She started telling me I was too young to feel that way… I stopped her and said… “Wait a minute… I said I was ‘ready’… I didn’t say I wanted to leave a minute before my time!”
We went on to have a conversation about enjoying each day. I reminded her (not that she really needed to be reminded) of my ‘close calls’ with death and said “Every day, since then has been a bonus, a gift, I hate to waste even a minute!”
But I did, for many years; I never took the time, to just enjoy the day.
So often we’re all wrapped up in what’s wrong with our lives that we forget all the things that are right. (or at least I was)
It’s not hard, in fact it’s all too easy, to get wrapped up in our problems. After all, it’s the problems that are demanding our attention. There’s a whole list in all of our daily lives:
- dripping faucet
- the leak in the roof
- the lawn needs mowing
- the car needs brakes
- you're not making enough money
- gas prices are too high
- how are we going to pay the power bill
- groceries cost how much!?!
- the raise/promotion you didn’t get
- A boss who doesn’t seem to understand you have a life, outside the office
I hear folks say, “everything in my life is screwed up”… however, when I start asking a few simple questions, it turns out that not everything is a problem, but the problems are all they’re thinking about.
- The first thing I often ask is how’s your health?
- Are you eating 2-3 times a day?
- You’ve still got your house right?
- Your wife (or husband), y’all are still together?
- Still got the car you bought last year?
- How’s the job, you are still working right?
Somehow though, all of that has been obscured, covered up, by the problems they’re experiencing and perceive as all important. The trick is to get out from under the cloud of the problems, realize that despite whatever might be going wrong, there’s generally a lot more going right, and find a way to keep that fact in the ‘front’ of your thoughts, and let the problems drift to the back.
One way I’ve found that works for me, is to put the problems (like the household repairs) on a list. That way every time I take more items off the list, than I put on, I feel better about everything. Even when I’m adding items to the list, the simple process of writing it down means I don’t have to think about it again until I’m ready to spend some time on resolving it.
In July of 2004, I got laid off, made a career change, parted ways… what ever you want to call it... It was an emotionally devastating event for me. I’d been thinking about making a change, I was totally unhappy where I was, wanted to do something else, hated going to work and was developing a fairly solid dislike for my employer… all very ‘unhappy’ making ingredients…. The one thing that kept me going was coming home each night and spending time with my wife.
No, we didn’t have perfect harmony, but even when we’re in the middle of a major disagreement, I still prefer her company to nearly anyone else’s. She’s almost always in my corner, supports every passion I have, and when I’m really down, she’s like a breath of fresh air for me.
When she wasn’t capable of dealing with my depression (and let’s face it, who wants to, or can, deal with it nearly everyday), I’d take the bike for a short 20-30 minute spin to clear my head and remind me “why” I work.
I work, for a living. I do not, any longer, live for work.
Even with both of us trying to pull me out of my funk… I wasn’t budging. I’d given over 10 hard, long years to the company, with a promise of “you’ll have a job until you want to retire” … and in the previous six months I’d seen all the same signs, pointed at me this time, that were there whenever this guy decided he no longer needed someone… I was feeling like a fool, I’d believed his promises… well, no, it was more like I wanted to believe and turned a blind eye to anything that didn’t fit my ‘picture’… The reality was so bad I could make it fit any more.
Despite all of that, when the time came for the formal parting of the ways, it was like being hit with a bat. I stayed pretty stoic in the actual meeting and managed to squeak out a few extra tidbits in the settlement package, but as I was walking for the door, the emotions began to hit.
It was the whole range too, in the less than 90 seconds it took to walk from the building I went from angry, to sad, to hurt, to fear, to anger again… On the drive home… the tears came… mostly tears of self pity... feeling sorry for myself that despite all the work, I’d been cast out anyway… I eventually gathered myself up enough to call my wife’s cell phone, as I really needed her to talk to when I got home, as luck would have it she was already home.
We spent all of 20 minutes after I got home discussing what a raw deal I’d gotten, and then began to look for a ‘bright side’. It didn’t take us long to find it. She refused to let me have any self pity. She reminded me of all the work, the nights, weekends, promises made to me and repeatedly broken… that this was meant to be… it was just another step in the road.
We talked about the debilitating effects of the two ruptured disc's in my neck, the pain, the surgeries, the long recovery periods... and how if this had to happen, at least we were past that period.
The brightest spot of all? It was that I’d never have to work there again, period. No more late night and weekend phone calls, calls disrupting our dinners, vacations and holidays.
We celebrated my ‘liberation’ that night by going out to our favorite restaurant for dinner, staying up late and sleeping in the next day. By that next afternoon though, I’d made some phone calls, and set up a small project in Greensboro that would start the following Monday.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week. You see there was a time in my life where all I was able to focus on was what was wrong. Never taking the time to enjoy the various things I’d accomplished, just moving it to the ‘done’ column and moving directly into the ‘next’ thing.
I was lamenting my fate one day to a fellow a bit older than I was then, and he said to me “but look at all you’ve accomplished”. That stopped me dead in my tracks, and actually caused me to ask him what he meant. He explained by listing off about a dozen things that he knew I’d done, and that had impressed him. I tried to play it off by saying “Anyone could have done those things”… to which he replied.. “But ‘anyone’ didn’t do them, 'you' did, you should be proud of the things you’ve done.”
Well, all these years later, I still remember that talk, and every time I start to thinking about what’s wrong, I hear his voice, and try to start thinking about what’s right.
For the record, there are plenty of things wrong in my life, an uncertain employment future, that leaky roof, most everything on the list and on and on... but, that’s just a part of life, there will always be things wrong, the challenge is, to keep them in perspective, especially when they’re screaming at you for attention.
The trick is, enjoy the day, it’s only here for a little while, and when it’s gone, it’s gone forever. Don’t waste your days being angry, depressed, or doing anything other than trying your best to enjoy every moment.
You’ll be glad you did!