Last Saturday, I had lunch with a friend, who had just had an experience he wanted to share. I found it so significant, that I'm making it the topic of my blog today.
My friend had just been at the gym, chatting with one of the random guys there. This guy, a hard core weight lifter, starting talking to my friend about how he was a salesman for oncology meds. For those of you lucky enough not to know, oncology meds are cancer drugs.
Anyway, this guy started talking about how he spends a lot of time in cancer wards in the course of his job, and he has spent a lot of time talking to the people in them, people who are not going to get better, people who are staring right at the end of their time on this earth, in these bodies.
And he said that when he asks them about how they feel about dying, without exception, every single one of them says their biggest regret is that they wasted so much time in life stressing, worrying and being miserable, instead of appreciating every moment that they had.
See, here's the thing, the insight that these folks have come to realize. Your kids are going to get potty trained. Dinner is going to get made. The people that love you are going to love you no matter whether you lose those fifteen pounds. Money will eventually show up, or it won't. You might get fired from your job, or you might not. The bill collector might call you, he might not. You might sell a book, you might not. That cute guy might call, he might not. Things happen, all the time.
But if you spend all your time worrying about it, then that's what you're going to notice, and when that day finally comes when it's your turn to die, whether you're 30 or 60 or 102, you're going to realize that all that little stuff really didn't matter. It all worked out, one way or another, and you spent so much time stressing about it, that you never took the time to simply breathe in the moment. Not a moment here or there. EVERY MOMENT. You missed out on life and now your time is up.
Time's going to pass. You're going to die. We're all going to die. But while we're here, we've got a choice about how to deal with all the things that aren't so hunky dory. We can choose to accept that life will throw us twists and decide to just stop worrying about them and roll with it when they do show up. We can decide to relax and enjoy the moment that we're in without depleting the moment by worrying about what might be coming down the road. Or we can consume ourselves with worry and stress, always looking ahead for the elusive time when we solve all our problems and we can relax.
Guess what? All our problems will never get solved. There will always be something, right up until the moment you die. So, are you going to spend the time you have letting things get to you, or are you going to take a deep breath, say, "You know? Life is too short. That really, and truly, just doesn't matter," and then just let it go?
I'll admit it. I'm a worrier. As a single mom, I stress about paying bills. I stress about making the world right and safe for my daughter. I worry about my health. I want people to like me. I stress when people are unhappy with me. I let things bother me.
But after this story, I've had a really, really different week. I have made a conscious effort, when I feel my mind start to gravitate toward the negative, to shift my thoughts. I take a deep breath, I think of the enormity of my life, and I realize, "It doesn't matter. Life is too short."
Here are some examples of some moments I had this week:
**A friend sent me an email that suggested she was a little annoyed with me. I started to get upset, then a little voice in my head said, "It doesn't actually matter. If one person in the world decides they hate me, does it matter? No, it doesn't." And I let it go. And, it turns out, she wasn't even mad anyway.
**It was late, and I was too tired to give my daughter a bath. Her curly hair was crazy, and I thought, if she goes to camp like this with such crazy hair, will people think that I'm a bad mom? Then a little voice in my head said, "What does it really matter if someone thinks I didn't keep up with her hair? Really? Does it matter?" And I realized it didn't, and I let it go, skipped the bath, and got her to bed right on time. She went to camp with crazy hair, and she was happy as can be.
**I had to write an article for a magazine, and the topic was generating no inspiration for me. I started to stress about writing it: what if I couldn't come up with something interesting? What if they didn't like my article? And then I realized, "Will it really change my life if I write something no one likes? Does it really matter?" And I realized it didn't, and I let it go, and just decided to write whatever I felt like writing and to have fun doing it. And it ended up being very fun to write!
**I was driving my daughter to camp, and worrying about the traffic that was going to make us late, and then I paused and realized: why am I making the camp drop-off the goal of this moment? Why can't the goal of this moment simple to appreciate the fact I have fifteen minutes in the car with the coolest five year old on the planet? So, I stopped worrying about "getting to camp on time" and just enjoyed lively banter with my daughter. And it was perfect. Did it really matter when we got to camp? Yeah, not so much.
I've had a hundred moments like that this week. Sometimes it's easier to let it go than others, but each time I do, I can feel my body physically relaxing as the stress floats away. After a week of doing this, I can feel a difference. I see beauty in moments that I never saw before, and that is an incredible gift. It's not easy to shift my thinking, but I'm doing it, and I already feel better. My life feels brighter, even though it's the exact same life I had a week ago. I'm just seeing it differently, through new light, through new eyes, through new joy.
I'm going to die someday. That can't be helped, so it's time to stop worrying about. But I'm here right now, and I don't want to be facing death before I realize that life is too short to get bogged down in the small stuff. Those people in the cancer wards are the experts, and I'm going to believe them about what it feels to look back on the life you've had. As of now, I'm going to let it go and remember that life truly is short. I'm going to remind myself that all that crap, ALL OF IT, really doesn't matter. What matters, all that matters, is appreciating the ride, every minute of it, because I don't want to miss a minute of it.
Life truly is short. And all that stuff? It really doesn't matter.