Getting Birdshit On Your Face

The Labor Day weekend in San Francisco was beautiful. The weather here has been cold this year, and we haven’t broken 70 degrees since July 12. It was in the high sixties and the sky was a gorgeous blue on Sunday, so I decided to spend the day in one of my favorite places in the world: Dolores Park. 

In the days leading up to Sunday, I had a great week. I have been feeling stronger, and walking with less pain. I had a couple of opportunities to help others. I had published the best episode of my podcast yet. I was in a great mood.

The podcast story is important. I have been trying to publish it every two weeks. The weekend before was two weeks since the last podcast, and I wasn’t happy with the songs I had. Throughout the week I was on the lookout for new music and picked out a few tunes. On Friday night, I was ready to record. The songs I had were beautiful. I set out with the goal of doing a mix where the songs ebbed and flowed through the mix.

When I record the podcast, I do the music mix in a specific way. I start by getting to know the songs well. I experiment with the order of the songs, and mix between them a few times to get a feel for them and how they interact together. After I’ve got the order set out and gone through each mix a few times, I hit record and I start mixing. I usually get a decent mix on the first time through. I’d say about 90% of the time lately, I am happy with the first mix and record the voiceover. Friday was no exception. I loved it. I felt like it captured perfectly the last week.

As I was recording the voiceover, which I do unscripted, I said something in one take about the mix that resonated with my week. I said, “…hopefully [for you], there’s beauty around every corner.”

Back to the park on Sunday. I was lying on the lush, green grass. I was listening to my podcast. I was looking up at a beautiful blue sky. I was meditating, trying to clear my mind of thought, and just experience all of this. I got pretty close. It was a joyous feeling.

As I lay there, I was thinking, “this is a perfect moment.” I saw a seagull fly directly overhead. The first thing that went through my mind was, “I hope that bird doesn’t shit on my face. That would ruin my perfect moment.”

And then, it happened. I made a realization. The bird hadn’t shit on my face. I realized that, if it had, the moment would have been even more perfect. That moment would have captured perfectly what I have learned, and how I have changed, since my crash.

See, I’ve learned that there is a lot shit in life we really have no control over. In any given instant, something might happen beyond our control that could change our life forever. Something could end it. Disrupt it. Change something we had taken for given. We could get fired. Our lover might leave us. A loved one will surely one day die. We can fly off a bridge and land five stories below.

A bird could shit on our face.

I have always believed that the core of a good life is experiences. I have set out to gain as many experiences as possible. Living overseas. Learning to fly an airplane. SCUBA diving. Falling in love. Getting married. Getting an MBA. I’m sure you can make your own list. Make a mental list before reading on.

I’m willing to bet that, when most people are asked to list the experiences they want in life, they list the “good” ones. We don’t want the bad ones.

Herein lies the deeper implication of that realization I had. If experiences are the core of what makes a good life, why do we give the “bad” ones more power than they deserve? Aren’t they just experiences? Does it take the full range of experiences to really allow us to explore what it means to be human and alive? I’d answer the last two questions with “yes.”

That doesn’t mean I’m aching for something bad to happen. It does mean, though, that when it does, I can be aware of the value of it as an experience. It won’t end any unpleasant emotions I might feel. It will, however, give me the opportunity to explore the nature of that experience, and how it makes me feel. I can release the part of me that is trying to have control in a world where control is just an illusion. And that will probably make it an easier experience to…experience.

Happiness and joy isn’t any place other than here, and at no time other than now. Go do your equivalent of lying in the park listening to the perfect trance mix. Risk a bird shitting on your face, and if it happens, revel in it. It won’t ruin that moment. It might make it perfect.

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