Am I Doing the Right Thing?

The meaning of our life will be found precisely in our capacity to achieve as much of it as is possible beyond those bounds fear would set for us. James Hollis What Matters Most

In the summer of 2000, I decided to move to Ouray, Colorado: a little part of Western history nestled in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado. I had visited Ouray many times over the previous decade and vowed to myself that if I ever had the chance, I would like to live there for a year just for the experience of the adventure.

My marriage had ended that spring and my mother had died about the same time. My best friend died shortly after. I worked for myself as a consultant. The time was right to take time to think, grieve, and reflect in the beauty of Ouray and the San Juan’s where I could sit in the warmth of the natural hot springs, drive the 4-wheel mountain roads and photograph the mountain beauty.

At first, I felt exhilarated by my decision. But then, as the first flush of excitement faded, the anxiety of uncertainty and the fear of the unknown crept into my soul. Negative possibilities filled my mind–all possible but improbable. For six months, I pondered many scenarios and contingency plans to gain a sense of control.

On December 26, 2000, I loaded my Jeep and a U-Haul trailer and headed west. I didn’t know anyone in Ouray. I had no clients anywhere near there. I had rented the second floor of a large A-frame home on the side of a mountain that looked over the Uncompahgre Valley between Ridgeway and Ouray, Colorado.

When I arrived, I exclaimed triumphantly, “I did it!” Then I thought fearfully, “What did I just do?”

“Did I do the right thing,” I asked myself.

I called Kenny Moore aka “Kenny the Monk.” Kenny wrote, The CEO and the Monk.

I asked, “Kenny, if I live on the mountain for the next 10 years and write, think and strive to become humble and wise and do some good deeds along the way and if I end up old, alone and broke, do you think a monastery somewhere would take a spiritual seeker in?” Oh, how I wanted certainty and security.

Kenny laughed, we had a long conversation and he sent me a prayer by Thomas Merton:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

I struggle always to grow more comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity.

I  walk into the mystery of life with all the integrity and authenticity I can muster. I leave security to take my uncomfortable soul’s journey.

I do my best to follow my purpose in life, live true to my values, and pursue my vision. I seek counsel from wise people. I reflect on the outcomes of my choices, and adapt as I go forward on my journey in life. I cannot know what lies ahead of me or how I will handle life’s challenges. Life remains unpredictable and beyond my control.

Faith is living my deepest authenticity despite fear (My late friend, Bob Terry believed authenticity was God). As afraid as I first felt on the mountainside, I didn’t deviate from my purpose or throw away my values. I continued to learn and adapt to life. I didn’t allow fear to stop me from this and many other leaps into the chaos and mysteries of life.

I’ve come to believe that there is not one right way to live. That would be mass conformity and such a human community would be unsustainable. I believe that the way to live is in a courageous and authentic way unique to each of us. Each soul authentically expressed has gifts to contribute to life. That diversity has the required variety to keep our human community vibrant and creative.

8 thoughts on “Am I Doing the Right Thing?

  1. Just what I needed – since I just lost a part-time counseling job I had due to new Medicaid regs, a job I had for exactly 6 weeks after my other part-time job laid me off. I am wondering what it is I’m supposed to do, now that I am retired but would still like to be working a little. There are many choices that need consideration and the way is unclear – so I needed the gentle reminder that if I do the next right thing all will be well. I am reading “The Nightingale” and am so grateful that I don’t have to make the choices while living a hell on earth such as the people of France did during WWII. That would indeed be a monumental test.

  2. “I believe that the way to live is in a courageous and authentic way unique to each of us.” That one is going into my permanent quote book as a quintessential Tom quote.

  3. Tom, I am very impressed with your posts and the comments you have received. I am very proud of you for staying involved and providing a vehicle for people to express their feelings. At some point in everyones life, they will have to face the subject of ” Am I Doing The Right Thing”. It may be associated with marriage, jobs, drug abuse, infidelity, sexual choices, putting your life on the line or standing up to what you truely believe. So far, I am fortunate to have made changes in my life moving from one job to another, one city to another and having to deal with young kids who didn’t want to leave their friends. Was I doing the right thing?? Only time gave me the answer. Even after retirement, I had the need for more adventure and exposure. So far, I have been successful. I guess that old saying, “Nothing ventured, Nothing gained. You have to have some believe in yourself to take that walk off the plank of life.
    I am now facing another, “Am I doing the right thing” moment. I have attempted to write about it, but have torn it up. As you know, most of my adult life has been in lawenforcement, my problem, should I write an explosive op-ed about the Police violance and the killing of unarmed people. True Police have a tough job, but why is the outcome continueing to be deadly force?? After 35 years, I am pretty astute in what is require in most police confrontations. When I was on the street using my weapon was the last option, today it seems to be one of the first options. In the old days, I had to get down and dirty, fight with criminals, dodge objects, get cursed out, watched some of my buddies lose some fights, until we could give them help. Using our weapons was not the first option. I remember after a physical confrontation with the bad guys and we had bruises, blood marks and torn clothes we met at a bar, had drinks and shared laughs about our tough day. It was a part of the job and if we couldn’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!!

    I think we are a very crucial period where the weapon is becoming a first option. Todays cops appear to be more comfortable in using their weapon, because the other option of going mono e mono is not in my job description. “If you curse me, talk back to me, fight me or cause me to get my clothes dirty, you die. All the cop has to say is , I feared for my life, you appeared to go for your clothes or had the nerve to disrespect me. Let alone be of a different color. I know these are tough decisions, but what I am seeing is over the top.

    There is a serious need for discussion on this topic or it will continue to get more and more out of hand . I know there are several cops on the job, who are aware of and witness to some of the acts of uncalled for use of force, but because of fear of retaliation from other fellow cops, loss of job or fear of police unions, they remain silent. If their silence prevails, more people will die. My writing about this, being a former cop, will surely make cops look at me with some distain, but “Am I doing The Right Thing”

  4. Hi Don, I’m pleased to have you as a reader of my blog. I normally rotate photos and my written posts. I’ve been able to do a written post each week for a while now but won’t do so unless I feel energized to write a piece. Thanks for your comments about my posts.

    You are uniquely qualified to write about police violence and provide a historical perspective from a variety of positions in many agencies. Will writing the piece enlarge your spirit? Will it diminish you? I think if you do write it, if you balance your thoughts about violence with acknowledgement that it is only “some” officers and praise for most officers and strive to be fair and objective, then anyone who is critical of you isn’t a friend anyway.

    I wrote about being on a management team in the corporate world. I wrote that I am not loyal to dysfunctional teams or teammates. I am loyal to my and the organizations values and will walk away from teams and teammates who live opposed to our shared values. For me, values and integrity come before relationships. Of course, I lost some “friends” along the way and that hurts.

    The topic is of upmost importance. I share your concern. I wrote a piece on a related topic: demonstrations and demonstrators and the law (See my post, “Please Disturb Us.”). The nation needs qualified people to speak to this issue.

    Keep me posted.

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