Today Is The Adventure

My Uncle Ernie was the first grown-up I ever met who was a dreamer. His child-like sense of wonder shifted reality’s boundaries, and intimated that the magic of imagination need not dissipate with age. Uncle Ernie had the greatest, most sonorous voice and a wonderful, honest laugh. He wasn’t a parent, which probably explains why he was also the first grown-up to ever let me drink a beverage somewhere other than the kitchen. I thought that was unbelievably cool, not only because it’s convenient to have a cold glass of milk when you’re reading, but also because it made me feel grown up. I wasn’t, though, and in one of my innumerable fits of childhood clumsiness, I upended the glass. Instead of being angry that I’d made a mess, Uncle Ernie got me another and told me stuff like that happens to everyone. He understood my nature: not just the clumsiness, but the fact that I, too, was destined to be a dreamer.

Aaron was a friend of mine. He was always the guy that made me smile at work; if you met him, I’m sure he’d make you smile, too. He was very ill, but Aaron never let the harshness of reality – the incalculable unfairness - temper his joy of living.

Last year, within months of one another, Uncle Ernie and Aaron passed beyond this realm.

I was ill recently. Three AM on a Saturday, curled up in a little ball on the bathroom floor, in possibly the worst pain of my life, it occurred to me that I could die. Not someday: right then. I thought of Mr. Aniko, my sister, my parents, my nephews. I thought of my writing. I thought of how I would miss all of that, and how much would be left unfinished. My sickness forced me to acknowledge, in a deep and unquestioning way, that there is no placating ritual that assures longevity. I can’t know what is going to happen, but I do have a choice. I can choose to mark out the days of my life counting down, as if life were a sentence to be served. Or I could choose spend my time in in grateful pursuit of joy. In other words, I can live now, or hope that I’ll make it to a moment that might never come.

On a whiteboard in my kitchen, I used to track weeks until my projected retirement. I have replaced the countdown with my new mantra: Today Is The Adventure.  Life isn’t some magical moment in the future. It is right now. Today.

Aniko Gets Kreativ II:

I don’t believe in countdowns.

My inspiration for this post was Hunter Shea’s poignant look at his realization that life is precious and fleeting. Take a moment to read what he has to say. Then, congratulate him on his nomination for the Kreativ Blogger award! I am passing it along via  Kim Koning, who honored me with the nomination.

Here’s my first Kreativ Blogger post, in which I explain how I’m breaking the rules.

14 thoughts on “Today Is The Adventure

  1. ‘I can live now, or hope that I’ll make it to a moment that might never come’ – this is very, very true. I’m as guilty as anyone of staring into the far distance and trying to impose a schedule on my future. I’m still trying to come to terms with the fact that the future is unknown, and to a very large extent just not worth worrying about.

    Sorry to hear about your illness, and about your uncle’s and friend’s deaths. Events like that certainly force us to reconsider what is truly important in life.

    • I’m a planner. I have always been a list-maker. Yet the big things tend to happen on their own, without my permission, and on something other than my schedule. I don’t know when I will make a friend, have a great laugh, sip the perfect cup of coffee, or learn that someone loves my book. It is a delicate balance to work towards the things that will make you happy, but not allow a misplaced, bloated sense of control sap the enjoyment of life. Purpose without joy is sterile.

      Illness and death are two of life’s best motivators to hurry up and get living!

  2. It always makes me feel a little sick and sad when people say things like, “I’ll do that when the kids are gone.” Or, “I can’t wait to retire” when they are still in their twenties. So you’re going to just chuck away half your life? What sort of example is that for your kids?

    I’ve had recent health issues that grind home that I probably won’t be hiking the Alps when I retire and that my downhill skiing days might be over. I suddenly find myself far more interested in getting out there and doing things while I still can. Plenty of time for TV watching later, and Netflix will have all the old shows I’ll miss.

    • It sounds like you have a healthy outlook on life, Marie. I am guilty of being one of those people who was willing to sit on the sidelines of my own life. Until I was almost twenty-nine, I didn’t fully understand the power of Now or the fact that, while I can’t predict the future, I can decide for myself how I’m going to be moment to moment.

      I am sorry to hear about your health issues, and I sincerely hope for breakthroughs and good news for you.

  3. Love this post.
    Everyone needs an Uncle Ernie.
    Some are lucky enough to have them as parents–blessed with an adult that does not mind so much if the house is a bit of a mess, and more apt to view the world as a bit magical–and hope to pass that along.
    Glad you are better Aniko. :)

  4. I hope that I’m Uncle Ernie to the kids in our family. You are right on about living in the moment. Sure, I dream of retirement and all of the things I’ll be free to do, but that’s not guaranteed to anyone. So, I’ll try to do them all now and come up with new stuff if and when I get the gold watch.

    • I think dreams and plans are a good things, unless they develop into a fixation that prevents you from accepting all that the the present has to offer. I used to be very bad about running my life according to the formula, “When I have X, then I will do/feel/be Y.” That is a frustrating way to live because there is a sense that all the time prior to X is just something to endure. There isn’t any joy. These days, I’m all about the small joys, those fleeting moments that you couldn’t have planned.

      Thanks for stopping by! Evil Eternal is on my Kindle. I’m reading a non-fiction book at the moment, but EE’s up next!

  5. My first reaction was that I don’t do countdowns myself, and for a brief moment I was proud of myself (especially considering the content of your post). Then I realized that every school year for the past few years, I’ve definitely done countdowns. And this last year, I was especially aware of it and irritated at myself because of it, again, especially considering the content of your post. But what bothered me the most was the feeling that I was just living for the future and not finding enough enjoyment in my day-to-day.

    Now that I’m at Summer break, I’m definitely enjoying my life more, but that’s no way to live the other nine months of my life.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    Paul D. Dail
    http://www.pauldail.com- A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

    • Paul, hi. I understand. When I was a software developer, I counted down the days until the weekend, and then had a secondary count until the nearest three-day weekend, a tertiary count until my next week of vacation… You get the picture. I was anxious and unhappy. I also felt guilty because, let’s face it, development is a Good Job. I wanted to just be able to love it, because to not love it felt unseemly. Ungrateful. Accepting that although it was an honorable job and a great profession for someone – just not me – was difficult, but it’s changed everything.

      I am sure you are an amazing teacher, and that you do a lot of good. I hope that you find a way to both be a positive influence, but also get away from the countdowns. Something tells me there are exciting things in store for you.

      As always, thank you for stopping by!

      • Interesting that you felt guilty because it was a “Good Job.” I guess I consider myself fortunate that I have a job in this tough economy, but I’m a far cry for my parents or grandparents generation which never really considered whether or not you LIKED your job. It was just about providing for a family and working towards retirement. I’m pretty passionate about liking my job.

        And I appreciate your kind words. I really do like teaching literature, and the kids always say they wish I could teach them in higher grades. I just get bogged down in the grammar, essays and other grading. Oh, and I only teach 9th graders. While there are many benefits to that age (in that they’re still malleable), they are also very often hard to love. I’m glad you believe there are exciting things in store. I actually just applied to do content writing for an online university which would be a full-time at home position. I’m really hoping it comes through, especially as we are expecting our second child in August.

        Anyway, hope you had a good weekend.

        Paul D. Dail
        http://www.pauldail.com- A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

      • I cannot imagine being surrounded by teenagers on a daily basis. I am a bit of a misanthrope when it comes to certain age brackets and attitudes, and many teens tend to fit into both of those buckets. As someone who was once a teen, though, I can say that my literature teachers had profound impact on me, and I appreciate their absolute grit in making it through my attitude and youthful arrogance!

        I did feel guilty not liking a job that is pretty much perfect. People leave their homeland to get the job I had. People study and join after-hours code dojos to practice doing the job I had. Other people loved the job I had. I felt defective, insincere, and as if I were taking the job from someone who would love it and grow in it. I guess I didn’t need to like it so much as to feel worthy of it. It was right for me to switch jobs, and such a relief!

        I’ll keep my fingers crossed you get the position with the online university! That will be perfect!! No commute = more time to write! :)

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