I know it sounds hokey. You’ve heard that before. Carpe diem, right? That’s not what I mean. I’m not telling you to be content with what you have, either. I’m just suggesting that you step away and look from afar. Your life may be a hell of a lot better than you think.
The brevity of life has been made abundantly clear lately. When Jordan died, everyone gasped. She was too young. There were so many things she never got to try. A year ago, my cousin got sick. From the beginning, she was told she would never get better. I was with her this weekend when she took some of her last breaths. She leaves behind a husband and four and six year old daughters. Her mother was at her bedside.
Situations like these shouldn’t be the only reasons to reflect upon and appreciate our riches. These days just feel so low, and any glimmer of hope seems bigger than usual. My friend Liz and I always say, “If every day was like our worst, we’d never make it.” I typically apply that to my marriage, resting on the fact that those days when The Man and I aren’t quite in sync are fleeting. They’ll pass.
Liz’s perspective is real. After 9/11, she was laid off. No job. She was 24 years old and had to live with her parents. It felt awful. Five months later her dad died suddenly of a heart attack. Had she not been forced to move home, she wouldn’t have had the extra time with him. To this day, she is still, in a slightly strange way, thankful for that layoff.
A few weeks ago, I found cheap airfare from Augusta to Washington, D.C. I called and asked my cousin if I could visit. We knew her time was rather limited, but we didn’t realize how close to the end she was. By the time I got there, she was in and out of sleep, losing consciousness regularly. I was disappointed. I wanted one more fun weekend with my cousin, sipping Miller Lites and singing Carly Simon at the top of our lungs. Once I was with my aunt and the rest of my family, I realized that it was very important for me to be there. It was a good thing. Perspective.
This isn’t to minimize other big, real-world problems, either. As of this minute, there are still a million people without power because of Sandy. Failing to see the light at the end of the tunnel is understandable. Actually, without electricity it’s damn near impossible (didja groan?).
Are you guilty of wanting what your neighbor has? Is their car newer? It seems that we always want a bigger house or a newer house. It’s hard to tell if we’re really looking for personal gain or trying to one-up our peers. Whose kid is better at math? Whose is a better football player? The competition is constant, and I’m sure no one is exempt.
We’ve all felt the pinch of the economy. At times, when I’ve wanted to take this trip or buy these boots, I acted like a child, complaining about what we couldn’t do. I lamented about the silly things. And that’s just silly.
If we forget about what we don’t have, the view of what we’ve got becomes much clearer. I hate to make it seem so simple, but maybe it really can be.
Everything isn’t all sunshine, roses, and unicorns (though unis are totally real) every day. That’s a fact. Some days feel super bad. Chin up, buttercup. Maybe that silver lining is right in your face. Try not to hurry. You might miss it.