“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.” — Maya Angelou
My friend Clay wrote me the other day to tell me about a book he’s reading. It’s called Seven Ages of Paris, and in it, the French writer Colette is quoted as having said the following just before she died in 1954:
“What a beautiful life I’ve had. It’s a pity I didn’t notice it sooner.”
That quote landed on me like a thud. I hope you’ll stop and absorb it, too. Make a silent vow to not be Colette, like I did.
Now, to be honest, I’ve been in Colette’s heels before. When I was younger, I was constantly running through life as I juggled work, my children, my parents and all the other obligations coming my way. My to-do list was pages’ long, and it was all of my own making. I wasn’t noticing anything along the way because I was just trying to get everything done and start all over again.
Thank God I came to my senses.
I write this message with the hope that you come to your senses as well. Life is to be noticed. That goes for the big moments and all the little ones in between. It includes the mundane, the normal and the everyday moments, like dinners with your family, movies with your kids, walks in the park and conversations with those you love and admire. It even includes the heartbreak you experience as well. It’s worth noticing in its own way because it is always life-altering.
What I’ve come to notice is that if we are brave enough to allow parts of ourselves to die—old roles, old beliefs, and old identities that no longer serve us—then we can evolve more fully into our authentic selves. Sit with that.
On the other side of letting things go—on the other side of the dissolution of what was—is transformation. So, instead of resisting the idea of letting go, ease your way into it. Notice the new you that emerges when you allow the old to dissolve, however painful it may be.
Have you noticed how life is always evolving in that way? How it isn’t a Disneyland ride or a reality show? Life unfolds in real time with real people, and you only get one chance to make it your own.
These days, I notice everything. I notice when someone steps up to help me. I notice when someone calls me. I notice kindness. I notice when people leave me encouraging (and not so encouraging) comments. I notice when someone stops me to talk about my Alzheimer’s work or The Sunday Paper.
I notice when my life feels full and when it feels empty. I notice when I feel happy and when I feel sad. I notice life’s complexities and its simplicities, and how each day can present us with a combination of both. I also notice that I’m aging. Whenever I notice that, I also think about what no longer is, and what keeps evolving as life ebbs and flows.
I marvel at how hard life is, and also how easy it can be. I also observe how unfair it is, how short it is, and how no two lives are the same. My life isn’t yours, and yours isn’t mine. Yours is your own to create, experience, notice and live.
If I’m paying attention, then I can probably learn a thing or two from you. I share my own thoughts each week with the hope that perhaps something I’ve learned in my life might awaken a spark in you. Perhaps my words or experiences will inspire you, strengthen you or move you to see your own life in a new way. That’s a big part of my life: noticing, sharing, serving and using my voice. It helps me make sense of why I’m here.
So if you feel like your life is going too fast, then stop. Commit yourself to slowing down. Start by noticing one encounter or one experience every day, and move forward from there. None of us know how long we have on this Earth, so make sure to pause and notice what’s in front of you.
Then when your time finally comes, you’ll be able to say, “Isn’t life magical and mysterious and amazing? Isn’t it extraordinary what I witnessed, experienced and noticed? Thank God I paid attention. Thank God I took notice. Thank God I’m not sitting here saying I missed the whole thing.”
Dear God, help me appreciate all the precious moments in this life you’ve given me. Sometimes it can feel like it’s rushing by, but may I never forget to pause and celebrate all of the wonderful things along the way. Amen.
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