When I was 13, I remember sitting slumped on the bench in front of our organ, playing what I thought was a mournful tune that I had learned in music class in school. (It was actually Jolly Old Saint Nicholas…don’t ask me why a “jolly” song has such a sad-sounding melody. Lol.) My loving mom, noticed my slumped posture and mournful tune and sat down next to me and asked what was wrong.
With tears in my eyes, I replied, “Dad is 52 years old.” At that young age of mine, I thought 52 was old and I was thinking about him dying.
Mom had the perfect response for me. “Louise, it’s like eating a chocolate bar. At some point the chocolate bar will be gone, but the point is to enjoy it while you eat it. One day, Dad will be gone, the point is to appreciate the time you have with him now.”
In the past year, I have had a few relatives become seriously ill…and I am beginning to have feelings similar to my 13-year-old-self playing that mournful tune. Reality is setting in that my parents are getting older, my relatives are getting older…I’m getting older! I’m being reminded that life is fragile. Precious, and fragile, and must be appreciated while we still have it.
A few months ago, I had a client tell me that her teenaged daughter’s friend was just diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. My client said that she felt very sad to hear this, then felt relieved that it wasn’t her daughter who was sick, then felt guilty for feeling relief.
I am sure she is not alone in feeling this way; I know I can relate to her.
I believe that the relief is not something to feel guilty about. I believe that the relief is the precursor of appreciation. Not in a “thank goodness it’s not me” kinda way, but in a “look what I’ve been taking for granted” kinda way.
Life gives us wake up calls…and illness is one of them.
What are we waking up to?
Life itself. The beauty of life. The fragility. The temporariness of life. The things we’ve been taking for granted.
The wake up calls rearrange our priorities; we begin to value what is truly valuable and let go of all that isn’t. I think the letting go of stuff that doesn’t really matter is part of the relief we feel in cases such as my client’s and mine. Letting go of these unnecessary “burdens” is relieving.
But you don’t have to wait for a wake up call in order to appreciate life. In fact, I believe that if one could truly and fully appreciate life and all it brings, “wake up calls” wouldn’t be so disruptive, devastating, or traumatic. They wouldn’t be “wake up calls” at all; life events would be just that - events. A part of life. A part of living.
As I write this, I am committing to appreciating life more. Because like my mom said, life is like a chocolate bar; the point is to enjoy it while you have it.
Thank you for your wisdom, Mom.
Here’s to conquering stress.
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