How do you measure and define success?
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, and on and on and on, I call out to Jesus, the only name I could think of who, perhaps, could help my troubled mind and tormented soul. The year is 2,000; I am homeless on Kaua’i, my aging mother is in a local care home, and I am her official guardian. I am crazy. . . fractured and psychically disjointed, I am plagued incessantly by dark thoughts of self-hatred and suicide.
At night, I try to find a place to park my run down VW hatchback where the police won’t find me. My six foot body is unable to stretch out in the diminutive space of the hatchback; it is warm and humid. I open the windows to get some air and a fleet of mosquitoes rush in to feast upon my crumpled body . . . .the mosquitos buzz around my ears like tiny banshees, chattering incessantly. I try to chase them away, but to no avail; I am scratching everywhere. God, how did I end up here? Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, and on I go with my mantra. It helps a little; so, I persist in my Jesus incantation. There is nothing else to do. I have no friends, no community. I am alone and feeling bereft. I am by the ocean; all I need do is walk into the water, and keep walking, and then as the water gets deeper, I could swim out to sea and drown. No one will find me. No one will care. I am overwhelmed by the seemingly endless darkness of my inner being.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Somewhere, in the vastness of the my clouded mind, I see a tiny speck of light, a star, perhaps? even the tiniest bit of light offers some small comfort in this otherwise bleak inner sea of darkness that has overwhelmed me. I am 57 years old. There is no hope. My life is over.
The year is now 2017. I AM here, and now. 14 years has passed since I had fallen into that deep dark crevasse, from which there appeared to be no escape. Yet, the Light of Love can reach anywhere, and in my hour of need, the Light came to me and helped me to rise up just enough to get my footing again. I did not know it at the time, but success was waiting for me to come to it.
There are many ways to define success; perhaps the most common definition describes some achievement, or award, fame, or riches. For me, success means, simply, to emerge from my suffering and to know peace.
One might wonder how the above picture of my life has anything to do with success, for it is a picture of a fallen soul, with virtually no hope for ever living a life of peace and happiness. Yet success implies a state of non-success and state from which one has come and measured against a present completion or fulfillment such as the classic success story of the “rags to riches” scenario.
My life reads more like a movement from the depths of despair to a place of well being and engagement with all of existence. I am happy and have realized a measure of success that exceeds anything that I had dreamed.
Success is a journey that comprises a completion of a goal along with all the elements leading to a higher place . . . it is everything, the bad, the good, and the ugly. To be alive is to be successful,
The late Maya Angelou said that “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” Basically, one’s level of success is directly proportionate to the level of love that can be experience within oneself. There is no such thing as a genuinely loving person who does not experience an inner love of his/her own existence.
When one reaches the latter stages of life, success can be measured more from the domain of an inner realization; are you happy with your life; did/ does your life have meaning; has it been well lived? I am pleased to answer this question in the affirmative.
I am happy today; I live in a loving and supportive community on Kaua’i. I enjoy my “work.” At 69 years of age, an age where most people are looking towards the rest of their years as a decline into a kind of doddering feebleness, I look upward to a new vision of possibility. I see only Light ahead of me; I envision my life as a movement into the fathomless wonders of an existence I never knew existed, an existence that beckons me onward to walk its light-filled path. More and more I experience the only Reality there is: Love. Love is forever the Light that guides my way into Forever.
Life is a divine and awesome mystery that I live in gratitude and wonder.
Indeed, when I lay, hopeless, and mosquito bitten in the back of the VW hatchback, I could barely imagine the life I am living now; here I am, engaged more fully with Life than I ever before. And now, I begin to dream, to envision a life filled with Love, engaged with others who share a similar intent. This is success: to consciously live life in Love and to share Love with others.
A panorama of possibility reveals itself as I release whatever debris may be left over from the experiences of the past. I Am that I Am; I am happy and I am in process of accessing greater and greater success (well-being) in my life. There are no limits.