Are you one of the Walking Dead?
2014 was not an easy year.
I would sit at my desk, fingers at my temples vainly massaging at yet another migraine, and think, “Thank God, this year is almost over.” I would lean against my kitchen counter, too tired to cook but too tired to go out, fighting the desire for a bag of potato chips and trying desperately to tune into the words of my daughter as she describes her latest art project. I would race from work, to Kendo, to the store, to the vet, to the doctor… wondering when I could grasp a few moments of silence on a solitary run. Yes, 2014 was a year long on hours, short on relief.
But last week, in a rare moment of downtime, I sifted through my photos from the past year. And I realized, as I scanned the moments captured in between the piercing migraines and soul-thrashing potato chip cravings, that I have been focusing on quite the wrong things.
One year ago, this week, my kids and I completed a six-day road trip from Arizona to Florida, stopping along the way to run three miles amid the aliens of Roswell, devour the best breakfast in the United States in a tiny southwestern diner we stumbled upon by chance, explore the fantasticunderground caves of Sonora, relive the brutality at the Alamo, enjoy dinner on San Antonio’s Riverwalk and spend New Year’s Eve reveling on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Shortly after that, we finished the Special Ops Spartan Sprint in Tampa, kayaked in the Everglades, paddle boarded along the quiet beaches of Naples, broke out of a Miami Beach prison cell in 60 minutes, hiked the White Tank Mountain in Arizona, walked Hollywood Blvd in Los Angeles, celebrated my 20 year wedding anniversary in London, caught many pounds of snapper in the deep blue waters of the Gulf, practiced marksmanship under an FBI sharpshooter instructor (who also happens to be my uncle) and ran a few more obstacle course races…
So what was I rubbing my temples about?
Oh, there were challenges in 2014. Believe me… more than a few. It’s so easy to remember the negative. To focus on the moments that cause our hearts to drop into our stomach, that keep our minds whirring and problem solving into the wee hours of the morning. These are the moments that keep us trapped in the negative, that cause us to freeze, to worry. When has worry ever, ever, been a productive part of your life? It isn’t. It paralyzes us so that we’re not living, but we’re in zombie
mode, not really paying attention to what’s going on around us. It’s autopilot, just going through the motions to get through the day. Who wants to just ‘get through’ a day?
Reality? Those moments make up parts of my life, yes. I will never fully eliminate worry or stress. I can’t control my beloved mutt, Sika, much less the rest of the world. But when I look back at 2014, I don’t want to remember the time spent reconciling the household budget, calling the plumber yet again for the clogged toilet or taking Big Ben to the mechanic. Again. Instead, I want to recall the excitement on my oldest son’s face when he climbed inside a Cessna for his first flight lesson; cheering my youngest son, in full Kendo gear, as he brings his instructor to his knees is a swift, graceful move with his sword; singing random not-so-pop songs in Big Ben with my daughter, enjoying these last few months with her before college looms next fall; drinking wine in the gorgeous central square of Strasbourg, Germany, with my husband. I choose to remember crossing the Continental Divide and exploring the vineyards in Napa Valley with my Dirty Girl partner. I soak myself in the memories of a challenging half marathon, a lovely dinner on the beach and successfully (sometimes) staring down Sheila, my self-sabotage gremlin who adores those damn potato chips.
Why would I let the mundane and temporary worries of a late work project or a failed water heater overshadow all this?
But I did. We all do.
So for 2015… and here after… let’s not go there. Let’s not live in temporary crisis mode. Don’t let the clogged toilet outweigh the success of brewing a perfect pot of coffee. Stop worrying about your kitchen being clean enough for the neighbors to pop in and instead enjoy their conversation and fresh baked cookies. Let the laundry sit another day if it means a few extra hours of the Walking Dead marathon with your kids. Is it more important to have a clean bra or shared moment with your offspring? I am not minimizing the importance of a clean bra… really, I’m not… but I can’t recapture that moment with my kids and I can always squeeze in a late night load of laundry if I’m desperate.
There are so many things we “can’t” do because the mundane becomes our “must.” This is our guilt gremlin talking. It’s our fear. We must get the dishes done now. We must organize the pantry. We must sweep the garage. We must do these things that tick off the checklist for daily life management. But why? What stops in our world, what crashes down on our fragile heads if the spice rack isn’t alphabetized, if the carpet isn’t vacuumed this moment or if you Febreze your bra because you forgot to wash it? (Right, like you never thought of that…)
I am not advocating total irresponsibility. I am not suggesting you never balance your checkbook, clean your house or vacuum out your car. I am merely asking you to consider where, given your choices for living your life, those tasks fall in your order of priority and tackle them accordingly.
A full life doesn’t have to be exotic or expensive. My thrill on New Year’s Day? I discovered a new brand of coffee that will now gloriously fuel my addiction. My best moment over the holidays? Lunch with my family, listening to all the inside jokes and inanity (insanity?) that creates our home culture and that surely looks and sounds bizarre to an outside observer. But we know what we mean and there is joy and comfort in that. What is living successfully? You decide. But make it about you… not about the details that can overrun your life.
My house will always be chaotic and what my DGC partner affectionately calls “lived in”. But my door is always open. My home cooked meals sometimes start with dessert. But the conversation over brownie sundaes and grilled cheese sandwiches is always entertaining. And no matter how hard I try, I will always be behind on laundry. But I am not missing a single episode of the Walking Dead with my boys for the sake of clean… anything.
That’s where my focus will be in 2015. Where is yours?