On my aging gracefully journey, I’ve become more aware in my plus 50 years of who you might say is in the driver’s seat of my life.

I have a cast of characters, each with a voice that likes to provide  direction for my life.

OMG is one of these inner characters. He likes to take control, and in taking control, let fear drive the decision-making.

OMG is driven by fear; he thrives on creating worrying dishes, filled with worse-case scenarios.

OMG has been a contributing voice in my life through Acts 1 and 2. And yes, he still lets his fear-based opinions be known in my Act 3.

I pause here at the keyboard, reflecting back through the years, wondering if there is one particular moment I can recall when OMG first showed up on the scene and began to drive my decision-making.

I see an image of me at a pre-school age, marching up and down 17th Avenue with my sister’s baton.

I was having such a grand time, marching to my unique heart beat.

My grandparents stood, watched, and applauded, clapping in time with the marching beat.

My mother and dad stood, watched, and applauded, clapping in time with the marching beat.

And then one day, I asked some neighborhood boys to play. They laughed when I suggested that we play marching band. They walked away, making fun of me.

OMG tapped me on the shoulder and said, You must not let others see you do your playing.

And so . . . the march went indoors and underground, fearing a discovery by the outside world of my unique, creative, having-fun, marching-to-life beat.

And so through the years, I’ve hidden it.

Yes, I have hidden in the shadows of life, allowing OMG’s fear to drive my journey into the world.

Step-by-step, beat-by-beat, my heart has been awakening; and now, in my Act 3 and my plus 50 years, I’m confidently taking the baton and marching in step with my heart’s joy-filled beat.

As a kid, I can recall times when I felt frozen in the grasp of OMG’s fear; and those times were when death appeared on the scene.

At the age of barely 3 years old, I saw at the time of my grandfather’s death how fear took over for joy.

I saw when he died how the feelings of deep sorrow showed up and hung around and were fed.

I experienced joy being asked to leave, when my grandmother’s sister, Aunt Murl, let me know that my three year-old’s joy was to be stifled and silenced.

So stifle I did, letting OMG take charge of me whenever death came near.

Through the ’80s, fear permeated the neighborhoods of Chicago’s near north side where I lived. I watched friends die from AIDS.

I stood seriously by, observing it all; OMG feeding me fear.

And then one day, I became a volunteer at Chicago’s St. Joseph Hospital.

The Director of Volunteer Services had seen me perform as a puppeteer and storyteller. She had a vision as to how I could serve the patients at the hospital. She actively supported joy in the healing process.

So, I showed up at St. Joe’s with bag of puppets and art supplies. I became known as the Ambassador of Joy.

When I told friends what I was doing, the response was always the same, “Oh, I bet the kids love you.”

Well, St. Joe’s had a very, very small pediatric department. They did, however, have oncology, skilled care, and an AIDS ward; and these were the adult kids that I visited.

OMG and I shifted positions. I sat in the driver’s seat, allowing the joy of my heart to sing its song of sweet joy in the face of death.

So often I discovered the song of joy was simply listening to the patients.

One late afternoon, I visited with Carlos in the AIDS ward. In his late 20’s, Carlos was nearing the end of his life here on Earth.

We sat in talked. I drew him pictures. I listened to him reflect on his life. I simply acknowledged him, celebrating his life . . . a life that he was acknowledging was so abundantly full of joy.

I held Carlos’s hand. We sat in silence, embraced in the presence of such sweet peace. I remember thinking to myself, death where is thy sting.

And so now . . . here I am in my Act 3, noting where OMG is.

I know that in my plus 50 years I’m consciously choosing to put joy in the driver’s seat of my life, serving as the director for my Act 3.

Loving you,

Robert, aka Bob