The constant chorus throughout my days — and in the days of many of those around me — is that life is busy and stressful & we’re not accomplishing enough today and we’re worrying too much about tomorrow. How do we manage and keep life in perspective?
My daily stresses are presented in various arenas — financial, emotional, parenting, health, global, career… and sometimes, they overpower me. Luckily, more often, my awareness of these stresses and my conscious reaction to them have helped to better balance the ups-and-downs of my life. This blog is often about those travails.
Over the past few weeks, a few experiences have served as direct reminders of how to keep life in perspective. I want to share them here.
Live your life as if it will end suddenly
A few week’s ago, I received news that a friend (a fellow mother in my daughter’s preschool class) had died after being struck by an elderly driver. She had been standing beside her parked car, just before noon on a beautiful day in downtown La Jolla. I suspect she was out running errands. The accident left three young children motherless. I often wonder what the Mom’s last words to her children were that morning. “I’m glad we spent last night cuddled together on the sofa talking instead of cleaning out our backpacks, practicing our spelling words and arguing about who gets which water bottle for lunch”?
How careful I now am that my own parting words to my two children are not,“Hurry up or we’ll be late!”
In September, I stumbled over the blog postings of a young Harvard college freshman who, during her first trip overseas as an earnest, fledging editor of Let's Go, the student-run European travel guide book series, stumbled on a hike, fell into a waterfall and died. Reading her travel journal, knowing that she dies, is a terrible experience — and one that will make you tear up. And then, weirdly laugh with joy when you read about the over-budget lunch she splurged on in Vienna, one month before her untimely death. You find yourself cheering, "You go girl! You enjoy that gourmet lunch. Life is short!"
I’m not saying you need to go out and buy that expensive purse you’ve been ogling for months BUT if you do splurge on that purse, go about it as if it’s the last purse you’ll ever own. Why not?! I had that second glass of wine last night — and you know what? I REALLY enjoyed it.
Earlier this week, Brittany Maynard committed assisted-suicide (or death-with-dignity, DWD). I did not follow her story before its end (although I do recall hearing a sound-bite in the last month or two). Brittany did what my friend — and Harvard’s friend — could not. She was ever-present and in-control of her own life AND her own death.
It’s quite a powerful position — and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a bit envious of the true consciousness in which she lived her shortened life.
Brittany’s obituary (which I assume was written by Brittany herself) is filled with a few clues of how we can live through the stress. While we must accept the limits and realities of our life, we must live honestly — and fully. I can’t speak for how I’ll die (whether it be with such dignity and awareness as Brittany or with no advance-warning as it occurred with Melissa and Haley), but I know that I’ll have to cherish better each moment alive.
Here’s to embracing my stresses… while embracing all the meaningful moments in between.