There’s been a pillow that reads “Eat Dessert First” on my family’s couch for as long as I can remember. Sometimes it felt annoying because I was also told that I also needed to eat my veggies first, make sacrifices for others (Catholicism y’all), and generally not make a practice of indulging, so that duplicity threw me off. But once I realized that this pillow was actually about doing more of what you love, and not about food, I loved it.
Eat Dessert First became a sort of motto for me. It was the permission I needed in my “earn” my worth programming to work to find pleasure in daily life, actually try to build a life around things that made me happy, and perhaps let simpler, easy things bring me that delight.
When I started Lake Effect Co I put together a design that said CHASE MORE SUNSETS, as for me, sunsets replaced dessert in the above metaphor. Inspired by the literal and absolute beauty of this major daily gift, this was the new daily reminder that I needed. Sunsets are there for the viewing, the taking, the pleasure. And to be honest, the point was for you to substitute in your own mind whatever “sunsets” means to you. Maybe it’s carving time in for reading, working out, or taking that long overdue vacation. The point is, you have to build in time for the adventure or pleasure that calls to you. Do more of the things that make you excited to be alive.
This topic has been slapping me left and right lately for a number of reasons. As I rounded the corner into 2019, I set some aggressive goals, shifted into an intense masculine energy, determined to make them happen. And all I found was more misalignment and a need to course correct. That’s where I stand, with CHASE MORE SUNSETS in my brain, driving my next moves as I realize that yet again I have let myself stray from this guidance and become a slave to productivity - not a lot of joy in crossing off to-dos.
And what really kicked me back into this? A boy. We met through friends, spent time over a long, lakeside weekend talking about travels - sharing our best stories, enjoying each other’s passion for exploring a life outside of the normal, talking about fun people we’d met during travels and…sea life . More than anything, I think we just liked each other’s fun vibes and great tans. One of those nights, he and I were asleep in the same room when I heard strange noises and quickly realized, he was having a seizure. These were the most intensely terrifying ten minutes of my life as I evaluated what to do. I made sure he was breathing, not hurting himself, and watched my phone for the time to determine if/when to call 911. While just short of 10 minutes he broke out of it, saving me from having to make that terrifying call or witnessing anything worse. Apparently you don’t remember seizures, so explaining to him what happened the next morning broke my heart. He explained he has a seizure disorder that stemmed from a virus (from a mosquito bite) he contracted as a kid, and that is usually controlled by meds. When he drinks (and oh boy, had we been drinking) he stops taking those and this sometimes happens. His shoulders dropped and the happy go lucky guy I’d taken a bit of a liking to was no longer visible in him. The vision and panic of that night are forever in my mind. In the weeks after this, we chatted sporadically and he worked to get me to come back to Minneapolis for his birthday, to meet for drinks when he passed through Milwaukee for a work trip, to get me to contribute to the conversation like I had just weeks before. But ultimately, I was too scared that I’d experience that again. I don’t want to say I regret not giving him more of my time, but it haunts me a bit now that I let my stress from the event cap the potential for more. Yet, somehow I knew the need to protect myself.
And last week I got word he passed. Whether it was an actual seizure or something else that took him in the night, it got me thinking on quite a few topics. First, how lucky am I to be healthy. Second, how lucky were we all to have had the influence of his light in our lives. If I was affected by 48 hours and a few weeks of communication afterwards, I truly can’t imagine what those who knew him well felt for him and now grieve. Third, I felt like there was a knowing on his part that he was going to be on this planet less than most and it was his duty to live with an open heart, open arms, and to see as much as he could. He is someone who ate dessert first. He is someone who chased more sunsets.
It’s easy to focus on what’s staring us in the face in terms of stress, hardship, worry, but it’s never been more clear that focusing on “what is” and the hard facts of reality have never been what’s built a beautiful life or turned around a situation. We have the ability to feel good no matter what. We have the ability to change our situations by feeling the way we want to feel. Time here may be short: do what you need to do to feel good, no matter what.