Have you ever known someone ‘larger than life?’ You know the type – the world is their stage, big personality, lots of energy, and galvanizing opinions that can evoke deep responses in people without a lot of effort. Greg was like that. You could almost see the stage he seemed to perform on. Turns out, Greg is ‘larger than death’ too. Years ago he asked me a seemingly innocuous four-word question that I continue to ask – and answer – long after his death.

He was married to my best friend and I didn’t see him often but whenever I did he left an impression. At times, his larger-than-life personality intrigued me – how could someone have so much energy? At other times I was intimidated – how does he slice right through something and get to the core? But mostly I loved being around him for his ability to challenge my thinking and see through the veils and guards that I had in place to protect my vulnerabilities.

I was visiting my dear friend and sharing some frustrations that I was experiencing with a neighbor when I told them of a petty act that I committed that would result in the neighbor being inconvenienced. It wasn’t a calculated, evil act but what I did wasn’t nice and yet I sat in their living room venting and bragging. And then, without inhibition or tip-toeing around feelings, Greg asked me the question that I’ve carried with me ever since:

“How did that manifest?”

Four words. How do you answer that? Because what Greg posed in that question all those years ago challenged my thinking and reasons as to why I chose to act out in frustration knowing that every single thing we put out into the Universe comes right back to us. There are dozens of ways to say ‘what goes around comes around’, or ‘you get what you give’, but do we actually think about that? Do we stop before doing something and ask how it will manifest? Because it will always manifest. Guaranteed.

When I read the news or see social media posts filled with what seems to be increasing acts of hatred and violence, I hear myself asking, ‘How will that manifest?”

I don’t remember how I answered Greg’s question that day. But I do know that those four words, spoken to challenge me and hold me accountable for a self-serving act meant to annoy someone, shifted something deep inside me. I’m still the same flawed human. I do stupid things and say the wrong words but not purposefully to annoy or hurt someone.

Today, my act of self-care starts with taking care of the words and actions I put out in the world because they will all manifest. Hurtful words or acts of kindness are our choices and they will manifest accordingly. Give peace, receive peace. Love begets love. Hurtful words and actions will result in more hurt. None of this is earth-shattering news. Yet in our ego’s quest to win, or get the last word or upper hand I think we forget that whatever we put out comes back and lands in our laps.

Not long after Greg asked me the question, I was on a solo bike ride through the countryside and a poem surfaced in my mind. Miles from home, I repeated the lines all the way home. Today, that poem serves as my life’s mission statement – it’s how I lead my life and it is how a question, posed to me all those years ago, manifested.

Life’s Wake

Ever stop to think about your life’s wake?

When you go through your day,

do you give, do you take?

Like ripples on water

and echoes in air,

everything’s altered because you were there.

Thanks for reading,

~ Haven