*Note: This is the author's response to the essay series, "This I Believe," produced by NPR. For details on this series and to write your own, visit: https://thisibelieve.org.
A good friend once described his metric for success as the ability to cuddle with his wife. He explained that this comfort was a luxury made possible by first having all of the bills paid, the heat working, the plumbing operational, and the rest of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs essentially met. Now, my friend had a valid point, but while he would ascribe self-actualization to the act of cuddling with his wife, my grandest ambition in life is to have the ability to be interrupted.
It could happen anywhere- in my travels, my plans, or my conversations. It’s an appreciation, I think, rooted in a concept of community. Because despite the importance I’m tempted to place on the inertia of my own life, interruptions become a call of attention to the lives around me.
I’m reading a book when the person next to me strikes up a conversation. I don’t care if it’s a gorgeous barista or a grizzled geezer with a cane- I get to meet someone new.
I’m getting ready for bed at the firehouse when the tone drops for an accident with injuries.
I’m fast asleep and the phone rings from a friend who needs a person to listen.
I’m on the other side of the country when I get a call, telling me that a friend has died. My plans be damned- I’m on the next flight out.
What is it worth to accomplish your goals if you leave the world behind?
Also, it requires humility, whether it be in a conversation or a parade in your honor, to allow yourself to end so something else can take place. When I’m describing something to a buddy and he jumps forward with a sudden thought, I’m not offended if he butts in to share his epiphany. Rather, I’d be sad if he didn’t! And not only that, but sometimes my self-righteous ass needs to be interrupted. I don’t have all the answers, and it’d be foolish to think yourself beyond reproach. One of my best experiences with a friend, was when he cut short my BS with a quick, “Shut the f**k up!”
After community and humility, interruptions are an honor. To be able to be interrupted means that you have a certain freedom and flexibility to your life. An interruption might be external in nature, but your ability to receive it and “roll with it,” is a reflection of two things: First, the command you possess over your personal destiny and secondly, the command you possess over your own discipline and temperament- it takes solid nerves to meet and defeat the unknown.
Finally, the ability to be interrupted is what transforms the mundane into an endless possibility for adventure. I love routine. It’s hard for me to not live by it. But I thank God that my life has known so little of it.
Because being able to be interrupted is a privilege; this I believe.