I should be doing a hundred other things right now. Working is one of them, sorry Work. Wrapping presents, making breakfast, riding my bike, sending out a few more Christmas cards, doing laundry, repotting a plant, and on and on, sorry Jodi and sorry Family.
The only thing I can do is sit here and think about the passing of my dad which was 10 years ago today. I am flooded with thoughts. Memories of my childhood with him. His infinite wisdom on life that I didn’t understand as a young child, found annoying as a teenager and cherish as an adult. All of my own life mantras that he encouraged I go and find for myself. All I can find the words to say, as many times as my dad elbowed me during a road race to throw me off my run or stared me in the eye and lifted his thumb and pointer finger to play the world’s smallest violin as he called it, all I can really say right in this moment is that life is not a competition.
I mean this on many levels. Life is not a comparison to someone who is wealthier than you, prettier or more handsome than you, more sick than you, more successful than you, more confident or outgoing or more adventurous than you. You are you. For each and every one of us we are balanced perfectly and we are all equal. No one person is given any advantage over another. You could argue that environmentally that may not be true. Money does not buy happiness. Power does not buy happiness. Privilege does not buy happiness. Happiness is not a commodity, it is a choice. If you are not happy, I encourage you to make new choices.
My dad had this thing for teaching life lessons in just a few words. Here are a few that have stuck to me like super glue in the oh crap kind of way that happens when I try to fix my children’s toys and in a panic find my fingers stuck together.
- Knowledge is power.
- Get a job.
- Run happy.
- Get over it.
- Kick butt, take names.
- Never give up.
- Just do it.
- Measure twice, cut once.
- Keep it simple (stupid). KISS he would say.
And the life lesson that needed no words was his famous eye roll and head nod. The one where you knew you could have made a better choice or needed to go back to the proverbial drawing board and try again. He wanted nothing more than for my brother and I to live our best life, get submerged in things that made us happy and to foster our talents and natural gifts. I realize this now as the ultimate guiding light of a parent. So whatever disappointment or shame was attached to that eye roll and head nod, it was never deeply rooted in an alternative agenda but simply his wanting for the best, for us.
Life is so fragile in the notion of making the best of each day. I know I get hung up on small, insignificant things that come in the form of anger, frustration, jealousy, resentment. Some linger longer than others, but ultimately, it’s on my watch and that watch is ticking with every breath. I do not mean this in such a dramatic way but surely there is more that matters. Love, creativity, kindness, forgiveness and service. When given a choice to smile or frown with each passing moment, which would you choose? The next sentence with every single life lesson here is that of strength and resilience and resolution. There is no wallowing that can trail those words and if you use the word but you’ve missed the lesson entirely.
Ten years ago my mom, my brother and I huddled around a hospital bed. I was struggling with infertility at the time, I was a worrier, I was stressed in my career, the MS was lurking in the shadows adding up all the ways I was breaking down so it could attack, prey on my weakness. None of that mattered among the whir of the machine that was breathing for my dad, the gurgle of a chest tube, the beeping that pierced sharply through periods of silence, the solemness of the nurses who passed through noting that he was so sick. He’s so sick, your dad is so sick will make me shiver for the rest of my life. What was I supposed to do with that? I honestly didn’t know what to think or feel being there. I questioned life, death, and everything in between in fleeting moments of numbness. I wasn’t sure what it all meant and I couldn’t imagine what going forward would look like. Another one of life’s potholes with no warning, no ability to plan or rethink or question. It is a moment you don’t want to be present in but being present is the only thing to do, really.
In this moment, I choose peace.
And as life does, we did move forward. We each clung to different strategies over different timelines with varying degrees of strength. In grief and happiness and every state of being there is no competition. Neither my mom, nor my brother, nor I did any of this better than the other. None of us do life any better than the other. There was, and is, no judgment among us. So I ask you, if we each traveled at our own pace, were respectful of each other’s journey through grief, and held hands when hands needed holding, then why do anything different in other aspects of life? Meaning, let’s treat each other and ourselves as gently whether it is through grief or happiness or indifference. Comparison is most certainly the thief of joy, the thief of perspective and the thief of empathy and compassion for others.
Peace is living life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.
My final thought for now is that you find something that makes you happy and go for it. Allow yourself the option to evolve but start with one thing, just where you are, because doing this one thing will only open the door to the next thing and the next thing. It’s not a grandiose concept. Take five minutes to read, call a friend, write a letter, forgive someone, doodle, learn to knit, ride you bike, take a walk, go outside and take one deep breath. Recite one of my dad’s life lessons that strikes your heart and see where it takes you.
Hugs to you all as we enter a new year. Thank you for reading, for supporting me in the voice I put here in this blog, for accepting the raw moments and the humorous ones, and for taking time to privately message me or leave comments or share my writing. It means everything to me and is part of my continued strength. In gratitude,