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There's More To Life Than Gathering Nuts - by Suzanne Willis Zoglio

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Flopsy was a high-achieving squirrel. He left the family nest when it was time, survived a few run-ins with retrievers, and dodged more than one Hawk in his day. He also learned to gather his food supply first thing in the day . . . before any play . . . and build a good stash in case the oncoming winter were to turn severe.

He found a mate - her name was Nuggets - and they raised three agile squirrels. One by one the youngsters left the nest, heading out across the wires to another part of town. When they were gone, Flopsy couldn't help wondering, "Did I teach them all that they needed to know . . . did I give them the confidence they'll need to survive? Did I spend enough time chasing them in spirals around the tree or just sitting side by side peacefully on the bank of the stream?" "Oh well," he thought, "I did the best I could . . . and they seem like good squirrels."

"So, on with life," he thought. He got up early every morning and scampered across a few backyards to gather nuts . . . as he had done for so many years before. But soon he noticed that he wasn't getting up with the same enthusiasm as he once had. Also, while he was foraging, his mind would wander. Sometimes he wondered if his nut gathering really mattered. After all, he and Nuggets had a reasonable stash of food . . . more, he thought, than two hungry squirrels could go through in a lifetime. "Maybe I should just . . . whoa . . . wait a minute . . . whoops . . . yikkkkkkkkkes." With all his daydreaming, Flopsy lost his footing and went crashing down through the branches of a 100-year-old Copper Beech. At 5 feet above the ground, he almost caught his grip, but alas, it wasn't to be. Flopsy crashed into the ground at a breakneck speed . . . except he didn't break his neck! But he did black out for a moment. When he came to, he was on his back looking up at the canopy of penny-colored leaves dancing in the wind.

As he watched the swaying leaves he remembered how he used to swing from branch to branch almost effortlessly. He loved to hang from one paw, flip over to the other side, and even hang by his tail. That's how he got his name. He'd jump from one branch to another, flip his body over as if on a parallel bar . . . a regular Flying Wallenda of the squirrel world.

Just thinking about it made his pulse race. His little toes began to tap. It had been years since he'd done what he loved to do. After all, he'd been busy doing what he was supposed to do . . . gathering nuts, providing shelter . . . becoming part of the Treetop community. But now, he thought, "Why not? What am I waiting for?"

He lingered under the tree a little longer, and thought about what he and Nuggets really needed to survive. He figured out that if he gathered nuts early each day, he'd have time to "fly" in the afternoon . . . and still be home in time for dinner. He really didn't need to spend 24/7 in the "hunt."

Soon Flopsy was back practicing his high-branch act. He wasn't as limber as he once had been, but he found his years of experience had taught him how to focus and soon he was flying even better than before.

But after several high-flying months Flopsy sensed that something was still missing from his life. He definitely enjoyed what he was doing, but he still wasn't sure if he was making a difference . . . for anyone but himself . . . and Nuggets, of course, whom he loved dearly.

So he went back to the tree where he'd had his "Aha" moment. Yup . . . just propped himself up against the trunk of the tree, folded his little forelegs behind his head, and stared up under the penny-colored canopy of leaves. "How can I do what I love and also make a difference in some way?" (He was a pretty philosophical squirrel.) He asked the question and watched the shimmering leaves, but no answer was forthcoming. Disappointed . . . and more than a little frustrated, he scrambled to his feet and headed home to Nuggets.

The next morning while Flopsy was out gathering nuts, he noticed an adolescent squirrel on a low branch of a tree staring up. Just staring . . . not moving. So he scurried up next to the youngster and asked, "What's up?" The younger squirrel replied, "I'm trying to figure out how to get to that cluster of mulberries at the end of that branch at the top of the tree. They look so delicious, but . . . I'm rather clumsy and I'm just not sure I can manage the climb."

"Well, would you like a suggestion?" Flopsy offered. "Sure," said the teenage squirrel . . . curious if this graying elder could REALLY teach him what he needed to know. So Flopsy proceeded to suggest a path that might be right for the young squirrel to take . . . given his capabilities and his destination. He even taught him a special way of using his claws so he wouldn't slip. Soon the young squirrel was nibbling on mulberries from the end of a branch and Flopsy went off to gather nuts.

And then it hit him . . . right out of the blue. "That's IT!" he blurted out. "That's how I can do what I love and make a difference." Soon Flopsy was running a school for high-flying squirrels. The days were long and the students were not always attentive, but the time just seemed to fly. One day, he turned to his mate and said, "You know, life doesn't get any better than this . . . I couldn't be more satisfied." "Nor could I," she said, "nor could I."

3 Things We Can Learn From Flopsy About Moving Beyond Success

1. A whack on the head often helps our vision . . . we see what's really important. Don't wait for a " wake-up call;" put your time where your priorities lie.

2. To feel fully alive, we need to feed our passions, desires, and dreams. Every day - in ways large and small - observe, enjoy, and create. Life is in the details.

3. When it seems like something's missing, try giving. Share your talent to make a difference . . . build a legacy. The connection makes us whole.

© Suzanne Willis Zoglio, Ph.D.
 

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