Over the past year, I developed a bad case of “experience envy.” Perhaps I always had it and just didn’t realize it, but my guess is that illness merely magnified those feelings. I found myself wishing for exotic vacations and adventurous moments, things to fondly remember when I reached the end of my life. I arm wrestled with regret over chances not taken, opportunities that had passed me by. But in my frustration, I had an epiphany as I came to understand that other occasions are equally as important. Today, more than ever, I am aware of soul-to-soul talks, delicious meals, and outrageous laughter. And I appreciate them in ways I never did before. I have come to see that lunch with a good friend, for example, is elevated to something special when you can value the chance for a real connection. The same holds true for a rainy day on the porch or a perfect slice of pie or a movie with a satisfying ending.
Time, which we cannot create or alter, is precious. And given its finite nature, it gently nudges us, reminding us how powerful “now” is, since it is all any of us have. Yes, waiting for the perfect chance to do something often means missing out, so we view our days with urgency. I guess that’s the whole point of the proverbial bucket list, to prioritize the life experiences that are important and go after them with gusto. I wonder how many of us actually have one, neatly folded and tucked in a desk drawer. I don’t, even now after learning how tenuous this life is. But if I were to craft one, I would hope to remember that the list doesn’t always have to be daring and bold. It can include simple times of happiness. Those are often the best.
As my body emerges from the cocoon of sickness into a place of healing, I understand that there is no real difference between the moments which are amazing, the spectacular times, and those which are just plain ordinary, the everyday bits of satisfaction in accomplishing something or rejoicing over good news. I have welcomed the cool breeze on my face and sleeping under the weight of a blanket as fall has returned. It is a privilege to witness the changing seasons after having faced the uncertainty of not knowing what tomorrow would bring. These are the experiences that mean something to me now. And no, I am not really missing anything if I can enjoy these moments and understand how precious they are.
At one time or another, all of us have wondered if “there” was any better than “here,” and have yearned for more. We have gazed longingly at it, like a mirage in the desert, until courageously, we have pursued that which we believed to hold the key to our contentment. Only when we arrive there, do we understand the illusion since it may not be what we imagined. And it is then that we realize that “here” was equally as fine all along. What is important is how we view it and what we do with it.
I guess I spent the last year running from death, and somehow that kept me from understanding how special each second of life truly is. It is a human foible, I think, especially when we believe we have the luxury of infinite time. And I am not going to lie, it is a challenge to see the specialness in that which is familiar and commonplace. This journey we call life, really isn’t an exhilarating mountain climb; no, it is more like a meandering path. And if we are smart, we will stop to admire the flowers along the way. They really are quite spectacular.