“You’re kidding, right?”
“No, Martin. It’s definitely shingles.”
I was incredulous. “Are you sure it’s not spider bites?”
“You are aware that I graduated from medical school, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, but I don’t understand. I’ve always been really healthy. How could this happen?”
Dr. Blay stared at his stethoscope and then back at me. “Shingles is triggered by stress. Do you have any stress in your life?”
“Well, nine months ago I left my job, sold my house and moved out of Baltimore without a backup plan. And now I’m writing a book about the mistakes I’ve made in my life. Is that stressful enough to get shingles?”
Dr. Blay smiled. “Yep, that’ll do it!”
* * * *
In May of 2010 I had a four-level townhouse, a tolerable job that paid the bills, and the opportunity to do what I loved most: flying airplanes. The problem was that none of the material stuff was enough to silence my Soul’s search for meaning. So I got rid of my obligations and left town with my dog and a laptop.
Five months into my midlife awakening I realized that I couldn’t live the life I wanted to live until I’d dealt with the life I had. And it occurred to me that the best way to do deal with it was to write my life story, from my earliest memories through the day I left Baltimore for good.
While it sounded good in theory, it was excruciatingly painful in practice. Every morning I would stare at my computer screen until the words began to fall out, and then I wrote until I’d reached my pain threshold for the day. Three months and one case of shingles later, the first draft of my life was complete.
With additional drafts I found the forgiveness necessary to heal from my self-inflicted judgements and past recriminations. What I once viewed as personal and professional disasters, I now saw as examples of my resiliency in times of crisis. And most importantly, my life story became a catalyst for my life’s work.
One of my greatest takeaways from this experience has been the realization that it takes unforeseen courage to risk everything on a purpose for your life that nobody sees but you. But I also believe that each one of us has the innate courage we need for the journey.
So if your Soul’s call-to-purpose is waging a battle with your brain’s call-to-fear, and you’re ready to side with your Soul, get out some paper or boot up your computer. Write the first draft of your life and take a giant step on the path to your reason for being in the world.