Life is unpredictable, we all know this. Even if most of us didn’t need a reminder of that, news in the past few weeks has left some people unsettled. I mean there are things you can plan for, but despite your best laid plans you can never anticipate a meteor falling out of the sky and going through your office on a normal work day. You can never anticipate going to bed at night and being swallowed up by a hole under your house before morning. I mean, we can believe all we want that it’s not possible for those things to happen to us, but I’m sure the people they happened to didn’t believe it either. A little closer to home this week, a dear friend received a startling diagnosis of ovarian cancer, and traveled out-of-state for emergency surgery. In fact, because I’m getting to be about that age, I’ve actually had several friends in the last few months who have received news from doctors that will forever change the way they live their lives.
I’ve had these “wake the hell up” moments before in my life. We all have. We go along, day-to-day, going to work and paying the bills. We do laundry. We go to the grocery store. We try to be good parents, good partners, and good friends. We do all those things we are supposed to do, meet all our responsibilities, and hope and pray that somehow we are protected from the inevitable consequences of just being alive, of just living on this plant, because that’s all it is really, just the natural occurrences of life. When disaster strikes in your life it’s not punishment from God for things you’ve done. It’s not because you support gay marriage (no matter who tries to tell you differently), or because you don’t spend enough time with your children, or because you lied to your boss. It’s just life.
And no, it doesn’t make sense, and it’s never going to. Sometimes things just happen. Sometimes your spouse leaves, you get laid off from your job and no longer have health insurance, your child gets diagnosed with autism, someone you love dies unexpectedly, a lover or friend betrays you, or you get a life changing diagnosis from a doctor. There is no warning, no chance to take a deep breath first, just BAM, and then everything you thought you knew about your life has changed. Suddenly you are envious of the guy who was swallowed up in a hole all at once because you can see the pain ahead. You get a glimpse of what you are going to have to do to get through to the other side and even the thought of it is unbearable.
It happens to all of us, every single one of us, at some point or another and each time we say we are going to change. We are going to appreciate life more. We are going to appreciate the people in our lives more. We are going to do all those things we’ve always wanted to do. Sometimes we are successful in that, but sometimes, like New Year’s Resolutions, those good intentions once again get lost in our day-to-day struggle to just keep gas in the car and food on the table.
I think the older we get, the better we get at paying attention to those moments. Whether it is because we have a clearer view of our own mortality as we age, or because we have lived through enough of them, but either way, we pay more attention. I know I do. As we age, we also, thankfully, begin to realize that even those horrible moments are precious. Being with my father in the moments he was dying, however painful that was, was as much a gift as the moment each of my children was born. It’s all life, it’s all beautiful, and it’s all part of the experience. And there is no rhyme or reason, so stop beating yourself up trying to figure it out. Why one person lives and another dies, why one child is healthy and another is not, why someone else seems to have an easy life and you struggle for everything, those are all questions that have no answers. Let it go.
For me this week, I’m going to remember that the moment to take a deep breath is right now. The moment to look around, to be grateful, to be happy, to be satisfied, to appreciate all the people I love and who love me in return is right now. Oh there will be other moments, there will be other times that are more difficult, more painful, but right now, life is good. Life is great in fact. I’m taking a deep breath, and appreciating everyone and everything around me, doing all those things I’ve always wanted to do, even if things didn’t turn out exactly as I had planned. Because if I’ve learned nothing in my years on this planet, I’ve learned this; you create your own joy, you insist on your own happiness. You do not wait for happily ever after to come knocking on your door. You take what is handed to you and manufacture a life out of it that works for you. It may not be perfect, it may not always be pretty, but you make it your own.
I’m sure there will be days I’ll forget, days when I’m not as good at this as I’d like to be, days when I get angry over stupid things, swear at the woman at the four-way stop sign who can’t figure out its her turn to go, lose patience with my children, snap at someone at work. I will do and say stupid things. I will make bad choices. I’m positive of this. It happens.
But not today, today I’m going to remember how much I love my life. I’m going to love every single person in it. I’m going to notice what a beautiful sunny day it is, go for a long walk and look for signs of spring. I’m going to read something great, and write something useful and listen to really good music. I’m going to notice how amazing everything is around me. I’m going to take a deep breath and just remember to be satisfied. I’m going to laugh and I may cry and I’m going to appreciate both equally. I’m going to enjoy the only moments that are ever guaranteed to us, the ones in front of us, right now, this minute, today. And I’m going to wish you all the same.