Thanks… and I still don’t really know!

A while ago, at the base camp of the biggest and longest adventure of my life, I found myself turning inward. Focusing on what my biggest lessons in life were, was my way of preparing myself for the adventure called parenthood. Some of you might have a vague memory of this distant past (I intended to post earlier).

Unlike most men, I’ve known I wanted to become a dad since I was about 12. Basically, as soon as I jumped the hurdle that girls were actually kind of interesting, I wanted to take it all the way. Luckily, I had the patience to find an amazing lady to go on this adventure with. Briefly after my 33rd birthday we found out my Annabel was creating a new life!

In most big moments in my life I turn to my most trusted strategy (though not always the one that best suits me and the situation). I start reading and learning everything there is to know about what is ahead of me. Strangely however, I wasn’t tempted to absorb external information. Instead, I turned inward. This led me to consider my biggest life lessons thus far, to find what wisdom I wanted to share with our then-unborn son.

Our son, Otis Tobias Barnhoorn is now born and I’m happy to let you know I am quite clear about the wisdom I want to share. Surprisingly, what I found was not what I expected to get. I’ll share why it isn’t what I expected, as well as let you in on how I was impacted to get to the unexpected result.

A few days before December 29th, when Otis chose to join us, I asked my network, you, for help. In the process, I received about 100 responses to the question: ‘What is the most impactful life lesson you have learned in life so far?’ Both in English and Dutch my friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances, and even some people I don’t know poured their hearts out.

After reading all responses for the first time, I immediately noticed something amazing. An astonishing amount of people mentioned following the heart and gut. In a world where we often focus on logic and reason, apparently, the heart and gut are considered extremely important. Though I fully agree with the value of the heart and gut, I rarely see this happening around me. Even when I focus on following my heart, I still feel the urge and am often asked to explain. People might ask ‘why do you feel that way?’ or ‘where does that come from?’. In other cases, people might try to help me with the logic behind my heart. Let me illustrate this with an example.

December 29th 01:41 was a very emotional moment for me. Otis was crying, which I don’t particularly seek out. This was special though. It was the first time I heard him, saw him, and the first time I became extremely overjoyed with wonderful emotions while watching him. Ending in my uncontrollably crying. The following week(s), my partner and I shared the story of his birth often. In most cases, my intense emotion came up in conversation and overwhelmed me again. 

What do you believe most of the reactions were when I shared this? Exactly! Most people said something along the lines of ’that’s very reasonable!’ or ‘sure becoming a dad is intense’. I realize these friends and family members didn’t consciously try to move past the emotion into reason, though it is a small illustration of the natural move to reason within most of our society.

This is much in line with my experience since I started trying to live more from my heart. To read these lessons does however strengthen me in my conviction to value heart, gut, AND head equally. Though this wasn’t what I landed on as the wisdom I wanted to share. Though, I knew I wanted to follow my heart, gut, and head while I was searching.

The second thing I noticed in reading through your answers, I expected. It’s one of those which is simple to understand and extremely hard to live by. Enjoy and focus on the moment you’re in. One way it was put was through a quote I hadn’t heard before: ‘Every second is of infinite value’ – J.W. von Goethe. Most if not all people would agree with the value of moments vs. plans and in line with moments vs. plans, many people would also value moments over memories.

My challenge: ‘all those f*cking interesting distractions!!!’. Additionally, often I feel a sense of restlessness, especially if Otis has been crying for some time and the support forces (Annabel) aren’t around. This actually drives me to want to distract myself. Just earlier today I noticed myself watching a YouTube video on my phone (my chosen drug), WHILE I WAS LOOKING FOR ANOTHER VIDEO ON MY LAPTOP!! I might be alone, but enjoying and focusing on the moment is easy to understand and HARD to embody.

One of the ways I get closer to embodying the wonderful quote by Goethe is to practice meditation daily, though I still find myself distracted often. Knowing a ton of the research displaying why it supports us however isn’t the reason I do this. To me, a day where I started with meditation just is more enjoyable. It’s like adjusting the speed of life from ‘slightly rushed’ to ‘slightly lagging’ and I wholeheartedly love that lagging sensation. Especially if that allows me to be more present with Otis as he laughs or even when he cries. Meditation comes with an intense quiet within me. Which was the most important insight in looking for the wisdom I wanted to share.

This made me realize that I believe wisdom is not to be shared, it is to be discovered. Reading through the wonderful wisdom shared with me, I agreed with all of the wisdom. For some reason, some ‘hit’ me harder than others. I’m pretty sure this is just because I have not experienced all wisdom throughout my life. As an example, many people have ‘Carpe Diem’ as a life motto. For me, it is never been clear what this means exactly. I know the translation. I actually dove into the translation and wrote about the story behind this credo (stemming from the enlightenment) and yet, it still does not ‘connect’ for me. Contrary, a quote that often resonates for me is ‘every hardship creates equal aptitude for growth’. Most often when I share this quote, I spend the next 30 seconds staring into puzzled faces :-).

So, what did I land on? Well, I still don’t know and maybe that is the real wisdom. I just don’t know. I don’t want to leave you hanging though… Obviously, I connect most with wisdom focusing on our whole experience (head, heart, and gut) while also being in the moment. For now, this might be it:

Try in life. Try different things, different ways, different scenery, different groups. While you try, give it your all and reflect every now and then. Then decide what things, ways, scenery, and groups you want to try more or next. Keep trying and you might find what you want to share with everyone else.

For everyone who shared their thoughts, thank you so much! You supported me in this understanding while allowing me to donate €132 to #teamseas. It’s been hard to share my lessons without singling out each and every wonderful message you submitted and I hope this also gives you some value. I’ve decided to double and round up the amount to €288 as it was so enjoyable to read through all your shares!

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