Is it really worth it?

Well, the Olympics are over.  I love watching the Olympics! Every nite, I was glued to my tv to see what was happening (or should I say what had happened) and stared in awe at the amazing things those athletes did.  My particular favorite was the gymnastics, with track a close second.

Not being the sinewy athlete type, I was amazed watching those people flipping through the air and landing on a 4″ beam and swimming like rockets across a pool, with arms like tree trunks.

I also listened to them talk about their lives and how they’ve spent their whole lives “working for this moment”.  Olympic athletes spend so much of their lives focused on their sport, driven toward some distant goal.  We only see the very few who reach the top- the ones who get that golden prize. Even coming in 2nd is seen as “losing”.  Some of them are really devastated when all those years of sacrifice goes wasted and they only get the Silver Medal. I saw more than one burst into tears or bury their heads in shame when not getting that gold.  I do understand that frustration at working so hard and missing the mark by some tiny thing that went awry at the wrong moment.

But…what about all of that life that has been wasted in the meantime?  All those days and moments that they can’t get back while they drove themselves with unbending focus toward that one and only moment- a moment that for most never comes.  What about the sacrifices of their families – not just time, money, things they’ve gone without- but actual presence with each other.

There were so many stories of  athletes who had gone to live with other people for years so they could be near a coach or training facility.  And there was even a commercial that kept playing where athletes said things like “you know that bestseller, I’ve never read it” as she’s diving into the pool.  Yes, there are the Michael Phelpses and Gabby Douglases out there who live the dream and maybe reap some benefit, but what about all the others who never do? All the hundreds and thousands of those who dedicate so much time to 1 single thing and miss out on so much else.

Those who have lost someone, especially a child, know what a precious commodity those moments are.  You know that you can’t get them back. Of course, I don’t advocate that you hold anyone back from something they want to pursue.  I have always supported my kids to do whatever activities or interests they have had.  I strongly believe that everyone should be encouraged to pursue and develop their skills and talents and “follow their bliss” as the expression goes.

But I think that we have raised competition and achievement to be such lofty virtues that we rob people of the joys of just being alive and sharing that with each other.  We have forgotten that there doesn’t always have to be an end game, a goal, an achievement for something to be good and worthy. We all hear about kids who are pushed too much and in our current political climate, we are constantly reminded of our American ideal of work, work, work – that’s how you get ahead, how you get what you want in life.

But then time is gone, and we may be so sorry for all that we have missed.  So many of us grow older, regretting so much wasted time- rushing here and there, filling up every space with “doing”-  especially if something comes along and shatters our world and we face not being able to get back those precious moments. If we lose someone who is very young, we can wonder “what did we do with all that time? was it really worth all of those things we thought were so important, was it really worth that gold medal- or getting into that college or onto that team or all A’s on the report card or to be able to buy clothes from XYZ Store….”

If there is some silver lining anywhere in all of this grief stuff that I have experienced it is that I have learned that it is all a balancing act.  You need to continue to move forward and see a future and have something good to work toward but more importantly, you need every day, every minute, to look around you and enjoy who is there and what you see and hear. To me, that is what makes life worth living.

Forget me not…

Recently I have been struggling with letting go of the past.  It seems to haunt me like a bad dream.  I repeat all of the mantras that I’ve read about living in the now, and I do stop and take time to do short meditations to try to center myself in the present.  But it just keeps creeping back in.  All of my yesterdays- and the frustrations of not being able to change them.

One dilemma that I’ve noticed with this letting-go-of-the-past thing is that as we live each moment, some of what we did or that happened in the past is bound to be apparent in what happens today.

For example, as I look around my house and see all of the things that are not done as we had planned-  the second floor bathroom that never got put in, the kitchen cabinets that desperately need replacing, the huge unfinished basement that was supposed to be a great family room but the kids are now grown- all these things are glaring reminders of that past that I am supposed to be “putting behind me” so that I can live today and be happy, you know, not live in the past.

If we had not been overwhelmed by grief and the subsequent chain of events that came in its wake, then at least some of those things would have gotten done.  So they are constant reminders of a past gone awry.

It is hard when I look at my 2 kids and think about how they have been affected by growing up in a home filled with grief and pain.  I can’t turn my mind away from the reality that it has had an impact on who they are and how they view life. Each of them was effected differently I know.

We did have good times- fun and happy things too but I must be honest and say that the struggles to grow through life in those years following my daughter’s birth and death were very, very hard and in that, asked a price of my other children that I will forever regret.

Now, I can step back and look at that rationally and say that doesn’t make sense, life happens, life is not fair, I did the best I could, blah blah blah-  I know that is all true.  I really did do the best I could.  I worked very hard to give them the best, most normal, loving life that I could.  I was always honest with them about what was going on- I never hid anything from them and our family is close.  I know that there are lots of things that influence who they are, not just this particular thing.  And I know that emotions aren’t rational. That’s part of our human struggle.

I also know that there are positive things that they have gotten from this as well.  They have learned that life is not perfect.  They have learned that there is great joy and great sorrow.  They have seen their parents struggle through difficult emotional times and stick it out and work through their problems and still want to be together, that love can abide.   They’ve seen persistence, strength, endurance, commitment, faith, loyalty and trust.

I believe they have learned good things.  Things that will serve them well as they move forward in their lives.  Of course, it’s hard to know what they really think and what they will tell their kids about their childhoods.  I know that I definitely never promised them perfection.  Thank goodness!

I know that as my days go forward, I will continue to breathe and meditate and try to focus on the moment I’m in.  I will look  for the positive results of my past and try to heed my own advice on all the rest- forgive yourself, be gentle and kind to yourself, accept that you did the best you could and that you are only human, think about all of the good things that you’ve done and don’t be so hard on yourself.  Sounds good.

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