22 Years and a Happy Bear
What does the name of this post have to do with anything?
Nothing and everything.
I always struggle writing about this part of my life (or even talking about it for that matter). There is something in me that gets disgusted with the idea of using tragedy as a means of getting attention. I also think of those who have probably been through much worse than I, despite the foolishness of comparison (as pain is pain, tragedy is tragedy). For some people, the holidays are not “the most hap…happiest time of the year!”. In fact, this past month was very tragic for some. There seems to have been a lot of loss, death, and unexpected endings for many. There seems to be a bizarre correlation to November and difficult seasons in life. Oddly enough, the two most difficult moments in my life happened in November; one involved a collision by a drunk man that killed two people that I loved (and almost killed me and my friend as well) – the other was divorce. The first incident (because driving drunk is not an accident) was 22 years ago. The second was 6 years ago. Time waits for no one.
If you find yourself in such a season this month (or this year) you have my deepest prayers.
More than any person, experience, or event – the tragedies in my life have taught me the most about life. Even though we are all subject to the same world and the same laws of life, we are never quite ready to embrace the inevitable fact that there will be loss. The time will come (at some point) where we must embrace loss of some sort. While loss and tragedy will never NOT be difficult, sad, or undesirable, it is the fact that we have not been taught to live in a way where we can embrace it with no regret (in most cases). Our microwave culture and over stimulated “busy” mentality keeps us everywhere but in the moment. In the moment with our loved ones, in the moment with our passions, dreams, and goals. In the moment of bliss or the beauty of new experiences, etc.
We are robbed of the essence of life when we allow ourselves to be distracted from it.
I’m thankful for a few crystal-clear memories that I can call upon to remember the experiences I had with two people I loved. And I am only able to do so because I was present in those moments. Life happens whether we want it to or not – we all must embrace the process of growing up, getting older, and dealing with the responsibilities that all entails. We say things like “time flies” – it sure seems that way. The rat race of life can be a vicious cycle to get caught up in, and few of us realize how we got there. When we were kids, riding bikes, building forts, having sleeps-overs and counting down the days until Christmas break were all the concerns of life as we knew it. As the end of High School approaches, all we can think about is the excitement of having our freedom, meeting the love of our life, buying the house, having the family, and living the dream we were sold on. Then ironically, we get the house, find the spouse, have the kids, and feel like we aren’t even alive anymore. Some people are so caught up in the rat race they haven’t stopped to acknowledge the dead feeling inside themselves. Sometimes the things we think life should be about, are the very things that make life feel dead to us. In the busyness of taking care of all our responsibilities (that we chose to take on) we trade our right to live.
Are the moments we sacrifice to live the “illusion” of life really worth losing what life is all about?
The hardest part about living in the moment is remembering to do so. It may not be the solution to every problem, but it is an investment that you pay forward to yourself. Because when life does happen, you won’t have to feel the regret of what you “could” have done. Because you did it when it mattered most – in the moment. Every moment is a “now” moment. We always choose how we respond in the now. We cannot always control what happens in the “now”, but we can control how we respond to it. But if we live disconnected from the “now”, then are we truly living? Where else can we be apart from the now? Sure, we can medicate ourselves, we can try to escape the stress, the doing, the responsibilities, and all the other stuff that saps our energy. But time is the only resource we can’t renew – time is the only thing we can’t reproduce. Energy is a close second; we only have so much energy to invest in a 24-hour day. So many of us are using all our energy for things that really don’t matter. We have bought into the unconscious ideas of what our priorities should be, which usually revolve around work, money, chores and managing things. Few people even know how to take a real vacation when they go on vacation. It is our “certainty-sick” culture that has us striving so hard to have more – more stuff, more room, more house, more cars, which cost more money, which requires more time, which requires more energy – and then you’re either dead or someone else you love is. It's as if life is reminding us all of the most important lesson:
Are you living?
One of the most unfortunate parts about being human is our ability to take things for granted. We love comfort and convenience so much, that when we are blessed with it, it becomes the very thing that destroys us – destroys our health, our intimate relationships, our desire and drive to accomplish and become more. It destroys our passion, our motivation, and our imagination. We become so comfortable, we become tired and lifeless. We know what tomorrow will be like because we have done it a thousand times by now, but the thought of anything different is too scary. Certainty-sickness closes the invisible prison door on our lives and slips its rose-colored glasses over our eyes. We’ve all heard the expression: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Where did we get it backwards? When did we decide that living life meant losing its essence? This may sound ugly and morbid but I’m going to say it anyway – for some folks, death is a blessing. Death becomes the ultimate escape from not living. It’s the ultimate tragedy. We always have the power to create a new life or breathe new life into the one we already have. Beating our certainty-sick mentality is half the battle; living in the moment is the other.
Living life is a moment by moment process of deciding to do so. Creating a life that feels like living takes courage. Not because it is necessarily hard, but because we must face the illusion of fear. What happens when we stand up against our certainty-sickness? What happens when we choose fulfillment over security and certainty? For the amount of fulfillment that is possible for us is directly connected to the amount of uncertainty we are willing to tolerate. What are we missing in the “now” that we should be present in? What could be gone tomorrow that we are taking for granted today? What is truly the purpose of our lives from this moment forward? If today was the tragic moment of our end, would we be OK with the life we have lived? I had no idea I would be a drunk driving statistic 22 years ago. I had no idea that I’d go from hospital bed to where I am. The whisper of death as it let go of me was this:
22 years later I look at the happy bear and realize the metaphor that it is for my life. I can’t change the things life has done to me (the scars I carry like the halo on the bear) but I can choose the way I respond and go forward. If anything, I have three lives to live, my own, and the two that were taken from this world. Because I carry their beauty now as a part of me. It’s not just my story, it is their story too. I don’t always get this right by the way, and if I’m writing to anyone right now, I’m writing to myself. I haven’t gotten a lot of things right. But that’s the other side of the beauty of life – it all works together for your good if you allow it too. For those who may read this and are going through a difficult season, there are no words I can give that can soothe it. But know that you are not alone, and these things are not happening for nothing. The story doesn’t end here, won’t end here, and there is far more ahead, even though it may seem impossible to imagine. Just be who you are where you are, and things will unfold over time. God speaks loudest in the voice of our intuition (something we are not taught to listen to). Listen to your heart and be guided by your intuition, and you will always know what to do even when you feel lost. Your conscious mind won’t make sense of your intuitive nudges (most of the time) – don’t try to make sense of it, just follow its lead. Always remember that everyday we are alive is life and death whispering to us: