Thursday, February 8, 2024

My Resolution

I wrote the following piece for my community writing group's January meeting. The theme was New Beginnings. 

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My family and I were on vacation in Oregon. It was the summer of 2003 and we were visiting my in-laws before they retired to a new home in a new state. I had five little kids at the time, the youngest was about a month old, if that, and we had all been enjoying our carefree stay at the family farm for the last time. None of this really matters or has anything to do with the rest of this story, but it's ingrained in my mind because I picture where I was every time I think of the phone call. 

One ordinary day on the farm, my dad called. When I look back on that conversation, the first words I think of are my dad saying, "I have cancer." He had been diagnosed with colon cancer and he wanted me to hear it from him. I immediately started bawling which is no surprise because I'm a total daddy's girl. But before you start feeling sorry for me or my dad, let me reassure you - my dad didn't die from colon cancer. In fact, he lived another 13 1/2 years before he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and passed away ten days later. But that is also not the point of this story. I just felt like you might be wondering, so I wanted to share how that all played out. 

So back to the phone call. I don't remember exactly what was said or all the reassurances that were given. But at some point after my dad broke the news about his cancer, he said, "This is the best thing that's ever happened to me! Everyone should have the opportunity to look at their life through this lens." At the time, I disagreed with him, mostly because it felt like the worst thing that had ever happened to me. I couldn't bear the thought of losing my dad. But as I've thought of those words from time to time over the past 20 years, my perspective has shifted. And as I considered them once again last November, I decided on a New Year's resolution: To live like I'm dying.

I'm not dying, by the way, at least not as far as I know. But I'm trying to live my life as if my days were numbered. A little over three weeks into this new year, here is how it's going so far:
  • I have a lot of stuff. I'm one of those people that holds onto things just in case I might need it again someday, even though I haven't needed it in, I don't know, three years? Five years? I mean, you never know! Don't get me wrong. I'm not a hoarder. And I'm not even that sentimental, but there are some things that were really useful in their day and it's hard for me to part with them. I've found it's a lot easier to get rid of things if I know of someone who can actually use them right now. Or if I remind myself that I can always buy it again if I ever need it. Or I think of the burden I'd be passing onto my kids if they're the ones who have to go through all of my stuff when I'm gone. There are some things I think they'll be glad I saved, but that's definitely the exception, not the rule. I'm realizing that now is the time to let go. And the more I get rid of, the easier it gets.
  • I'm trying to be nicer and more patient with others, especially my family. Nobody's perfect and we all have bad days. So I'm trying to be more forgiving and reassuring; to quickly move on from frustrations and annoyances. Regardless of how much time I have left, life is too short to hold a grudge.
  • On that same note, I'm trying to practice kindness. Whether that means taking cookies to my neighbor, paying for the person behind me in line, or simply giving people the benefit of the doubt, I want to be that person. I want to leave people better than I found them. 
  • I've become more deliberate about managing my time. Sometimes I ask myself, "If not now, when?" If my days were numbered then there might not be a better time in the future so I need to make good use of today. I'm getting things done, but I'm also prioritizing so that I don't spend time on things that don't really matter. I'm finally going to finish that quilt I started two years ago... :)
  • I'm more open to new opportunities and spur-of-the-moment experiences. I want to have fun! I want to live life while I still can! I have a reputation for being a tightwad, but there's a big difference between spending money on stuff I don't need and enjoying unique experiences with my family, like driving for four hours to see one of my daughter's favorite musicals. We've already booked our flight to Utah in March so we can hear my son's music group perform live. I can't wait!  

These are just a few of the ways I'm learning to live like I'm dying. I'm sure the fact that I'm not actually dying limits my experience to some extent, but even so, I appreciate the new perspective it's given me and the positive changes I've made so far as a result of my resolution. I'm looking forward to more progress, insights, and meaningful experiences throughout the year and beyond. After all, to quote my dad, "everyone should have the opportunity to look at their life through this lens."  

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