The other day, I excitedly met a woman for coffee to discuss our work, our passions and how we might collaborate on a few projects close to our hearts. It was a beautiful afternoon, and I whooshed into the bustling city cafe with red cheeks, my new hat, and generally, brimming with life.
At forty-three and now with older children and a career that I thoroughly enjoy, not to mention the hard-won confidence and self-love to be fully ME, I would say that I am entering a very creative and productive period of my life.
As I reached the meeting several minutes before my new friend, I ordered my warm mug of joe and took a seat, giving me a few minutes to breathe in the vibe of the place, something that I full-on LOVE to do.
One of my favorite pastimes is people-watching and feeling the energy of a space. I find it fascinating and often quite moving to pick up on the subtle frequencies that can be felt in a new environment.
Once settled, I noticed an elderly man, kind of dressed up and sitting all alone. He appeared to be a regular as a few people said hello as they passed his table.
He seemed shy, gentle, worn-in and maybe a bit out of place amid the busy-ness (laptops and phones everywhere) as he sat quietly drinking his coffee.
Obviously on the tail end of his life, the contrast of where we both are on the linear timetable of the “typical” human lifespan struck me square in the heart.
Suddenly, paradoxical to what I thought I would feel while observing this beautiful man, I felt awash in peace.
The realization that he is me came to me clear as a bell.
In literally what will seem like the blink of an eye, I may be just blessed enough to be breathing, sitting alone in a coffee shop such as this and appreciating the gift that has been my life.
Oh, THIS LIFE, the ups and downs, all of it, what an honor it has been to be ME.
The actual sacredness of it all, the AWE of what it is to be a human being, and the tendency that we all have to ignore it overwhelmingly struck me.
I felt it sitting next to him. He is Me—underneath it all—the core human experience is the same.
There’s no stopping it. No matter what we may do, no matter the specific stories of a singular lifetime, there is nothing that we can do to stave off the inevitable passage of time. We are all on the same train.
I wondered what he was thinking and feeling as he sat there slowly sipping his coffee.
What is it like to look at the world through the same eyes, but from a wholly different vantage point?
Does observing the youthful with full lives ahead of them bring regret, appreciation, sadness, and relief?
In these moments, I stopped focusing on all that I could accomplish in my meeting with a new business acquaintance. I felt the fuller aspect of myself through this older man.
WHAT I did during the second half of my life seemed rather insignificant. The only thing that seemed to matter was HOW.
Was it going to be through kindness, truth, compassion, humor, vulnerability, openness, and gratitude? Yes, that was the clear measuring stick.
For it felt so apparent that soon I would be sitting alone in a coffee shop and reflecting upon my life lived. And while it may sound cliché to some, I felt the truth of it deep in my heart that day. It reverberated throughout my whole body.
And if I have honored this question over and over again in all that I say, think and do, and in a way that included both myself and others in the equation, then I will be able to sit in that cafe sipping my coffee without fear and regret.
I will feel the same peace that I felt that day when I was 42, in the prime of my life, observing an elderly man.
He is Me. I am Him. Two individuated souls on the spectrum of the human experience.
But when all is said and done, and there is nothing left to be stripped away, there is only the Oneness.
I felt it that day while observing an old man…
Warmth and LOVE,
A modern bridge between the mainstream and the mystical, Annie Burnside, M.Ed. is a soul nurturer, award-winning author, and teacher specializing in parenting, conscious relationships, authentic living and spiritual development. Her book Soul to Soul Parenting won the 2011 Nautilus Silver Book Award. Connect with Annie on Facebook and engage with her on Twitter @annieburnside.