Friday, March 22, 2013

In a New York Minute

Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.
Mary Scmich

"Regrets are illuminations come too late."
Joseph Campbell

One day you will get a phone call that will completely change your life.

And you won’t be ready for it.

Maybe this call will be about your own health, or that someone close to you has a fatal illness or been in an accident. In the worst cases that someone has died. I don’t point this out to be morbid, but instead as a reminder that life can truly change at any minute. In these moments we ask ourselves, why did we take everything for granted? Why didn’t we make peace with people we had wronged? Why didn’t we appreciate our youth, our health, our family, until they were gone?

Why am I bringing this up??

It’s silly really. In anticipation of the coming golf season, I was changing my spikes with a large hunting knife, (I’ve never been hunting). A moment later this same large knife was stuck directly in my hand, an inch from a major artery. I stood there for a moment and just pondered the absurdity of the situation. Is this the way it all ends? The Psychologist, in the kitchen, with the hunting knife? It seemed like such a crazy way to go..

Ultimately I was okay, but it really got me thinking. How many times in our daily lives do we flirt with disaster like this? That car that swerves out of the way when we are inches from an accident. The strange dream that leaves us gasping for breath in the middle of the night. It’s a fragile world we live in, and some people don’t in fact get lucky in these situations. As we get older we seem to know more and more people who die in accidents, or far too young from a medical condition. Life as we know it can change at any time really.

In a New York minute…

I’ve sat with far too many people who have been on the wrong end of these phone calls, and in some cases, the news they receive casts a shadow over their lives that they never recover from. In the end, it’s not ghosts or spirits that we are haunted by, but regrets, and as Mr. Campbell says in the opening quote, “regrets are illuminations that come too late.” Death and illness and tragedy teach us that there is no room for pettiness, spite, apathy, and laziness, and, although we all may agree in spirit with this idea, we always seem to forget. Then the inevitable questions begin to repeat in our heads. Why didn’t I tell my brother how much I appreciated him? Why didn’t I tell my mother I loved her? Why didn’t I call and say I’m sorry before it was too late?

If you have a chance to do these things, do them now. From my experience working with people who live with regret, it is clear to me that it is not the dead that haunt the living, but instead the living that haunt the dead.

 But their illuminations have come too late..

It took a bumbling and idiotic episode with a hunting knife to remind me of these things, as I too tend to forget. Life can change at any minute. It has inspired me to create an “in-basket” for my life of things I kind of know I “should” do, but never really get around to. This week I’ve reconnected with two old friends. Today I’m going to reach out to someone I’m in a stupid argument with and try to mend that fence. That will be a good start. It’s amazing how much of this unfinished business we accumulate over the course of a lifetime. Still, I want to have my illuminations now rather than later, and if that means working through a little discomfort, then so be it. This whole little life that we’ve built for ourselves is inherently breakable. This I know to be true. Everything can change in an instant.

In a New York minute..