Are You Just Alive or Are You Living?
This morning I was thinking about an old acquaintance. I recently heard from him after several years of no communication and nothing has changed. His conversation was the same as it was when we first met years ago. It centered around not enough money, not enough time, and not enough good opportunities. It is no surprise that he began most sentences with “I” and “Me.” He started his pity party years ago and is still going although few friends joined him. My impression: he’s alive, but he really isn’t living. “Just alive but not living” is a sad statement about anyone and “just alive or living” is a choice.
Reflecting on my own life, I had to ask: “Am I just alive or am I living?”
I had the privilege of meeting Erma Bombeck on several occasions—she lived not too far from us. She was a great writer and a really nice human being. She died several years ago, and it was a great loss to all of us whether we knew her or not. She had a remarkable way of expressing profound thoughts through her incredible humor. I started my day by reading her column in the Arizona Republic because it always began my day with a laugh and left me something to ponder as I went about my daily routine.
Just alive or living?
She sorted out the difference between being just alive and living. This appeared in The Arizona Republic in 1979:
Someone asked me the other day if I had my life to live over would I change anything.
My answer was no, but then I thought about it and changed my mind.
If I had my life to live over again I would have waxed less and listened more.
Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy and complaining about the shadow over my feet, I’d have cherished every minute of it and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was to be my only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.
I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.
I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.
I would have eaten popcorn in the “good” living room and worried less about the dirt when you lit the fireplace.
I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.
I would have burnt the pink candle that was sculptured like a rose before it melted while being stored.
I would have sat cross-legged on the lawn with my children and never worried about grass stains.
I would have cried and laughed less while watching television … and more while watching real life.
I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband which I took for granted.
I would have eaten less cottage cheese and more ice cream.
I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the Earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for a day.
I would never have bought ANYTHING just because it was practical/wouldn’t show soil/ guaranteed to last a lifetime.
When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now, go get washed up for dinner.”
There would have been more I love yous … more I’m sorrys … more I’m listenings … but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it … look at it and really see it … try it on … live it … exhaust it … and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it.
Waiting for the “right time.”
I have spent a lot of time waiting for something to happen instead of savoring each moment. I call it the “When/then” game. Some of the big ones in my life were: “When I get out of high school then…” And “When I get out of college, then…” “When I get married then…” And finally, it was “When the kids are grown, then…” And now all those things and more have happened. Now what?
It is true that I’ve done and accomplished many things. I was conscious for some of them.
It is also true that life is a journey and not a destination. In a journey, you enjoy everything along the way—the scenery, the people, the food, the conversation, the customs, the crazy ideas. In a destination, you put your foot on the gas pedal and just drive, generally seeing and enjoying nothing—just trying to get there as quickly as possible. How many times have you arrived at your destination wondering if you stopped at the stop lights? Or, perhaps somewhere along the way you suddenly realized you weren’t sure just where you were. This is being alive but not living.\If I could life MY live over
Perhaps we should all write our “If I could live my life over” so when we get to the end, we don’t have big regrets. And so now, while there is time, we can begin enjoying the ride. If you don’t have a “bucket list” start one and begin checking things off. Do this even if you aren’t past 30.
Mine starts with, “If I could live my life over I would laugh more and worry less.”
Why don’t we work on this and come back to it again? Send me your thoughts. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the form on the Contact page.