How a juggler taught me the meaning of life in less than 90 seconds
One afternoon, on my drive home, I finally heard the true meaning of life — straight from a juggler’s mouth.
The juggler in question is Michael Goudeau, who worked for many years as the opening act for Las Vegas magician Lance Burton. He now tours the world with his one-man act, juggling knives and bean bag chairs and a million other things, all while making audiences laugh.
Goudeau is also a co-host of the Penn’s Sunday School podcast. Penn is Penn Jillette, the taller, louder half of Penn & Teller. Penn is, yes, a magician, but even more than that he identifies as a juggler. He and Goudeau have been close friends for decades, and their easy rapport — and Penn’s gentle ribbing of Goudeau — make that friendship clear in every episode of the podcast..
In one episode, Goudeau said something that instantly struck me in a sort of smack-yourself-in-the-forehead, “of course that’s true!” way. I mean, it was both obvious and something I’ve heard before, but had never truly absorbed. And for whatever reason, the way he worded it that day truly resonated with me, so I wrote it down.
Of course that was before the lockdown. But somehow, his advice seems even more important now.
In a normal year, Goudeau spends a lot of time on the road, away from his family. He’s found a great niche as a comedy performer at state and county fairs. And that led him to a realization he shared on the podcast.
“In the last year I finally figured out that I’m going to do a hundred fair days a year — I should probably enjoy this. And so I get up early and go do stuff now. And I go eat with people afterwards. Rather than just going and focusing on the job, I have to live my life. I have to make those concurrent. Otherwise I just wait until I go home, and then I’m happy at home, but then I’ve lost a hundred days.”
Of course! Don’t lose the “working” days of your life by only focusing on the work. Be aware of the bigger picture. Enjoy where you are, what you’re doing, who you’re with, what you’re surrounded by.
And that’s all well and good, and a great way to think about “normal” life. But how do I enjoy where we are now?
After Goudeau made his statement, Penn — who, you will recall, also self-identifies as a juggler — replied with this: “You’ve chosen to do something stupid and wasteful with your life. Enjoy it.”
And there it is. These past few months have often felt stupid and wasteful as we are forced to adapt to social distancing and mask wearing. But it doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate and even enjoy where we are and what we’re doing.
Maybe it’s learning a new skill — juggling, anyone? — or rearranging your furniture or just spending time outside alone. For me, I’m trying to appreciate my own home, my family, and the fact that my children are home with me. When they look back on this weird blip in their lives, I hope they’ll think of it as beneficial, as a time when the whole family was together and sharing with each other all day. Even when we get on each other’s nerves, I want to try to appreciate those moments, because they, too, will pass.
I don’t want to sit at home and wait for some time in the future when everything gets back to “normal,” when we’ll all be happily resuming our normal routines. I want to stop and enjoy all the small moments, the little things that can make me happy right now, today, trapped at home: the warmth of this cup of coffee; the fact that my teenage daughter still wants to hug her embarrassing parents; the relief that I don’t even have to wear a necktie.
“If you end up enjoying what you’re doing,” Penn said, “you’ve won.”
Nothing is perfect. Every day is full of frustrations and challenges. But by recognizing and enjoying the little things during this blip in our lives, this time of lockdown, maybe we can all win.