Commentary: Don't bite off more than can be chewed

I suppose it takes a near death experience to appreciate the meaning of life. Interestingly enough, as we prepared for the dramatic end of the world last Friday, choking on a piece of pot roast the day before seemed so ironic, almost embarrassing.

Casually testing my pot roast, I cut off an unusually big piece, chewing it to see if it was done. Yet, for some reason, I was so rushed, chewing seemed like a waste of time, so I decided to swallow it whole, to shave off a few seconds of my hurried day. Quickly off to the next "things-to-do" list, I observed that the rebellious bite was not adhering to my plan. It got stuck right in the middle of my throat.

It was at that moment I realized that this might be the end. I thought about calling 911, yet I couldn't talk. How can you ask for help when you can't talk? Well, I thought, this is it. So I prayed. "God, if I live through this, I am going to make the best New Year's resolution. I am gong to turn my life around, take smaller bites, and stop and smell the roses. If you give me one more chance, I am really going to surprise you. How about it?" Knowing that prayer was my only hope, I breathlessly waited.

At that moment, just as the pot roast popped out, I felt like I had been given a second chance. "Thank you God!"

It is amazing how something often taken for granted, like the air we breathe, instantly becomes of paramount importance, like so many other things in my life. And so, just as promised, I was going to declare, my "to-do" list wasn't going to rule my life. Instead of doing more, I was going to focus on being more. Instead of setting up lofty goals, and failing, and then feeling guilty, I am going to set goals that I can achieve. Instead of losing 10 pounds a month, how about 1 pound a month? Imagine going to your support group and saying, "Well, I have some great news. I am proud to announce that I lost 1 pound this month!" and then getting a standing ovation. I was going to set myself up to win. To stop focusing on everything that isn't working, and focus on what is.

My new goal was to feel good about myself, my life. I declared that I was no longer going to feel like a loser, but a winner who hasn't quite won yet.

My New Year's resolution: Live in the moment, and love fulfillment of just being. I was appreciative just to be alive.

I had a whole new perspective. Wow, my rushed, hurried, lifestyle was getting me nowhere fast. I reflected on my frantic desire to go to Madison Square Gardens in New York City to take our daughters to see One Direction. The much anticipated event turned into a calamity. It was a screaming stampede of teenage girls, clamoring to the stage, with our seats directly bee lining their end objective — Harry Styles from England. Being stampeded was just not worth the fun, so disappointedly we left before it began. Our daughters were disheartened, and as mothers, we felt we let them down.

Having enough of the craziness of the city life, we decided to make up for the disaster and have a simple ski vacation. It was perfect. Skiing all day, laughing and playing, life just doesn't get better than that. We found a cozy little restaurant for dinner to top off a great day, and as we were leaving, who walks in but Harry Styles from One Direction with Taylor Swift. This was just too funny. I suppose it was our laughter that drew Harry and Taylor in conversation with us, about our experience in New York. After a brief encounter, and for some reason, feeling strangely familiar, Harry graciously gave us tickets to his upcoming Los Angeles concert. Isn't this just too comical, I reflected. Just like life. The more you strive to make things happen, the more things just get tangled up.

Yet, once you step back and enjoy the moment, everything comes your way. I was definitely getting my message. Life is about being, not doing.

I mulled over the tragic yet heroic act of the Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher Vicki Soto, who guided her first grade students in the closet as she stood in front protecting them from the shooter, choosing to give up her life to save the children. This was a life perfectly lived, a life that focused on what was true, the highest resolve of a human being, to be fully connected to God, self and others. It is only in a moment of choice that a heart is truly revealed.

She was not just "doing" a teaching job. At 27 years old, she was living life. She was sold out to her purpose, her cause. In that moment of choice, she did not think of giving up her life, she was focused on saving the life of her students. Young Vicki Soto will forever be an example of what it means to commit to truly living. This too was part of my New Year's resolution: Focus on being better, not doing more, just like the young teacher.

Life is found in the moment. As funny as it seemed, I was really grateful for that chunk of tasteless pot roast, which brings me to my final resolution: I would never again bite off more than I could chew.

LISA HAMILTON is a resident of Laguna Beach.

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