Driving along the Penticton beach strip, I looked out at the dark, foreboding, icicle-cold water of Okanagan Lake.

Just a few months ago, I had swum across this lake on a bright and balmy summer morning – my annual 2.6K cross-lake paddle with my amiga de swimming Jennifer.

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Today, it wasn’t really all that cold outside, maybe slightly above the freezing point, but the dusky colour of the lake and the sombre grey sky gave the impression of an Arctic-frigid kind of day.

I felt a little chill run through me as I gazed out at the small ripples on the water. Even the stately, visiting Trumpeter Swans looked shivery bobbing out there.

Motoring along just in front of me was a big, dark-toned pickup truck, the kind driven by men with tattoos that cover their entire meaty arms and shotguns in the back window.

A large black dog with a sleek, shiny coat of fur was zig-zagging across the box in the back of the truck … one side, then the other, then the other, over and over again. It was hypnotic the way she floated like a pendulum back and forth, back and forth.

Just so you know – and I know I shouldn’t make snap judgments – I’m calling the pup SHE because her owner probably likes the idea of owning a bitch.

(Aside: It’s illegal to carry untethered dogs in the back of your truck in B.C. but I don’t think doggy knew she was at risk of being jailed. She maybe even smokes forbidden pot without realizing this isn’t Washington State or Colorado… some dogs can be so nonchalant.)

Black Dog in Pickup

Anyway, I wondered.

What was this dog thinking?

Was she taking stock of her situation just for the moment at hand, or was she trying to determine if this was the life she really wanted to lead?

Searching for life’s key, she flashed a thoughtful look out in all directions, imploring, begging for the answer to find a windy pathway into her nose where she could digest its meaning.

Did this canine have a secret, a secret that I should know?

Of course. Right then, I knew the black doggy had the right approach. She was actively absorbing and questioning her life’s choices and taking stock.

If she could be so perceptive and insightful, it seemed only right that I should do the same.

But. When is the right time to take stock of your life?

Should we even try to take stock of our lives?

Should we spend those Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours to think, become curious and become masters of our own lives?

Pssst… Let me share a small secret with you.

The laws of biology dictate that our “life road” will come to a dead end at some point.

Turbulent but brilliant Steve Jobs knew that when he spoke at the 2005 Stanford University Commencement ceremony:

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Steve Jobs Candle

Absorbing this important message, taking stock isn’t something we should wait until later in our lives to contemplate, is it?

When we’re driving to work, when we’re relaxing by the fire in the evening, when we’re running or knitting, or having sex – no, forget that last one – those are the times to ask ourselves if all is settled and as it should be, or are changes needed. Asking the question:

Am I living the life I thought I’d lead when, in Grade 11 Math Class, I dreamed of the future instead of listening to Mr. Warneke?”

Today, just like Steve Jobs said, I’m in the process of becoming naked.

Just like the black dog in the truck. Naked.

My young adult kids think I’m way too undressed already, and maybe they’re right. But I don’t think so.

I think they’re young like I was just a few … weeks ago. The wisdom of roaming the earth in metaphorical nakedness is something that grows cunningly inside as our hair grows grey on the outside.

Maybe someone should be really taking stock of their life choices...

Maybe someone should be really taking stock of their life choices…

Becoming who we want rather than what our friends and family and media tell us to be is a huge courageous step forward. Taking stock and being honest to ourselves can be slow, it can be difficult, maybe even painful.

There are still some parts of myself that I can’t bring myself to share with the world because of my pride and fear of embarrassment.

I’m not fully naked and I probably never will be. But there are fewer and fewer secret coves that I’m protecting, and it feels good to let go of my pride.

Taking the time to look out the window. To think. To digest the robin or chickadee songs, the views of luscious green hillsides, breathing and smelling the lilac in the air, tasting a bit of sandy grit in my teeth as dust swirls when a truck passes is useless dreck.

Maybe that’s just stuff to be ignored. Maybe. But I don’t think so.

I have less and less to lose and I have a black dog to thank for reminding me that I don’t have to hide the parts of me that used to scare me. It’s a risk that’s worth taking.

Taking stock of where I am and where I’m going is a sign of strength. I love that feeling of risk and fear.

The rush.

Like the carriage return when I hit the Publish button.

Click.

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