There was an elderly gentleman named Mark who worked on the same floor in our building as me. By elderly, I mean that he was probably around 90 years old. He had fought in World War II and was among the soldiers who stormed the beach at Normandy. He used a walker and it appeared that he was in constant pain. Yet, if you’d greet him with “how are you?” he’d respond with a statement like “I’m still alive, so it’s a good day.”
One day about 10 years ago I got on the elevator with Mark in the early afternoon. Here’s what our 20 second conversation was as we descended:
Mark: “Ha, are you skipping out of work early?”
Me: “Sort of. I’m just popping out to see my daughter’s holiday play at school. I’ll be back later.”
Mark: “That’s wonderful. You know what? You’ve got life by the ass and you don’t even know it.”
I wasn’t 100% sure what having “life by the ass” meant but as I thought about it, I think he meant that from the perspective of someone in their 90s, my being in my early 40s and going to see my young daughter’s school play was a treasure — something I should cherish and fully experience. I also think he meant that I probably thought I was busy and that I would rush to the play, sort of watch it while checking my phone a few times, then rush back to work, all the while not stopping to realize the the simple joy of seeing my elementary aged daughter in a play.
Mark’s simple statement of “you’ve got life by the ass and you don’t even know it” was profound. I have thought about it many times and as I go through my day I remind myself that I do, indeed, have life by the ass. It is similar to the notion expressed in the book The Way of the Peaceful Warrior that “There Are No Ordinary Moments. ” I think we all have life by the ass. Mark’s point is that we need to stop and realize it. Notice all the little amazing things.
A few years ago I read that Mark passed away at the age of 95 . A newspaper story about his passing noted that there was no funeral because “instead of a service, [Mark] had asked his friends simply to gather together, swap anecdotes and eat Ted Drewes Oreo concretes.” Another interesting fact is that Mark was the inspiration for the movie Back to the Future.