How is life?

Life is good.

I’m quitting things right and left and I’ve never felt better.

A friend gave me some advice several years ago. Advice in the guise of a pep talk. The sort men give one another when one of them is feeling sorry for himself. A slap on the back, a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of pep talk.

“Have you thought about stretching yourself, going outside of your comfort zone and getting involved in something?” he said.

No, I hadn’t. I was thinking more about surrendering quietly to my crushing solitude.

I asked him how I might do that if one wanted to do something like that.

“You could sing, teach or volunteer,” he said.

I could, but that sounded like it might involve some effort. If I was going to reach out, I wanted someone to reach in with a long arm and a warm hand and meet me more than halfway.

That was years ago. I haven’t seen him since but it doesn’t matter because sometimes life sends messengers. It was as if he put a spell on me. Sometimes the last thing you want to do is the first thing you end up doing.

Within a year or so, I was teaching, singing, even doing some light volunteering. I wasn’t great, I’m not sure I was even good, but I was Mr. Out There.

Recently, Mr. Out There took a break. I told myself I wasn’t quitting, I was taking a sabbatical. Sabbaticals are an opportunity for reflection and insight.

My first insight: It feels great to quit. Quit and do nothing. Quit, sit in the easy chair and lean way back.

There is a release when you quit. A lightness. A tingling you can feel in your hands and lower arms.

A friend once told me that that some of her happiest moments as a mother were when her kids quit soccer, stopped playing the piano or dropped out of t-ball.

Now, I know what she means. I’d forgotten how good it feels to let go of the dream. To give into indolence and aimlessness.

The world opens up. Everything is possible, especially if everything doesn’t involve doing anything.

A second glass of wine at night? No problem. Pick up an extra show on Netflix? Absolutely.

At first, I had some guilt. How will the world go on without me? What kind of an example am I setting?

Yes, there was guilt, but I have good news: You’ll get over it. It takes a couple of days, a week tops.

The world goes on fine. Hardly anyone notices. You’re setting a new kind of example, the quitting one.

This feels so good, it makes me want to quit more things. Start with exercise. Ask Jackie Kennedy who was reported to have said on her deathbed, "If I had known how this was going to turn out, I wouldn’t have done all those pushups.”

I could stop trying to learn how to play the guitar. How about I listen to other people play the guitar? There are enough of those out there.

Fixing sprinklers in the backyard? I’m never going to do that. The pipe is buried. It’s compromised and so, I find, is my motivation.

Home improvement is fine except for the improvement part of it. I don’t want improvement. Not during a sabbatical.

I can’t quit my job but talk about light and tingly. How many people have we watched leave their jobs and float right out of the building as if they were holding onto a bunch of helium balloons?

Floating. If someone wants advice on learning how to fly, I am here. I am free. I have time.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or (661) 395-7279.

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