It’s trite, it feels kind of trite. I find I am too often attracted to trite because trite makes the world a cleaner place. “Stop and smell the roses”, “Live like you are dying”, “Be present in the moment”, all point to what I want to say, they all dance around the edges, but they don’t make the finer point. I guess that’s what makes trite.
The pithy sayings capture a thought, they make a small point but they don’t really describe the very real importance of seeing the small moments of life as a finite and fleeting treasure that you want to cherish, remember and value. Pithy sayings, as true as they are, don’t capture depth of emotion. Marty’s life, Marty’s illness taught me to not only smell the roses but to take the time to caress them and treat them as if you will never be able to see them again.
Most of my regrets have more to do with things I wish I had done, things not tried, wishes and dreams that died before trying. I have plenty of sins of commission I wish had never happened; words said that should never have been spoken, actions taken that were stupid and thoughtless. But, most of what I would change in my life has to do with spending the times of my life better, investing the time given on earth more wisely, seeing and realizing our time is fleeting and savoring the moments of life deeper.
I wish I had spent more of my time enjoying where I was and relishing who I was with, I wish I had not spent so much time obsessing about a career that should have been a part of not all of, my life. I wish I had taken all of my vacation every year, I wish I had taken the time to see all of my kid’s events, I wish I had listened to Marty more, Marty who always was whispering in my ear or shouting in my face to spend the times of my life more wisely.
She didn’t always invest her time well either, but she knew, she talked all the time about living in the moment and enjoying life. She has always recognized and actually kind of relished the fleeting nature of life.
Me, I was so busy looking down the highway trying to get to the destination that I blew off what happened on the journey. I spent too much time worrying about the where we were going and how we were getting there and if it was the best way. I spent too much time packing and too often I forgot about the reason for packing.
Marty and I taught our children to snow ski in Red River New Mexico. It was small and often didn’t get a ton of snow. It was not the greatest ski resort, but it was closer than most ski resorts to us flatlanders of Texas and it had a mountain, snow and ski lifts. At the time Red River had one big chair lift to get to the top of the mountain, about 15 minutes to the top.
Regardless of the cold, biting winds, the ice or the blowing snow Marty would always take off the mitten on her right hand, rummage through her coat pocket and pull out her cigarettes and lighter. She had an amazing ability to fire up a cigarette in even the worst weather, it drove me nuts how she could sit back, relax, smoke and enjoy the ride while I worried about her dropping her ski poles or her mitten or the upcoming dismount from the lift. As we bumped along, dangling 50 feet above the snow and thousands of feet below a biting blue sky I missed the moment.
I wish I could sit on the ski lift with Marty one more time and look at that blue New Mexico sky with the knowledge that I would never sit there with her again. I wish I could go back and replay those 15 minutes with the full knowledge that it was the last time I would see that particular scene of our life. I regret not riding that lift one more time with Marty and etching the smells, the feeling, the sights into my brain so it would last forever.
For the last seven years, the years after the strokes, I have tried to change my approach to our life; I have tried to live a more conscious existence, one relatively free of missed opportunities with eyes wide open recognizing our moments together. Marty, her strokes, helped me find and focus on my priority; they insisted that I change my focus.
The proximity to Marty’s death made me view life with more awareness of the journey and our time spent together. We can’t do so many things, there are way too many road blocks for us, but we can embrace our time understanding our own reality, understanding that our time may not be long and soon we will only have memories of each moment.
I know when the inevitable end comes I will look back at these years and see mistakes, see sins of both commission and omission. I know when the time comes there will be things I wished I had done, things I will have wished I had done better and with more awareness. I don’t think it will be because Marty and I didn’t try to embrace our life and the moments we had.
I know it’s banal, it’s trite, but I guess stuff becomes trite because it gets repeated over and over again. I guess it stuff gets repeated over and over again because they boil a simple truth down to the clean, the simple.
What I’m getting at is deeper than the trite sayings. It’s more than that. It’s not about a “bucket list” or trying to get your jollies or a last adrenalin rush by jumping from an airplane or eating two gallons of chocolate ice cream or spending all of your retirement funds. It’s a recognition that we live fragile, finite lives, we as human beings are frail and we should be present in the small moments and remember them because we “we may not pass this way again”.
Trite, I know.