My Metric For Having The Most Alive & Aligned Week (& An Experiment For You To Try)

The gluten-free bakery is an easy in n’ out because of its perfect location along our route to school in the morning. The same gentleman who’s always there shuffled out from behind the kitchen wall with his warm yet tired smile and took my simple order.

Three sprinkle donuts, please.

Usually, I try to keep the whole exchange to about 5 minutes which includes just enough time for friendly chitchat.

Today, though, I could sense something wasn’t right with my bakery friend. He seemed distracted and distant, far from his typical grandfatherly spirit.

How are you doing, I inquired with concern and curiosity, aware I would make the kids late for school again.

He didn’t hesitate, Well, I nearly died this week. Unbelief and shock washed over his face as he grimaced in noticeable pain. The trauma still fresh. I could hear the fear in his shaky voice too.

He proceeded to tell me about what unfolded over the weekend in great detail.

A drunk driver had careened into their building at 1 am on Sunday. He was inside the bakery, prepping delicious bread and pastries for delivery to area cafes and their first-morning customers. The car crossed the bike lane and the shoulder and crashed into the side of the brick building, barely missing him.

He happened to be standing right there by the front window, mere feet from where the car slammed into pieces and shattered windows.

His bakery quaked and he imagined the whole building crumbling down on top of him. Car parts flew down the alleyway and to the other side of the street. He couldn’t understand how he was still here.

At this point, he was visibly trembling and concluded his story, I haven’t been able to stop shaking since it happened.

I offered my bakery grandfather a kind and reassuring smile as I stood on the other side of the counter trying to imagine the frightful night. I wished I could do more, but I knew listening and offering him the space to share his experience could be healing in its own right.

I told him we’d be back to see him the next week and then continued on my way. Stunned, once again, by how a few minutes of listening and vulnerability can bridge two people together, reminding us of our shared fragility and resilience.

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This tiny interaction, one of many similar conversations compiled over the last few months, was yet another confirmation in my investigation into what are the components of a week where I feel alive, aligned, and in tune with the pulse of the hearts around me.

I couldn’t ignore these organic connection points popping up all around me. They were everywhere…and starting to take up minutes I felt like I didn’t have. But they were eye-opening portals into another person’s world and I relished every interaction.

I was being lured into people’s stories like never before, and leaving with new hope in our innate ability to connect. In addition, I recognized how much our interactions with one another inspire us to create and gift us with countless revelations. Frankly, a bouncy-kind of energy and bottomless joy bubbled up out of me every single time I had a chance to go just a tad deeper with someone I had seen but never stopped for.

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Folks on the fringes of my life are becoming fast friends.

Now, they are the people I can greet with a hug and give my number to. Through the basic rhythm of question-asking and storytelling, a robust scaffolding of trust and empathy is being built (slowly) and relationships flourish, whether it’s with closed-off neighbors, distant partners, best friends, or locals in my community.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to pass by these simple moments that seem to drop in my lap.

I am curious to hear about their family, to learn about their weekend, to coax out surprising bits of information I could have never guessed, to add layers and dimension to their personhood.

These opportunities for organic connection never cooperate with my Google calendar or my tight timeframes.

But I want more of them to be sure.

I crave the vibrancy and mindfulness I feel while giving my attention to a fellow human, a friend-in-the-making.

Perhaps this is where I draw a line in the sand, I wager with myself, as I sense another, possibly more accurate, metric of success wanting to weave itself into my budding entrepreneurial spirit, overly ambitious mindset, and rigid schedule-loving self.

As a mother of 4, I’m familiar with (and have fervently resisted) the whole always-put-others-first mentality, or as I later came to know it: the Messiah complex. The sharp-edged message we were led to swallow as scripture encouraged us to lay down our lives and place people as a priority above our pursuits and plans because time is fleeting.

But this invitation- to intersect with the people in my path- feels different.

It’s less about laying down my life as some selfless sacrificial act, a rescuing kind of love, and it’s more a celebration of the world we can make when, instead of looking past people we come alongside them, we pause to hear the story behind their sighs and the music drawing us into kinship.

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My encouragement: Experiment. See how your week feels when you are open and interested in gathering interruptions, plot twists, redirections, and random conversations like glimmering treasures.

Migrate for a few days away from the usual forms of adrenaline-inducing productivity- boxes checked, projects started, and tasks completed.

Do your own research project, collect the data, and perhaps you’ll find, like I am, how everything seems to flow more effortlessly than you’d expect when you take one more minute to listen.

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For further resources:

Worth a read: A short piece on Why a stranger’s hello can do more than just brighten your day

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