Sunday, November 21, 2010
Life isn't that short.
For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.
~Fr. Alfred D'Souza
I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.
No, life is not always short. It only seems that way when it is ending.
Life can feel really long to some people. Days, hours, months can seem to simply drag by, and some see only more empty time in the future. And it doesn't just feel this way to depressed people or old people in a nursing home. It can feel this way to each and every one of us occasionally. And sometimes more often.
Only when we know the expiration date in life or get sick or know someone who has died suddenly do we feel like our life is short.
Most of us trod along each day pretty certain that there will be a tomorrow. We plan for future events. We save money for our retirements. We think about our home and plans to downsize in the future when our kids are safely tucked away at college or beyond.
And most of us get there. We grow old. We have grandchildren. We do indeed retire. We stay healthy and vibrant for many years. It is good.
Some don't make it, I know. I am reminded of that each time I work. So I try to make the best of the time I know I have, like today and perhaps tomorrow. But I still think about the future. We can't always just live in the present, we must plan for our future whether we get there or not.
I think the problem arises when we think too much about the future and let today pass by, thinking that there will always be more time. So we let really important things wait.
Like telling someone we love them. Or reaching out to an old friend. Or going to see that movie we keep promising our children. Or that trip. Or that scrapbook.
We will get to it "when we have more time." That is what we say. And we fill our days with a lot of meaningless tasks that sit in front of us day in and day out taunting us. We feel somehow we must conquer the mundane first before can get to the meat of our lives.
And that is a mistake. A big, huge mistake.
So, life may be long. But don't fill those seemingly empty days with nothing. At least take time to do some really fun things and sprinkle them into the everyday upkeep of life.
Put down the laundry and take your kids to the movie. Let the dishes sit while you play a game with your family. Call an old friend even if you don't have time. Start that scrapbook, just do a few pages. Sort though old photos with your kids and tell them stories. Go for that walk. See that sunset. Pop over and visit that friend or relative you have been meaning to see. Put that picture in a frame so you can enjoy it. Finally get that dog you promised the kids.
Yes, there may be many more days to do these things. But we never know. And what we fill our lives with now will be the memories that future generations have of us. Do we really want them to think of us, even if we live to be 90, as the pragmatic soul who mindlessly watched TV or did dishes and laundry all of the time? Or do you want them to remember us as folks who ventured out of our pragmatism to do spontaneous acts of fun and good will? They are a much more powerful memory. And a much better example to follow for a meaningful happy life.
So, look ahead. Look towards the future. It is there most likely. But take a really hard look at your journey so far and then plan ahead and fill the rest of it, no matter how long, with some fun and laughter along the way.
A boring journey is just that, boring. So, save for the future. It is a must. And plan ahead. It is not only okay to be practical and prudent, it is imperative. But don't forget about the here and now. Cut loose frequently. Be spontaneous. Give out little gifts of yourself along the way to everyone that you know. Don't just pass them along after you are dead. A shared memory is the gift that keeps on giving. Giving your time while alive is much more precious than anything material you could possibly pass on after you are dead or disabled.
The journey is the best part of our lives. Don't squander it.
Spend the afternoon. You can't take it with you. ~Annie Dillard
“Life is not a journey to the grave with intentions of arriving safely in a pretty well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming ... WOW! What a ride!”
Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways. ~Stephen Vincent Benét
To change one's life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. No exceptions. ~William James
“I haven't a clue as to how my story will end. But that's all right. When you set out on a journey and night covers the road, you don't conclude the road has vanished. And how else could we discover the stars?”