It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow; if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain! I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it. I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic; to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy. I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty, every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence. I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.
♦ ♦ ******** ♦ ♦
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and
if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
by OriahMountainDreamer copyright © 1999 by Oriah Mountain Dreamer
*Life is all about ROWING*
My grandfather was a man who lived a rich life. A shipbuilder by trade,
he was one of 11 children born in rural Nova Scotia. Grandfather was a
quiet man, a deeply religious man and, perhaps most of all, a person of
significant character. Once when I was in high school, my grandfather
invited me to go on a rowing trip with him. He loved the sea and told me
that this particular evening promised a glorious sunset.
“Would you be interested in going on a rowing trip with me to visit a
tiny cove I’m sure you’ve not seen?” he inquired.
Looking outside, wiping the sweat from my teenaged forehead,
I suggested that 95 degrees was not the perfect time for a long rowing
trip and said another time would be better.
“Ah,” he said, “another time is for young men. Let’s do it now.”
With that clarity of perspective, off we went on what would turn out
to be a nonstop row of more than an hour. Given that he was in his
seventies and I a mere fifteen, the rowing naturally fell on my shoulders.
All during our trip to that cove, he was chiding me to go faster else we
miss the promised sunset.
“Chop, chop,” he piped up.
Sweating profusely, I diligently rowed until more than an hour had passed
and we turned a corner beyond a tiny point of land and into the promised
cove. Moments later, the sky burst into an orange-purple blaze.
My grandfather was right, the cove and the sunset were both breathtaking.
The scene is one I will never forget.
We were there, however, for no more than a couple of minutes when my
grandfather said, “Well, let’s head back now.”
Incredulous, I protested. “Granddad, you were right, it is beautiful here.
But look at me, I’m dying – let’s stay for a while.”
“No,” he said, “they’ll have made dinner for us and we’re already late.
We ought to think of others, not just ourselves. Besides, we’ve seen it
and this beautiful sunset will follow us home.”
Hands on the oars, I began the journey back. With each pull I renewed
my complaining: “It was nice, but not worth all that rowing…
This boat is too old and needs new oars… The current’s too strong today…
You’re the big shipbuilder – why don’t you take a turn rowing?”
On and on I went.
My grandfather merely sat quietly, enjoying the sunset.
Finally, after about thirty minutes he gazed at me and quietly said,
“John, put the oars down, would you?”
With the oars in the boat he stared me in the face: “I want to tell you
something today, something I very much hope you will remember.
John, most of life is rowing and if you don’t learn to be good at –
and enjoy – the rowing, you will grow up to be a very unhappy man.
Now put your hands on the wood and take me home.”
I would love to tell you that the scales fell from my eyes in that moment
and my life was lived differently from then until now.
But that would not be true.
At the time, those words seemed like the babblings of an old shipbuilder
about to make his last sail. But thirty years have passed and I know
now what he meant.
Life is mostly rowing.
There are, of course, moments of ecstasy, but most of life is made up of
A walk on the beach,
a glancing view of a beautiful cornfield out an airplane window,
the first time you see your child steal a base,
a conversation where you know your words helped a friend,
lying in a tent by a river with the few people you love most,
the good feeling at the end of a hard day at work when you
know your efforts were not in vain.
It is precisely our ability to be present and enjoy those moments that
makes life worth living. We can spend our entire lives trying to get
from one big sunset to the next and miss a whole lot of great living
Sure those great sunsets are wonderful, but they are the icing, not the cake.
And it is not the big things that determine our success in the many realms
of our life.
Marriages are not built on the big anniversary trip to Hawaii or the special
gift that marks a date. It is in the rowing that marriages are made and broken,
in the daily honoring of life together.
Parents do not raise children well because of the camping trip taken once
each year to provide “quality time.” Rather it is in the rowing moments,
simple exchanges that occur thousands of times over the years that our
children learn the lessons they will need to live a life uncommon.
Leaders do not earn their stripes at the annual meeting when they give
a rousing speech that inspires the masses, but in the daily way their rowing
inspires a sense of pride and respect among those whom they lead.
But how do we begin to get better at the rowing and to appreciate the
simpler pleasures it has to offer?
How do we reclaim the innocence, faith and wonder with which we were
graced when we came into the world?
It seems to me that it begins with realizing that life is not about where we
are going as much as it is about being where we are.
How much of our lives are lived with the future as our focus – saving for
retirement, waiting for the weekend, counting the days until vacation,
looking forward to graduation, the next promotion.
We seem destined to believe life will be better when we finally get there.
When we choose to believe that each moment, however simple, offers
as much to us as the great shining moment of ecstasy, we begin to
experience our lives in a different way.
What part of the rowing must you pay more attention to?
Are you enjoying the moments of your life fully or waiting
for some future sunset when life will be what you desire it to be?
By John Izzo, Ph.D.