in the bank. That’s a great game – time/money/no object.

  • Thank you for sharing this. I can’t wait to check out the book.

    I connect instantly with the awesomeness of my life once I get on my bike. I think there’s some freedom generator there, a plug-in to the joy of being a kid and pedaling away from home.

    Bicycling is such a great way to feel the joy of life. I arrive at my destination breathless, exuberant, energized, and that has to have a positive impact on the awesome vibe.

    I notice you share the bike path, Chris, and I hope that encourages readers to get out on their bikes, no matter how long it’s been.

  • Craig Tobin says:

    “If time and money were no object, what would I do today?”…I was thinking the same thing as I sit here eating a Nutella & banana sandwich in my underwear in our Firenze flat. Even though we couldn’t properly afford it, we took the leap and brought our 4 ankle biters to Italy for the month (my last parental leave!). Not regretting it one bit.

    You notice so many of the little “awesome” things when travelling (with kids, especially). Italians are so laid back. Everyone is so kind and patient with kids here. Even teenage boys are complimenting us on our cute babies…something that would seem so weird at home.

    My wife and I were going to alternate days at a cooking class here but because I happened to be the only one signed up on my day, the chef offered to do a private cooking class for whole family at no extra cost. The kids got to make pasta and tiramisu from scratch. A day of awesome!

    Will check out the awesome book/blog. Ciao!

  • matC says:

    Your Mary Oliver quote led me to reread this article.

    I grew up in Provincetown, where Mary lives, and often look to artists and writers who make the town home to remind myself to ask if I’m just breathing a little. I’m so pleased you posted it, and that it comes from my home.

    I’m really enjoying your posts, tweets and your other work. Keep it up.
    mat-

  • Joe B says:

    Haven’t played that game in awhile, but once a month might not be a bad exercise, especially when wrapped up in egoic periods. Deep stuff, love it.

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