Tag Archives: living

Loving the life well-lived

“Loving life includes loving the fact that it goes.” – Rick Brookhiser, critic

I came across this remarkable quote while reading about the staying power of the film Groundhog Day – a highly acclaimed movie I watch every year, usually more than once, because it leaves me with a feeling of such inspiration that I immediately want to run out my front door and change the world.

But, in spite of the effect Groundhog Day has on me, that quote is such a foreign idea, I can hardly wrap my mind around it. And considering the popularity of the recent nostalgia boom, I would imagine it’s just as foreign to most other people trying to resurrect wonderful things about the past that they wish were still true today.

I find myself doing that all the time – trying to make aspects of my world today mimick parts of my childhood. Or else longing for the feelings I associate with former times, which I fear aren’t possible anymore.

But that’s a dangerous game, because if you ignore the present to live in the past, then one day you’ll wake up and wonder where in the world the last 15 years went.

Plus, memories are deceptive. We can remember things being better than they were, focusing on the good and glossing over the bad. We start living for the past and ignoring our present, and that gets us in trouble. Because the present can never live up to the past we’ve built in our mind, and dragging the past into the present doesn’t let us live with honesty.

So I think that’s where that quote I mentioned above becomes so important.

If you were truly happy right now, this very moment, would you happily let go of that feeling so that tomorrow you could experience something else? Something new? 

Would you be okay packaging away today’s experiences and leaving them in the past? 

How do we even go about living for the present and not longing for that moment to last forever?

And when it all ends, can we really expect to love “the fact that [life] goes” and embrace death as the next great adventure?

Well, yes, I suppose that’s exactly what we’re meant to expect, isn’t it?

“Don’t be afraid of death,” Natalie Babbitt wrote in her book Tuck Everlasting. “Be afraid of the unlived life. You don’t have to live forever, you just have to live.”

And that’s one of the conclusions of Groundhog Day as well.

Bill Murray’s Phil Connors is a cynical man who doesn’t realize how very stuck he is in life until he gets trapped in a time loop on the worst day of his life. He eventually learns from the experience not only to embrace living, but also to be a hero for others whose misery and pain might have gone unnoticed by others if not for him.

“The curse is lifted when Bill Murray blesses the day he has just lived,” Brookhiser wrote. “And his reward is that the day is taken from him.”

I guess it’s an idea I’ll have to mull over. Because for me, the idea of devoting one’s life to others sounds a whole lot easier than loving the passage of time – and the changes that come with it.

But I don’t suppose great ideas like this are meant to be understood easily. Otherwise they wouldn’t be meaningful.

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Ten years I almost forgot

Usually when people who haven’t seen me in the long time ask what I’ve been up to, my answer is the same: Nothing.

Everything is the same, nothing has changed, this is my life.

But it’s not true.

I might not be where I expected to be by now, or have what I thought I’d have, but my life has been far from tedious, and it’s about time I admitted it. So, without much emphasis on details, here’s just a quick list of some of the things I might have forgotten to mention if you ever asked me what I’ve been doing since 2006. And after reading this, I hope you’ll make your own list — for your blog, for your Facebook page, or for yourself – just a reminder of all the little things in life worth remembering and celebrating!

latte

At Le Pain Quotidien, with my niece, in NYC

  • Bought a house
  • Started playing the old clarinet again
  • Photographed three weddings
  • Went to my 12-year high school reunion
  • Gave the sermon at church five times… with a sixth coming up soon
  • Took four overnight skiing trips — and didn’t die
  • Met my best friend
  • Ran a 5K
  • Wrote a 50,000-word novel in November — seven times
  • Performed the Verdi Requiem, Carmina Burana, and Bach’s St. John Passion with the Masterworks Chorus at Shepherd University
  • Was a bridesmaid in my brother’s wedding
  • Attended a Pakistani wedding reception
  • Become an aunt twice over
  • Took my husband’s niece on a “Christma-Birth-uation” road trip to NYC
  • Took another niece to the local premier of a 14-year-old writer/director’s horror movie
  • Saw Aerosmith and Hootie and the Blowfish in concert
  • Interviewed LeAnn Rimes over the phone and Candace Cameron Bure in person
  • Saw Phantom of the Opera twice at the Kennedy Center
  • Saw various other local stage productions
  • Traveled the entire East Coast, from Montreal to The Bahamas
  • Went tubing and kayaking on the Shenandoah River

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Perspective

The man behind me in line at a Martins’ food store tonight backed up to allow me to pay for my purchases at the debit card machine. When I returned my card to my wallet, he commented on the number of credit cards I carry with me.

“You have a boyfriend?” he said, and at first I thought he was making an offer.

“Husband,” I said. He didn’t hear the “Even better” through his chortles.

“He must be treatin’ you pretty well,” the man said.

I was outside before I realized that he must not have considered me much of a bread-winner. My husband and I currently take home exactly the same amount in salary (after insurance) — and yes, he treats me well — but now I’m wondering, was it his $36.23 or mine that paid for that grocery store purchase? Considering it all filters into the same checking account, I’d say the contribution was 50/50.

In 2012 it might seem like an unnecessary devotion of time to cheer for moments of equality between men and women, but the man at Martins’ words only reiturated for me that a lot still hasn’t changed in the last thirty years.

I tend to go on movie kicks — watching the same movie over and over and over again if, for some reason, the plot/setting/characters resonate with me. Lately I’ve been binging on the 1987 film Baby Boom.

It’s not like I’ve never seen it before — I own it on VHS — but there’s something about it that sticks with you. I realized on the second consecutive viewing last week what it was doing — what J.C. Wyatt was doing — to me.

A titan in her corporate world of Manhattan, J.C. is emotionally ambushed when a distant cousin dies, willing her his baby.  J.C. keeps the baby instead of putting her up for adoption, a detriment to her romantic relationship and her career. At the movie’s midpoint, she finds herself with nothing tying her to the city anymore, so she and the baby move to Vermont.

In truth, by my fourth viewing in a week, I was fast forwarding through large portions of the movie, but I always stopped at one spot — the montage of apples rolling down conveyor belts, of shipping boxes closing over packed jars of baby apple sauce, of envelopes cascading through the sky over a map of the mid-western states like so many letters to Santa Claus, and of newspaper articles flashing one after another across the screen relaying news of J.C.’s success in building her baby food business — an even greater and more meaningful success than she has in the movie’s first few scenes, when her boss offers her a partnership in the marketing firm.

Every time I watch that scene, I can’t help it. I think of the book I’m working on — my book, which I finally started editing again this week after weeks of procrastinating and self-defeating thoughts. Baby Boom renewed my motivation. I know it’s just a movie; it’s a fictional plotline about a woman on an unrealistically fast track to success alongside a baby who doesn’t seem to age at all over the course of a year and a half, but I watch it and I think anything is possible.

I think we need stories like this that inspire change in ourselves — change for the better. Sure J.C. pursues her baby food business out of desperation to get back to New York and away from the 52-acre Vermont money pit she buys in a moment of weakness. Along the way she seems to lose everything — her significant other, her career, her money, even her pride. But then something amazing happens; she falls in love with her new life and fights to regain everything she lost — tenfold. She builds a business that’s all her own and which accommodates her life, not like the one that squeezed the life out of her.

The person J.C. is in the beginning isn’t so bad; but it does take an emotional punch in the gut and the ensuing recovery for J.C. to realize that she can have so much more than she’d thought. In the beginning, she strives for ideals that others pitch to her as “perfection.” In the end, she realizes her own perfection.

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