In the past few years, I’ve become more aware of how short life really is, not that I want to sound like a cliché. It’s not that I didn’t know or think about this before, but as I get older, I see that there are less years ahead of me than behind me. Way over fifty birthdays are behind me and so much has happened. I can say without a doubt that what my life is like today is not what I imagined it to be a year or two or even three years ago. And that’s OK. I’ve grown spiritually (I’m not talking religion), emotionally, and the lines added to my face have also been added to my heart, and that’s OK, too. It means I’m alive.
Thank God we don’t stay the same. Thank God things change. That’s coming from someone who lived her life a certain way for years, living life mostly for others and burying what she wanted because she was a giver, a helper…just fill in the blank. My boundaries were fuzzy, and I didn’t have a good fence line. I gave until I was empty, giving what I had to every one around me except the person that I should have been taking care of first: Me.
You know, when you’re on an airplane and the flight attendant reminds you to put on your oxygen first before helping others? That’s pretty powerful, not to mention smart. If you don’t take care of yourself, if you don’t nurture and feed and care for and plant the seeds you need to live, what good are you for the ones you care about and love? If the person next to you is in trouble and you don’t have your oxygen strapped on, are you really going to be able to help that person?
Time is also a gift. If we are blessed enough to still be here and we think about time and how it continually moves forward, what does that mean? It gives me a sense of urgency, a sense of wanting to live life to the fullest, because one day our life on earth will end. That’s a fact. And while I know where I’m headed when life as I know it on earth is gone, I’m talking about now. Today. Living to live, not living to merely exist. Been there, done that.
My daughter-in-law said something to me the other day, and it made me smile. We were out and about, and I suggested we get on this other road and drive. She said, laughing, “Whenever I’m with you, I never know where I’m going to end up. Let’s go!” Thanks, Odessa. You are full of grit, and I love you for that. The truth is, I wasn’t always like that. I didn’t like taking new roads.
I’m not saying we should always just get in the car and drive on a road we are unfamiliar with. It’s not that easy, or that simple. But I’m saying we have to live life without fear and if we are afraid, do it any way. The longer you wait for the perfect time, the perfect month, the perfect season, you’re going to be waiting for the rest of your life. You’ll be looking out your window wondering “what if” instead of being out in the great wide open, feeling the wind on your face.
You’ve probably read articles about the most common regrets people have at the end of their life. Some of these regrets are wishing they had been more loving to the people who mattered most, that they had taken more risks, that they had taken better care of their health, that they had been happier and enjoyed life more, and wished they had lived their dream because they were too concerned trying to live up to someone else’s expectations.
Let that sink in.
So, what’s my point? My point is that when we stop feeling guilty about our choices, about what we do with our life, about how we want to live…that’s living! That’s freedom! That’s jumping out of an airplane with both eyes open and doing that free fall everyone talks about but is afraid to try.
Because Living isn’t for sissies.
Sometimes I get scared and I let myself go on all kinds of mental journeys. What if I die today, and I didn’t do the things I dreamed about? I guess we should remember the words in that Tim McGraw song, “Live Like You Were Dying.” Because some day it will be the last day on earth. We won’t even see it coming.
You read books and see articles about “living in the moment.” What does that mean, really, living in the moment?
It means that this moment is all there is. When you’re going for a walk on a pretty day, feel the sun on your skin, see the blue in the sky, smell the fresh air as it’s happening right then. Let your senses drink it all in, and seep into your bones. Don’t let your mind take a detour and worry about something that hasn’t happened yet, or lament about the past. The last one especially is dead. Let it go.
Living in the moment means taking care of you. If you rejuvenate by being surrounded by mountains like I do, go to the mountains, even if it’s in your mind. If having a garden makes you feel alive, plant something and push your fingers deep into the soil and take it all in.
Living in the moment means being true to you. It means loving yourself because you’re worth it. Living in the moment means to bury the past and not fear tomorrow.
And when we remember a painful past or worry about tomorrow, pulling ourselves back to now and living now is living in the moment. Sometimes we have to do it, over and over and over.
We’re in a season. All of us. Some of us are in a season of happiness, some of us are in a season of pain, a season of survival; some of us are in a season of rejuvenation. The good news is we won’t remain where we are, because the season will change. We can’t be in a permanent spring, at least not while we’re bound here on earth.
But we can change how we live, no matter what the season is. If we’re in a season of sadness, we can reach for pieces of light and bring it into our hearts. We do that by finding good, even if we have to do a little digging. We do that by purposely driving down a dirt road we’ve never seen just so we can find new treasures we never knew existed. We Hope.
Time. I remember what it was like to be twenty years old and full of hope and dreams…how I dreamed. And then one day Time settles in and it hits you hard and you realize that there are a lot of things you haven’t done.
When I worked in the hospital, I visited with a lot of patients. Many were lonely, and having someone to talk to made their day. Many of them opened their hearts to me, cried with me, laughed with me, shared their regrets with me. The biggest regrets I heard more than once was that were alone, their health was getting worse, and they put off all the things they wanted to do in life and now…it was probably too late. “If only I would have done more when I could have,” they told me, “instead of waiting for the right time. And now it’s probably too late.”
For many of us, the right time is Now.
Even though the world is crazier than it’s ever been, it’s not too late to look inside your heart and try new things. If you buried old dreams, dig them up. If you’re worried about failing, do it any way, because you’re only failing if you don’t try. Don’t let the world change you for the worse; change yourself for the better.
There’s side effects of this thing called Living. Side effects are bursts of joy, a feeling of peace. Serenity. Gratitude.
Take joy, peace, and serenity and sprinkle huge buckets of Gratitude over absolutely everything, and I mean everything. Let it fall down on you like a cleansing rain. Accept change, accept challenges. Open your door to new adventures because really, Time doesn’t wait.
Be true to You and you’ll discover a whole new world; it’s waiting for you. All you have to do is Begin.