Live verb \ˈliv\
8: to have a life rich in experience
3: to exhibit vigor, gusto, or enthusiasm in
4a: to experience firsthand
b: to be thoroughly absorbed by or involved with
I’ve spent most of my life in preparation for something, constantly anticipating, expecting, planning. My mother raised me to be a worrier, which, I suppose, is a fairly typical byproduct of growing up with a terminally ill parent. Our daily lives were a schedule of pills to take, appointments to keep and emergencies to evade – and, when the emergencies were not evaded, last-minute stays at various relatives’ or friends’ homes, more hospital visits and even more pills. By the age of eight, I had learned to always carry a packed bag, a list of phone numbers, a book and snacks with me. This kind of setting certainly does not encourage spontaneity or frivolity, even for a small child; it’s difficult to relax and be happy when death and turmoil are part and parcel of the daily conversation.
While I learned some useful life skills from the controlled chaos of living alongside a terminal illness (upside: I’m definitely the girl you want to have with you in a crisis situation), the predisposition toward being ever-so-tightly wound has taken half a lifetime to overcome. I spent most of my twenties as an intense perfectionist, allowing no room for error in myself or others, the consequence of which was an undertone of disappointment that gradually infiltrated the folia of my life. I kept loved ones on a short leash, held grudges, built emotional walls, picked myself apart when even I couldn’t meet my ridiculously high standards. And it resulted in a very low rate of return for a whole hell of a lot of work.
In the past few years, I have gradually learned to set down the worry (gently tucked into the corner, within arm’s reach lest I feel the impulse to lunge for it in a moment of panic) and to get on with this whole process of living. And as I’ve become more intent on doing so, I’ve discovered that far more of us don’t reside in a natural state of “let’s roll with it”. Enjoying ourselves and embracing what life throws at us is apparently a learned skill. Who knew? To avoid shades of hypocrisy, I won’t dole out advice on this- but I will say that the best memories of my life have been those moments in which I have let go, let up on myself and just let it all happen. The snippets of pure bliss that stay with me – dancing under spotlights, ziplining down a mountain on Maui, playing in a freezing cold ocean, those kisses that can change your whole world – these are what I try to cling to now. Not the stability, the predictability, the plan, but the promise of those moments of joy and abandon somewhere off in the distance. They will always be fleeting, inevitably followed by some level of sadness or strife, but I know now, with full faith, that the journey through the tempestuous times will always be punctuated by the arrival of something new, surprising, soothing – something worth waiting for.
There is a distinct difference between merely surviving and really living.
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