If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.
~ Emile Zola
March was a roller coaster kind of month. I battled illness, first strep throat and then a stomach bug. Week before last, my 16yo broke his arm, requiring surgery a few days later. Shortly after we arrived home from the hospital, my 20yo called to tell me his car had stalled out completely on the interstate; miraculously, he was able to coast through four lanes of traffic to safety on the shoulder and call for a tow. My spring break started Friday; Thursday night, my home air conditioner stopped working. The repairman’s diagnosis? Rusty copper coils were leaking coolant everywhere; the compressor was shot. The bottom line? $3800. Thankfully, I have good credit. The new unit goes in today.
Now, there was a time in my life when a string of bad luck like that would throw me into the brink of despair. I would question every decision I ever made that brought me to this place, consider the possibility that it was all the consequence of evils committed in a past life, make myself sick with worry over so much responsibility and the ever mounting bills.
But I have been too busy to wallow in self-pity. Because in March I also got to visit the great city of Savannah, Georgia and attend a writer’s conference in Pensacola, Florida. I met with Haywood Smith and received some valuable feedback on my novel. And my vacation in Tahiti is confirmed; a friend of mine won an all-expenses paid cruise for two, including airfare, and invited me to be her travel companion. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime.
What I have come to realize is that every moment of our lives, no matter what is going on around us, we have a choice. We can live in fear, trapped between regrets about the past and concerns about the future, or we can live in joy, letting go of both the past and the future and simply BE where we are, safe in the moment, regardless of the challenges we might be facing.
Now, there are times when fear is a good thing. Like when instinct tells us that we are in a dangerous situation and we need to run, fast. Or when we reach a crossroads in our lives and the fear of things staying the same outweighs the fear of making a change, prompting us to create something better for ourselves.
But I am talking about that everyday, mind-numbing fear that can become a way of life. We accept our roles as helpless victims, unwilling to take action because we cannot guarantee a particular outcome. We drift like seaweed on the ocean, battered by every wave that passes, tossed eventually onto shore to wither in the sun, effectively dead though our hearts are still beating.
I continue to meditate on the word RELEASE, deliberately letting go of painful memories as they surface, forgiving myself for past mistakes, tossing aside concerns about possibilities that I cannot influence. And I keep reminding myself that every second of every day is precious, to pay attention with all my senses no matter what I am doing, to be fully engaged when I am in the presence of another human being, however insignificant that person’s role might seem to be in my life.
I have stopped flogging myself in penance for things I cannot change; I have stopped asking myself, “what if?” Instead of imagining a future fraught with loneliness and peril – and why is that always my default? why don’t we envision futures filled with unicorns and rainbows? – I choose to focus on the many blessings I have in right here, right now. Yesterday is gone; I have little, if any, control over much of what is yet to be – besides, of course, what I can do in the present moment.
And I’m going to play that moment for all it’s worth.