Friday, April 17, 2015

What will people say about me when I'm gone?

Life is short.

What makes you happy? Once you figure that out.. you should do more of it.

I've spent a great deal of life trying to figure out what happiness was and how to achieve it. I have chased the wild and the crazy in search of that elusive feeling and I don't regret any of it. Each experience gave me clarity even if that clarity was simply, Oops, that wasn't it. 

The truth is, a life well lived is a messy journey. We try something new. We leave something. We try again. We try something else. We turn left this time. We run further. We walk awhile. We rest. We recover.

The detours we take in life, the risks we take, all of these things create something bigger... a life that is bigger than the sum of all of the detours.

Realizing this reminded me of a conversation I had with my mom after finding out her cancer diagnosis was terminal. We were driving in my car and her eyes filled with tears and she said, "What will people say about me after I'm gone?"

This was an unusual thing for her to ever say out loud. She rarely revealed her deepest vulnerabilities to me. At the time I immediately told her all the million things I loved about her. Suddenly what I had always perceived as her failures didn't matter one little bit. Instead, I saw her bigger journey. I saw her goodness and I reminded her of her goodness. I saw her love in caring for my sister Mary who has a developmental disability, for 56 years. I didn't think of all the times I badgered her when she made a decision I disagreed with or lost her patience.

Mary & me


The bigger journey.

The challenge in life seems to be to define our own bigger journey and to live and love in the day to day, the minute to minute, but to do so within that bigger journey.

What will people say about me when I'm gone?

What does my bigger journey look like? What words would I use to describe it and more importantly, is what I am doing right now reflecting it?

When all is said and done, here are some of the things I want to have had in my bigger journey.....

Kindness
Love
Family
Passion
Enough
Simplicity
Simple pleasures like bubble baths and 5 am sunrises and hot, sweaty long runs!
Deep conversations over good food and even better wine :)
Peace
Laughter
Fun and play
Dancing
Genuineness
Helping others
Compassion
Moments that take my breath away
Reflection
Inspiration; inspiring and being inspired
Creativity
Writing
Running
Health and fitness
Freedom

I recently adjusted my course to align with my bigger journey. I resigned from my job working as the director of operations for a large non profit organization for the past 15 months. It was an amazing experience in many ways. I discovered a ton about who I am and what I am capable of. The job brought with it relationships with a community of many simply amazing people.

But after 15 months it was clear to me that as wonderful as many aspects were, it didn't quite fit with my bigger journey. Work was going great but my relationships outside of it were falling apart. I worked long days. I commuted an hour each way all winter. I rarely had the spark and energy I used to have with my daughters. I missed them. I missed being playful and silly with them. Every day at 7 am on my way to drop Elizabeth off at school and head to work, I told myself that today would be different. Today I would leave on time. Today I would do something fun with them. But then 6:30 pm came and I would find that I was once again later than I should be still driving the 1 hour commute toward home, exhausted and wanting to just get dinner over and go to bed. And then I would do it all over again the next day...

At first I thought that if I couldn't work the job and be the mom I wanted to be then it meant I was a failure. Why was I unhappy? Why couldn't I balance this job and my kids? Millions of mothers do it and they do it well. 

But I'm not millions of mothers. I'm me. So I dropped the guilt and I adjusted my course. I've taken a leap of faith to live more in line with my bigger journey. I'm hoping to creatively reinvent my business of 12 years that I never fully let go of, and integrate it with my passion for writing. More on that soon!





So on my last day of work, I surprised my oldest daughter and picked her up after school. She was shocked to see me. I asked her if she wondered why there was a box filled with all my office stuff in the back.

"Mom. Are you done with your job??" she asked.

"Yip. All done." I replied.

"So does that mean you will be able to pick me up tomorrow? And the day after that? And the day after that? And the day after that??"

"Yip. I will." I told her.

As we pulled out to head home I reached over and turned on the radio. Uptown Funk was playing and I couldn't resist cranking it up and rocking out in the car as we drove. Elizabeth smiled and shook her head mumbling, "Oh my gosh, mom. Only you." That is, until we were safely out of sight of the middle school and her friends.

Then she started dancing too.

What will people say about me when I'm gone?