Tuesday, April 12, 2016

On Wanting It All

Have  you ever wanted to clone yourself just so you could do everything you want to do?

To be able to live without sleep so you don't have to waste hours accomplishing nothing?

To stay young for a hundred years in order to experience all the things on your bucket list?

To don the cape of a super-hero and overcome all fear?

I've often daydreamed of having the ability to do it all, to be everything to everyone, to accomplish all of the things on my life-goals list, and still have time to do more.  With words like "smart", "hard-working", and "gifted" tacked onto my name from the time I was very young, how could I not succeed, right?  Besides, Wonder Woman was my role model growing up: if she could do it, so could I (sans magic lasso and bullet-stopping bracelets).

There have been times when I switched between four or five hats on any given day - from mom and wife, business owner, writer, PTA President, sports and dance parent (and fundraiser), community advocate, Scout leader, religious leader, and family bookkeeper, to chauffeur, counselor, and chief cook and bottle washer!!  I've taken great big bites of life, and swallowed them whole.  I've aimed for the moon, and worked to climb as high as I could. And (sadly) I've let a few important things fall by the wayside in the process.

But lately I've come to realize there's a real danger in my innate desire to be larger than life and capable of anything.  (Yes, it's taken me a lot of years to get to this point.) Too many times, when I'm dreaming of all the things I want(ed) to do, I start to feel bad about the things I have and haven't done. The things on my list that I may never do. The sacrifices made to accomplish the things I have done.  Of letting down all those people who identified me as ultra-capable.  

When I start down that road of self-doubt, I devalue the things that I have accomplished, and I start to second-guess the things I'm doing now.

But if the world has taught me anything recently, it's that life is too precious to allow myself to fall into that rut. And let's be honest, some of the things I think I want/need to accomplish aren't really all that important in the grand scheme of things.

So, you ask, what meteor streaked through the heavens and hit my thick noggin hard enough to knock a little sense into me?  

Well, watching people I love as they deal with the reality of losing a loved one to cancer has been an eye-opener.  Getting a peek at what it's like to know your days are numbered is a stunning wake-up call.  They say things come in threes, and they aren't kidding.  Three people in my life, in different situations, with different types of cancer. Three families coping with the word "terminal".  Three people who won't have the chance to worry about checking off all of the items on their list of goals.

Two families for whom tomorrow is a blessing and waking up to another day is a triumph, and one already dealing with the pain of loss at the end of a valiant battle.   

It really puts things in perspective when you realize what being human can entail, and that none of us are promised the time to do it all.

The result?

I'm not becoming fatalistic or giving up on the dreams I still want to make reality. I'm not slowing down (much).  I'm not even reducing my list of life-goals or bucket list items.

But I am taking more time to enjoy the little things. I'm soaking in the moments with my family, cherishing the time with my kids and my husband. I'm allowing myself to really feel my accomplishments as they occur, rather than immediately jumping to the next item on the list. I'm evaluating (and reevaluating) what matters most on my list, and setting better priorities. I'm celebrating the good things in my life more. I'm setting a goal to express gratitude more often. And I allow myself to fail (truth = usually it's the failure to work out).

Of course, I still work full-time (getting paid to do a lot of writing and revising!!) and I'm still going to school full-time.  I help with home improvements, housework, and yard work.  And I'm determined to edit my latest novel in the next month (or so).

The biggest thing I've learned through this time of self-evaluation is that although I haven't finished everything on my lifelong to-do list, I haven't seen everything I want to see or experienced everything I want to experience, I have no regrets.  I truly like the adults my children are becoming. I still love my big bear of a husband. Every choice I've made, every experience I've had, has led me to the place I'm at today.

And it's a pretty good place to be.   

Embrace Every New Day