Friday, January 9, 2009

Stop. Rewind...

Earlier this fall, I set out to run at the local high school outdoor track. The darkness was settling, and a mesmerizing, brilliant sunset was just before me. Oranges, yellows, pinks, and reds streaked the sky; the air was so crisp it burned in my throat. A perfect winter-preview evening that most would undoubtedly enjoy.

I, however, burst into tears. As I rounded the first curve on the track, deep, heaving sobs escaped me. Emotion poured from my heart, and I gladly let the tears flow.

I knew where this outburst had come from. It wasn’t a surprise. It was only a matter of time before the simmering pot boiled over.

I’d just turned 35.

My mind flashed to a time in my life, twelve years earlier--some fifty miles away. I’d found great pleasure in locating a great running track near my new home, and I religiously used it as my escape. Throughout my life, I’d always run…or walked…or found another outlet to clear my head.

At 23, my whole life stretched before me. I had my first real job, my first real apartment. I’d had my first real heartbreak, and my first taste of real true debt. I was in great physical shape and was poised to make promotion after promotion at my publishing company. I was also poised to make a series of poor decisions regarding the opposite sex. Truth be told, my 20s was not only the best time of my life…but also the hardest. And as cliché as it sounds, it was a decade of complete floundering and growing.

Now here I was…five whole years ‘til 40. Where had time gone? How did I get steps away from being…old?

Norman Vincent Peale said, “Live your life and forget your age.” Hard words to live by.

After each lap I found myself wondering what happened to some of my life plans. Long before Sex and the City became every girl’s vision of a dream life, I’d wanted to escape to New York City to explore a career…and an utter assortment of endless dates. I never did. I’d also fancied a pipedream of holing up on Nantucket or The Vineyard for a summer of waiting tables in return for room-and-board and a whirlwind summer romance that would make even Danielle Steel jealous. Never happened. In my mid-twenties, I’d wanted to embark on an Outward Bound adventure in Colorado with the hopes of kicking my own ass and pushing all boundaries. A trip never taken.

Now here I was, weeping on this track, staring wasted time in the face.

I think it’s fallacious when people say they live with no regrets. I have plenty of them. Some I hold so tightly to my chest that it’s hard to embrace the present.

Why had I let time pass by in relationships that were stagnant and fruitless? Why had I stayed loyal to a career that had ultimately become unrewarding? Why hadn’t I spent more time with my mother, taking her to lunch and the beach, before she’d become too sick to do so? Why had I let fear hold me back? Why had I stayed immobile for years, when I could have been pushing forward, achieving goals…making my dreams a reality?

Why does time pass so quickly? Why can’t I press STOP? Then Rewind. Or maybe even just Pause?

As we get older, we come to accept that time is a companion that accompanies us on our journey. It is there to remind us to cherish each moment, because these moments will never come again. We also realize that what we leave behind is not as important as how we have lived. But why is time so fleeting?

As each mile ticked my on my run, I came to some powerful realizations. I want more time to live. Time to read all the books I want to read. Time to run the races I want to run. Time to nurture my friendships and make new ones. Time to love my husband. Time to love myself. Time…period.

Before my mother passed away she firmly stated her wishes that she have a simple obituary. “None of that business about me being a member of the Gardening Club or anything like that. Simple…to the point.” I didn’t agree with her then, and I still don’t.

When I die, let my obituary detail all of my accomplishments…no matter how minute. Let it cost a $1.00 per word, and let there be thousands of words.

Looking back, I realize that a very special person passed through my life these past 35 years—it was me. And as my wrinkles appear, the laugh lines set in, and the gray hairs outweigh the blonde, let time be on my side…and let me live.

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