Yesterday I received a text message saying, “I’m sorry I couldn’t call you back. I had a rough night.”
I wasn’t keeping track and couldn’t readily remember what I’d called to say in the first place, so I asked if she was O.K. She responded telling me that a young friend had received a cancer diagnosis and the prognosis wasn’t good. She’d been up all night thinking about life and mortality. She closed her message with, “Life is short. I’m sure you learned that after your mom died.”
People say things like that all the time, and it never bothers me but it does prompt me. I had to check in for a minute and ask, “Is that what I learned?” Several moments flashed in my mind when life feels long. If I try to run quickly for several minutes in a row. Those single days when I texted boys I was crushing on and waited to hear back. Boarding a plane and wanting to jump ahead to my destination. A 15-degree day on the slushy streets of Boston. When my UBER approximate time jumps from three minutes to eight minutes.
In some ways without my mom, I feel life is long because she’s not here for all the important moments. The new life I created after everything changed looks and feels a lot different than what I had imagined as a child lying awake at night on my white trundle bed.
Believing that life is short sounds dangerous to me for a few reasons.
On one side of the coin, we spend our time dwelling on how it will all end one day–unable to focus on the minute we’re currently experiencing. I could be sitting across from an amazing person, eating delicious food, and drinking beautiful wine thinking my life is practically over, and that I only have a few more good decades left in me. And by that very thought, I end my life prematurely while I long for more presence despite actually being present.
The other side of the coin might take “life is short” to mean, “Let’s blow up this life and carpe as much fuckin diem as possible.” Then you may end up with constant instability, stress, and worry. Life is meant to be enjoyed even when it doesn’t end up just the way we dreamed it.
In answer to my friend’s text message, I wrote, “The lesson I learned is that time is precious, and the moments of my life should be spent carefully, with as little wallowing as possible.”
My mention of wallow inspired her to ask the question, “What’s your plan for this Sunday?” This Sunday is also known as Mother’s Day.
I told her that I am celebrating with my family and the mother figures who have entered my life since my mom died. I don’t turn it into a holiday of resentment and anger because the moments of my life are precious and that’s not how I want to spend them. I may even go see Mother’s Day because Gary Marshall is my second favorite Marshall.