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Choices, Stick-Chasing, And Finding Joy

One late afternoon, some summers ago, I was at the beach.

I was with our dog, a Labrador retriever.  He was playing fetch with a stick I was throwing into the ocean.  Every time I threw it, he darted into the ocean to find it.  Swimming through the waves, he would get the stick and carry it

back proudly to shore.  He would drop it in front of me, shake off some of the water soaking his coat, and stare at me, heaving, begging me to throw it in again.

We did this for a while, and it was always the same.  He was joyous.  Eventually I had to stop, even though I loved

seeing him that way.  He would have kept doing it until he drowned.

I realized something else as I was watching him.

He was so happy because jumping into the North Atlantic to retrieve things is what he was born to do.

Now, people are much more complicated than dogs.Figuring out what we’re each born to do is elusive.  Among the many, many things that make it so hard is that human lives are the accumulation of lots and lots different choices, some of which we don’t even make ourselves.  Some of those choices take us closer to what makes us happy, others further away.  But it’s hard to tell in advance which kind of choice you’re making.  Will it be one that, years later, you say, thank goodness I did this?  Or will it be one that later makes you say “what was I thinking”?  Or will it be one that seems important in the moment, but which ends up being meaningless?

Oh, the bliss of chasing a stick.

But it’s not all bad.  As people we are blessed with an ability to reflect on our choices.  We can think about ourselves, understand our problems, and try to make changes.  I’m not talking about big, dramatic changes, although that might be what’s needed sometimes.  I’m mostly talking about small things, little risks and choices that lead to new opportunities, new avenues for fortune to play a happy role in your life.

A wise man once said, on a long enough time line the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.  Well, none of us know how long our own time line is.  All we know for sure is that each day that passes leaves us with one less day to live.  To really live.

So the real question is this:

Today, what risk did you take, what choice did you make, to make your life better?

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

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