Life isn’t fair. Sometimes there is just no way around it. We do our best, we hope for the best, we cross our fingers and toes and yet sometimes life just still has a nasty way of whacking us across the face with a two by four.
That happened to me today. I got a phone call that set me reeling and got me thinking about things that I usually try to avoid thinking about. I got a call to tell me that an amazing friend whom I love and admire has been given maybe a year to live.
I don’t want to say her name out of respect for her privacy but for the sake of this article I’ll refer to her as Wonder Woman because that is truly what she is.
Wonder Woman’s mom called me this morning as I was getting ready to head to work to tell me the news. At first I was shocked, even though I knew that I shouldn’t be–Wonder Woman has been in a fierce battle with Stage IV breast cancer for the past several years. Still, I was shocked because throughout her entire ordeal, Wonder Woman has always been so full of grace, courage and…life. Wonder Woman is a fighter and she has fought her battle with ferocity but also with humor and love–that is one of the things that I admire most about her.
The second thought that I had was that this JUST WASN’T FAIR. Wonder Woman and I are the same age and have kiddos the same age. She is a GOOD, LOVING and KIND person. She deserves to be able to see her oldest daughter (a freshman in college) graduate from college and to help her two younger teens get ready for proms and first cars. She deserves to be able to plan a nice, romantic getaway with her husband without worrying that it will be their last chance to be together as a couple. She deserves to one day bounce grandbabies on her knee and host big family get togethers at her home. She deserves all of this and so much more, but…she isn’t going to get it.
No, life is DEFINITELY not fair. Wonder Woman was a slim, health conscious woman who was full of vitality and energy before the disease robbed her of that vitality. She took good care of herself and appeared to be the picture of health. She was the last person that anyone would expect to get cancer. Unfortunately, cancer doesn’t discriminate and even good, loving, healthy people can get whacked in the face with that stupid two by four.
The news of Wonder Woman’s most recent prognosis is still very fresh and I type this post with tears literally streaming down my cheeks. However; I know my friend and I know that she will do all that she can to squeeze every bit of life out of every minute–however few they may be–that she has left. I think this is what I admire the most about her…her ability to fully live, even in the shadow of a looming death that is coming for her way too quickly and way too soon. I know that she would want everyone to embrace the fullness and richness of life and to embrace every experience with open arms and a grateful heart.
In honor of Wonder Woman, I’ve pulled together a few lessons that she has taught me regarding savoring the moments that matter and making every single day count. It is my hope that the rest of us can learn to live life to the fullest–even when it seems unfair.
Five Ways to Squeeze the Most Life Out of Every Single Day
1.) Love people. The most important things in our lives aren’t things–they are people. Chances are, you have people in your life who are there because you want them to be there–spouse, children, friends, family members etc. Do these people know just how special they are to you? Have you taken the time recently to show them just how much you love them? Do not put this off! There are so many easy ways to make people feel special…host an appreciation luncheon for your girlfriends, give your hubby a back massage while telling him how much you appreciate his hard work and commitment to your family, sneak up behind your unsuspecting teenager and wrap them up in a big mama bear hug, send your aunt Martha a bouquet of flowers just because. The acts of love don’t have to be big, over-the-top displays–they just need to be sincere and given without expectation of reciprocation. The goal is to ensure that if you were struck by lightning today, your loved ones would absolutely know in their hearts how much they meant to you.
2.) Be kind. The first action step was directed towards your most beloved friends and family members. This second action step however; is directed towards all of humanity. We can never truly know what another individual is experiencing in his/her own life. Yes–the lady with the screaming kid might have just rammed her shopping cart into yours, but maybe she is distracted because her husband is at home sick from his most recent chemo treatment and she is doing her best just to hold it together and put groceries on her family’s table without bursting into tears in the middle of the produce aisle. Rather than snapping at her or giving her the stink-eye, try giving her some grace and offering a smile. Kindness is never wrong. Even if she truly is just a raging b**ch, kindess is never wrong. Try holding the door for strangers, letting another car squeeze into your lane (without honking at them), giving your used jacket to a homeless person or just offering a smile as you pass someone on the street. These small acts might not seem like much but they can add up and make a real difference not only in the lives of the recipients of your kindness but in your life as well. Aesop was right when he said “no act of kindness, no matter how small, was ever wasted.”
3.) Savor everything. Don’t just drink your coffee–inhale the aroma, feel the warmth of the mug on your hands and delight in the taste. Don’t just schlep together some food for your family–relish the fact that you are creating nourishment to strengthen their bodies and spirits. Don’t just drive to work–appreciate the fact that your car started and admire the freshness of the day during your morning commute. So often, we go about our daily routines in an almost robotic state without giving any thought to our actions or notice to our surroundings. How much more FabYOUlous could our days be if we simply added a little mindfulness and took the time to truly savor the moments before us?
4.) Love passionately. This step doesn’t just refer to our intimate relationship with our significant other (though it certainly does apply there as well!)–it refers to everything that we love. Don’t be timid when expressing your affections. When you hug someone–HUG them with gusto. If you love baseball–LOVE baseball by being enthusiastic for the season to start and joyful as you cheer for your team. If you love knitting–spend time in yarn shops and indulge in beautiful yarns that feel good on your skin and in your soul. We are meant to be passionate creatures and there is nothing wrong with expressing our love and affection for the people and things that make our hearts sing. Bill Butler said it best when he said “passion is oxygen to the soul.” DON’T deprive your soul of that precious, life affirming oxygen.
5.) Laugh out loud. There are days when it is hard to smile, much less laugh. Hearing of Wonder Woman’s prognosis today has made this day one of those days. However; one of the most amazing characteristics of Wonder Woman is her amazing sense of humor in the face of situations that are definitely not funny. We all need laughter in our lives and sometimes that means that we have to make a special effort to seek it out. Whether it is popping in a funny movie to watch with the family or having a good old fashioned tickle-war with a four year old; we all must find ways to incorporate laughter into our lives. Learn some jokes to share, spend time reminiscing with old friends or look at old high school yearbooks (those are always good for a few laughs!) Just be sure to get a regular dose of Vitamin L into your life because laughter truly is the best medicine.
Regardless of what hard things we might be encountering, it is important to remain focused on all of the good that life has to offer and to make the most out of every single moment because we never know when those moments might be gone. Wonder Woman has taught me this lesson through her own example and I know that she will continue to teach it in the days that she has left. These are hard lessons learned a hard way–but they are valuable nonetheless and I am thankful to have such an amazing teacher.