If you find yourself walking the boardwalk of Pacific Beach in San Diego you might encounter a rollerblading middle aged man who calls himself Slomo. At first (and second, and third) glance he might appear to be somewhat “off,” perhaps homeless or psychotic. He prefers to rollerblade on one skate, arms outstretched with a giant grin on his face, sort of like a maniacal figure skater. It would not be farfetched to assume that he has led a rough life and finds himself amongst the downtrodden.
This assumption would be wrong.
Slomo has chosen to jump skate-first off the grid. His life prior to his decision to leave conventional living behind was what might be surprisingly considered by some to be “charmed.” This outlier of a man, who might be easily disregarded as a laughable aberration, is actually a retired neurologist and psychiatrist. He has owned a mansion, a BMW and a Ferrari. Yet he found that his choices kept leading him into the hamster wheel of life, constantly running to keep up with his lifestyle. Eventually the decision to jump ship was made easier for him when he started to lose his eyesight and his ability to recognize faces. He decided that he would get out of medicine altogether. Instead he followed advice from a 93 year old man that he met one day who advised, “Do what you want to.”
In order to accomplish this he has simplified his life to the essentials: food, housing, and skating. His companionship is the people on the boardwalk; his meditation is the skating itself. He has found that this works for him. The life he has chosen has allowed him to live free from attachment and has given him a supreme sense of joy, happiness and fulfillment that we arguably are all ultimately reaching for.
Yet by sharing Slomo’s story I am not recommending that we quit our jobs and become lone wolves rollerblading on the boardwalks of the world. We all have gifts to share with the world. Those of us who are healers, in particular, get invaluable experience as the years of caring for others add up. This means that the part of our careers where we are peaking in knowledge and expertise eventually clashes harshly with the part of our lives that’s crying out for respite after decades of trodding on that hamster wheel. Our desire to use our gifts to heal others starts to wane when facing the lead weight of legs that have been grinding onwards for decades. The prospect of continuing to run evermore is so daunting sometimes that the temptation to give it all up and rollerblade into oblivion is palpable.
Is there a middle ground? Are our only choices running ourselves into the ground or giving up our careers altogether? I don’t think so.
I suggest that we can continue to use our gifts to help our fellow human beings while still taking care of ourselves. What I propose is that we borrow some of Slomo’s wisdom.
Simplify. You don’t need as much stuff as you think you need.
Meditate in whatever manner suits you best.
Move your body.
Honor your spirit.
When we exercise our bodies we aim to push our limits in order to get stronger. Similarly we get stronger when we work hard at our careers and our personal lives, trying to do what’s best for ourselves, our families, and our community. Yet just like any exercise regimen requires a period of rest and recovery so does living this one precious life. The choice is yours. How often will you jump off the wheel and roll towards joy, balance, connection and inner peace? Two vacation weeks a year are not enough. What does your spirit cry out for? How can you honor yourself and care for yourself in a way that lets you then care for others without regret?
Do what you want to.