From the book – Cigar Lounge Wisdom

For much of my life I lived under a mistaken belief based on something I had been taught by my adopted mother and then reinforced by many a sergeant in the Army. That mistaken belief was this: That if I was relaxing I was accomplishing nothing; I was wasting time. Since time is limited – each of us only has so much and we never know what that allotment is – wasting time was totally unacceptable. It would earn me my mother’s wrath and the sergeants would always be able to “help me” find something to do.

As a result of this belief, I always felt a little guilty when I was lounging at the cigar shop. There was a small part of me that felt like I was being lazy and “wasting time.” My wife will tell you that I’ve never been good at “sit and do nothing.”  That’s a side effect of this belief and outlook which had been pounded into me for the first 20+ years of my life. Do you have any idea how hard it is to relax and enjoy yourself when doing so makes you feel guilty?

Then came the day when I was sitting at the cigar shop enjoying one of my favorite sticks (a Perdomo Grand Cru Connecticut) and sipping on a soda. One of my friends, and a man I hold in high regard, asked me what was wrong. When I said, “Nothing,” he protested and told me to stop BSing him. I finally confessed that while I was comfortable, had a good cigar and my beverage of choice, I still felt wound a little too tight.  I knew why and shared it with him. He shook his head and (figuratively) threw the BS flag. It was his outlook that I’d been misled and he shared why.

His first observation was that “wasting time” is an illusion. As much as we hate to admit this, the past is a memory and the future is in our imagination. We only have life as we live it in each moment and that we therefore had a duty to ourselves to enjoy each moment as much as we could.

His second observation was that “relaxing” IS accomplishing something. He stated that no one can go 100% effort 100% of the time. Whether we like it or not, we have to recharge our batteries. Sleep helps us do this but if we’re awake 16 hours per day (average) and we spend half that at work, a little more driving back and forth, there’s an adjustment period that is needed to mentally switch gears from “at work” to… whatever your opposite is: off-duty, on your own time, with family, whatever.

His third observation was that, since relaxing is absolutely required to maintain optimal performance when we’re engaged in any task, that it’s best to relax efficiently. I had to laugh at that. How do you relax in an efficient fashion? His answer was insightful: you do it completely. You don’t allow yourself to be distracted by guilt, worry, distraction, etc. If you’re going to relax in a cigar lounge with a good cigar, a beverage, and talking with friends, then you’re robbing yourself of true relaxation if you’re worrying about “wasting time” or feeling guilty for “being lazy.”

So… when you wrapped up his thoughts it became obvious that if I WAS wasting time it was only because I wasn’t allowing myself to fully enjoy relaxation. If I was going to spend time relaxing then I should do so without worry, guilt, tension, etc. I should just relax… or stop trying to. One or the other.

He was absolutely right and I’ve done my best to incorporate the lesson(s) he taught me that day which boiled down to one simple thought: Live in the moment. If you’re at work, be at work. Invest yourself in your work. Focus on it; accomplish it; do it to your maximum capability. If you’re relaxing, RELAX. Live in the moment of recharging your physical, mental and emotional batteries through the therapeutic process of prepping the cigar, cutting it, toasting it, lighting it and puffing it at an unrushed pace. Select your beverage to pair accordingly. Sit. Relax. Converse with those around you. ENJOY being in that setting, in that moment, relaxing and… doing nothing else; mentally focusing on the pleasures and benefits of doing something: relaxing.

This is a life’s lesson we all need to remember. Live in the moment. Make the most of each one of them. Just this morning (as I type this) I read about an 87 year old woman who had decided to go to college. She never had but wanted to, so she finally did. Having her on campus, with her outlook of relishing every moment of each day, was a blessing to the college students who took the time to get to know her at all. She lived each day to her maximum capacity and finished her degree before passing into whatever comes after this life. She had been invited to speak at her graduation ceremony and reportedly started out with a short lesson:

Never stop drinking beer. She had given up drinking beer recently… and the whiskey was killing her! (insert laugh here)

Her point was that she was enjoying life in spite of circumstances. Can’t have something you want? Find something else you can enjoy until you CAN get what you want. Live in the moment, making the most of each and every one of them. That collection of moments make up the essence of your life. Why waste any one of them?

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