EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a repost from my old blog. Original Post 4/18/11
Do you have a friend or colleague that is getting ready to start a new job? Perhaps you know someone that will be starting a new weight-loss diet. Maybe you even have a best friend that is on the verge of becoming engaged to get married. Most of us have planned for a spring break or summer vacation by working on our “beach bodies.” Have you ever noticed that major events in our lives cause us to plan and begin working in advance? Before starting a new job or semester of school we spend our free time finishing tasks and enjoying our last few days of peace. Men (and women) will often put off an engagement long enough to embrace the remainder of their freedom as a bachelor. Prior to starting a new diet, people are sure to partake of holiday foods and the “last meal.”
Unfortunately in life, we are rarely afforded the opportunity to plan ahead for tragedy. We can’t simply schedule when chaos and calamity will occur. Too often disaster happens when we seem to be least prepared. The death of a family member, a car accident, personal injury, termination of employment and a myriad of trials are certain to be around the next corner. However many of us don’t plan or prepare as we could. That lack of preparation may be due to busyness, ignorance or denial. Whatever the reason, we should ask ourselves “What would I do if I knew “it” was to occur?”Whether we experience a simple bump in the road or an entire detour, we should already have a tentative plan in place.
I have just experienced one of the most frustrating and disappointing weeks of my life. Until two weeks ago I was participating as a student in Officer Candidate School (OCS) for the Indiana Army National Guard at Fort Benning, Georgia. During school, I was actively engaged in classes every day, fulfilling leadership responsibilities, working with my squad, and physically getting ARMY strongER in order to become commissioned as a second lieutenant. However, after enduring an unprecedented amount of pain, I learned that I developed a bad stress fracture in my left ankle. Unfortunately, this injury was serious enough to remove me from OCS to allow my ankle to properly heal.
Before I knew it, I was packed and heading to the airport. Now I am back home with strict instructions from my doctor that the only way to recover is to stay off of my ankle. Basically that restricts me from any physical activity and even limits me from walking or standing for long periods of time. Anyone that knows me…can testify it is nearly impossible for me to even sit still. This past week I began to realize that the simplest tasks were no longer easy.
One of the most difficult aspects of this whole situation is that I went from maintaining an extremely active schedule at Fort Benning to literally doing nothing physical all day. I found myself with the strongest urge to just go for a long run. I would have been happy to jump on a bike, treadmill or just do one hundred jumping jacks!! My emotions ran high this week in that I am frustrated with my physical limitations and disappointed in not being able to finish OCS at this point.
As I reflected on this week I was reminded of a song, recorded by country artist Tim McGraw, titled Live Like You Were Dying. Certainly, you’ve heard this song…”I went sky diving, I went Rocky Mountain climbing, I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.” I used to think this song was silly until I actually read the lyrics. This song tells the story of a guy that learned he only had a short time to live and was asked: “Man, whatcha do?” The song goes on to share all of the emotions and experiences of a person facing his last days. Not only would he rush out to attempt exploits such as sky-diving and bull riding, but would actually experience life itself. The song talks of becoming the husband, friend, and son that he never was before. He would finally have time to read the bible, go fishing and learn how to love and forgive.
Clichés such as “take time to smell the roses” and “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey” among many others, are etched in our brains, but often we get so focused on the life that we forget the truth hidden among them. Most of us have a “list” of things that we want to get started or finish. Our list may include starting a special project, going back to school, taking a vacation, spending more time with family or volunteering some time. Since I am stuck sitting around waiting for my ankle to heal, there are so many things that I want to do that I never took the time to do before. However, there are even more things that I wanted to accomplish that I never forced myself to slow down long enough to even start. So while I can’t go for a jog, I can hit the weights. While I can’t mow the grass, I can write letters and organize my office.
One of the last verses in McGraw’s song says “Like tomorrow was a gift, and you got eternity, to think about what you’d do with it.” Another line says “Someday, I hope you get the chance, to live life like you were dying.” While my silly ankle injury is far different, I have gained a greater appreciation this week.
Death is among the most difficult events, emotionally, that humans face in their lives. I have experienced a number of tragic losses close to me including my father, brother, grandparents, close friends, and others. Even though death has a major emotional impact we allow ourselves to remain so engrossed in our everyday lives that we can’t make time for those that we love the most. It takes too much time or greatly inconveniences us to give up an evening or weekend to visit with friends or travel across the country to visit family. However, when death occurs, we drop everything, take time off work and re-order our schedules in order to attend a funeral. I began to question myself as to why I could make that happen for a funeral but not do the same while the person, that I claim to love, was still alive and well. What would happen if I spent more time intentionally investing in relationships with the people that mean the most to me while I still have time? Are there other priorities in my life that I need to re-order?
So….what is on your list? Do you even have a list? Whether you are 16 or 60, what are the things that you SHOULD be doing that gets skipped over every single day? What COULD you do if your boss gave you a paid leave of absence? What WOULD you do if realized that your life would drastically change next week? Are you thinking about a major project that you need to begin or a simple phone call that you have been putting off? Is there someone that needs your forgiveness or an organization that needs your time? Perhaps you have a simple assignment at work or a significant task at home. Whatever your feat is, you are invited to join me as I begin to work through my list.