There are times when signs pop up in your life and you can’t see how they might be related until it is pointed out to you. Perhaps they are never intended to make sense at all, but the meaning is nevertheless created by a common thread.
Last week a college friend posted a photo of a mutual friend of ours on Facebook; a face I hadn’t looked at in years, but that I picture so often in my mind. In the photo the two of them were tuxedo-clad and grinning ear to ear at a wedding. This friend passed away after being involved in a hit-and-run accident 11 years ago. He was 25 and had been married for 3 months. We were all recent graduates at the start of our lives and his was ripped away.
A few days ago, my sister called me and something was obviously bothering her. She had just found out that a friend’s sister had been diagnosed with a rare, debilitating, and always fatal disease. She will be dead within a year. She will leave behind a husband and two children. There is nothing that will change this.
Sunday afternoon I arrived early for my yoga class, eager to see my favorite instructor who had been away for a few weeks. I greeted her with a smile and asked about her trip. Her usually bright face was distracted as she told me that it was wonderful. As she began class she told us that if she became emotional it was because just before walking into the studio she had gotten an email telling her that a student of hers had passed away suddenly the night before. She was a young mother who had adopted a baby with her husband last year.
“And so,” she told us as we settled into a comfortable seat, “let’s remember today that life is fleeting.” At that moment it came together for me. These little reminders arranged themselves in my mind as a message. “Enjoy today. Remember that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.” Living with anxiety, I am often too focused on the future, constantly running through what might happen tomorrow, or next month, or in a year. Despite my constant recommitment to being present and mindful, I still fall into the “what if” trap and find myself missing beautiful moments.
I made good on this one yesterday by fighting through major anxiety to take my kids to the beach on the ferry. Although I was nearly paralyzed with worry and fear in the morning, I kept telling myself not to let it tear these happy experiences from me. Once we were out the door, I found myself able to breathe a little easier, and by the time we hit the sand all I could see were smiles and sun and splashing in the waves. It wasn’t perfect–there was a little whining, some impatience, and general toddlerness–but it was worth it. We came home sweaty, exhausted, and full of wonderful memories, which was exactly what I needed.