Two years ago, my Father had come home from the hospital and was settling in for the evening. Leaving his room that night, I kissed him and told him I loved him. He called to me. “Christopher!” I turned, standing in the doorway and replied: “yeah Dad?” He said, “keep up the good work.” I replied, “ok, Dad.”
I sort of chuckled to myself at the absurdity of the comment. No context. A simple directive. I didn’t think much of it and went about my evening. Those would be the last words my Father would ever speak to me.
It’s difficult to write that sentence. It was two years ago, and as I write this I can feel a deep swell of emotion in my chest. I used to run from that emotion. Dad was ill for six years. I didn’t allow myself to feel the terror of his terminal diagnosis of ALS-Lou Gehrig’s disease.
I drank a scotch to numb the pain. I worked too much to avoid speaking about my pain with my wife. I lost myself.
Today, I’m on a new path. I’m discovering that the emotions I would avoid, are the ones I should turn toward. When I honor the loss of my Father and allow myself to cry, I purge those emotions. If something makes me feel emotion, I dive into it. I look for that swell of emotion, and I use it as a compass. You should too.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
Do I like doing something? Does it make me feel emotion? Yes, cool – keep doing it. No? Stop it. Right now
When the hairs on the back of my neck stand up or a tear wells up in my eyes. I know I’m on the right path.
When I don’t need coffee to summon the energy to complete a task, I’m on the right path. Like the feeling I have as I write this, I know it’s good.
When time disappears during a conversation, I know it’s a profound one. When the pain I have in my neck dissolves and I forget about the deadlines, clients, and obligations, I keep moving.
I keep up the good work. I keep up. The good work finds me when I do this. When I honor those feelings, those emotions, those gut reactions they feed upon each other. Like a great song as it swells, those emotions tease and then explode in a satisfying crescendo.
- Are you scared? Do it.
- Does it make your knees knock? Go!
- Did your eyes tear up with joy? Push forward.
- Does it move you? Keep it up.
So the next time you’re wondering if you’re on the right path, listen to your body. To your intuition. Let your emotions guide you. Allow yourself to feel. Turn toward the emotion. Feel it in every inch of your body. And keep up the good work.