Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Life passes quickly: Cherish the journey

Good Morning!  Is it REALLY the last day of September already?  Goodness, where is the time going? I suppose it’s true that time seems to pass quicker as one gets older; well, at least for some. I guess if you ask a lonely senior citizen, he/she will say that the days just seem to drag on. For me, however, it seems that days turn into weeks; weeks turn into months; and here I am, on the brink of yet another winter.  This is such a different reality than it used to be when it took every bit of energy just to get through each day and each day was filled with the same: sadness, pain, despair. For that, I’m incredibly grateful.

Because my days are very full now, I have had to change some of my thinking about time and priorities.  I’ve come to realize that each day is a gift and therefore, I don’t want to waste time doing things that are not meaningful or life-giving.  I’m also beginning to realize that the window of opportunity passes quickly, and I may not get another chance to do or say those things that I’d like to. 

The weather in northern Michigan this weekend was truly spectacular. The temps were in the mid-high 70’s with sunny skies; really just perfect for doing anything outdoors. I headed into the weekend with the typical “to-do” list that was about three times longer than the hours in the day. One of my main priorities was getting the pool drained and winterized. Less significant things included laundry, dishes, errands, and a whole lot of other chores that never seem to get done.  I woke up on Saturday, full of energy and determination to get busy. Such good intentions….Sigh…..

As I enjoyed my coffee and wrote my Saturday morning post, I watched as the sun began to rise and marveled at how its rays seemed to set the trees on fire in the back woods. The leaves here seem to be turning very quickly this year; likely due to the cold summer. The REDS are more vibrant this year than I’ve seen in many years. As I sat there watching the dawn turn into daylight, I began to think about all the things I “had” to do that day.  I also thought about how beautiful those trees were and how quickly the moment of opportunity to enjoy the display of God’s glory would pass; after all, many of the red leaves are falling already.  (The vibrant reds of the sugar maples are the first to turn; and often fall, well before the other species even turn color). And so the struggle in mind began: so much to do; so little time…..and such a gorgeous day and an opportunity to enjoy the beauty around me. I pondered my list…and looked outdoors. It took very little time for me to abandon my “to-do” list and make the impromptu decision that I was going to go for a mini-color tour ride!   The dishes will still be there when I get home; the laundry wasn’t going anywhere and I still have a dozen pair of clean underwear; the lawn furniture is perfectly fine for one more day in the garden; and besides, I’ll combine my mini road trip with the errands I need  to get done, so it’s a win-win, right?   I’m the Queen of Rationalization!

My spur-of-the-moment decision wasn’t met with the same enthusiasm though when I informed my friend that I was taking off for a few hours, with no specific destination in mind (although the brand new Salvation Army store in Houghton Lake was calling my name J). “But you’ve been telling me you have so much to do;  I thought we were closing the pool; the leaves aren’t even at peak yet, why would you want to go now; but….you said…..you’re always changing your mind”…and so forth, he began to lament. I explained that the red trees were magnificent and if I didn’t go for a ride this weekend, I would miss the window of opportunity because they would be gone before the official color “peak” in about 10 days or so.  He shook his head, but ultimately realized that my time is my own to manage, and I was going to do whatever I wanted anyway. And so, off I went!

As I drove the desolate highway north, I was overcome with the beauty. Autumn in the north truly is spectacular. About half of the trees are still green, but most of the reds are already at peak; exactly the reason I wanted to go then. By this coming weekend when I travel to a wedding on Lake Michigan and then north to Petoskey for a speaking engagement, the maples will be bare. I kept reflecting on my friend’s statement, “But it’s not peak yet; you should wait.”  Hmmm….. This whole situation reminds me so much about my journey.  How often we focus so much on the END…that we forget/fail to “ENJOY THE PROCESS.”  Sound familiar? 

So many times when we begin a life-changing journey, we develop the mindset that …. “When I reach goal….THEN….. I will be happy; THEN….. I will buy that little black dress; THEN……I will feel good about myself.”  We put all of our energy into “getting there” that we forget to enjoy the process; to celebrate the little victories; to rejoice in our progress……and THEN…….if we never reach our goal, we feel depressed, defeated, and like a failure.

  In our personal life, we put off  taking that trip UNTIL we retire or the kids are grown up, but sometimes unexpected illness or other life issues happen before we get to see that special “bucket-list” place. We may have always wanted to learn to paint or dance and ‘one of these days’ we will take that class….but something always gets in the way and before we know it, we’re suffering with arthritis or otherwise “too old” in our minds to learn something new.  Sometimes, we save the good dishes, that special dress, bottle of wine, or other treat UNTIL we have something to celebrate.  When my Grandma Maszatics died many years ago, we found several brand new nightgowns in her dresser that she never even worn because she was saving them, and yet she often had tattered ones that were mended multiple times.  In my “Old Theresa” days, I often received fancy, expensive chocolates as a gift from the school children; I can’t even count how many times those candies turned white or spoiled….just because… I was saving them for…..for WHAT?   Kids grow up very quickly; loved ones age….and die, before we are ready to let them go; days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months and we can’t do a thing about it; ……..and LEAVES change color and fall to the ground whether we have our “to-do list” completed or now.  I’m SO GLAD that I took that drive Saturday and another one on Sunday, because it’s raining now and the ground is covered with red leaves that have fallen in yesterday’s wind. 

And so, my friends…. I encourage you to think about your journey….and ask yourself, “Are you enjoying the process of “Getting there” or are you so focused on reaching your goal that you forget to celebrate the journey and miss out on an opportunity to rejoice in each little victory?”  Once you reach your goal, trust me, it becomes even more difficult, because you don’t have those little moments of joy like putting on a pair of pants and discovering that they zip!  You don’t get that thrill of someone saying, “Wow…you look AMAZING.”  You don’t get the excitement of taking a bag of clothes to charity that are now ‘too big’ to wear.  You don’t get the same “Happy Dance feeling” when the scale reflects yet another loss; rather you rejoice when the scale DOESN’T MOVE in the other direction.   THIS is the time to rejoice; NOW is the time to celebrate:  TODAY is the time to be happy in your progress, no matter how small it appears.  Enjoy those moments; Celebrate that you are a Work in Progress; Be energized that you are changing your life…..and mostly, BE GRATEFUL for the opportunities you are given each day to be a better, kinder, more peaceful, and loving soul.  Certainly you will rejoice when you reach your goal, but you are given opportunities each day to rejoice NOW, regardless of where you are on your journey.
Life is so short. Kids grow up. People grow old. Summer days pass quickly….but dishes will still be there later today; laundry won’t go away on its own; the junk drawer will still be “junky” next weekend….but you may not get the chance to visit that grandparent; jump in the pile of leaves with the kids; take a walk in the woods; or laugh with an old friend. 

I did end up getting the pool put away; and managed to do the dishes and start on the laundry, but  there are still many things on the list to do, but SO WHAT?  There will ALWAYS be things to do.  I’m so grateful that I took that drive, enjoyed the warmth of the sun on my face, barbequed for likely the last time for the summer, and made a phone call to one of our group members.  Ironically, even my friend, decided to take me on yet another color-tour drive on Sunday afternoon to the lake!  The leaves are certainly more spectacular on the trees than they are right now, blowing across the backyard! 

Cherish the day….be kind to yourself and others….and make decisions today that will improve the quality of your life and those around you!