Reflections on Life...
A few nights ago, I had dinner with some long time friends. It had been several years since we had all been together, and so much has gone on with all of us in that time, and so naturally we were reflecting on the things that life sometimes brings that we were not expecting. In the case of one of the friends, she lost her husband some time ago to illness. However, she is not the only friend I have who has lost a husband or partner early, and there are many others who find themselves waking up and realizing that they are in a place where they never expected to be – whether it be divorced, separated, still single, childless or single parent to name but a few. The thing that struck me the most about my friend however is that she was full of life. I have actually been thinking about it ever since we met up that night. How do you describe someone who is tangibly full of life – positive energy and laughter spilling out onto everyone around her, and just radiating joy, even in the face of tragedy? In truth – she has always been this way, and it has always been one of my favourite things about her. One of the things that she said about her husband reminded me of something that another friend who lost her husband said about him. Once we fell deeper into conversation they said that both of these men had lived life, and lived it to the fullest! They pursued life with passion on every front, be it work, family, or even in terms of vacations and travel. It is with these thoughts from persons who have lived through these tragedies and the memories from those who have passed that I reflect on life, and what it means to me to live, and more importantly to be truly alive.
Because I think there is definitely a difference between living, and truly being alive and full of life. This is something that I have thought a lot about recently as I seem to have reached the age where myself and a number of friends are having challenges with health, relationships, children, finances, business, the list goes on. I find that I often think back to that late twenties and early thirties part of my life and remember jogging through the streets of Cheltenham with the wind in my face feeling full of life and energy. Somehow it has felt difficult to recapture that as I have gotten older (least of all because the only time I run these days is if the pedestrian crossing light is about to turn red… I won’t even run for a donut!). But there is a part of me that knows it was more than the physical fitness and strength I felt that in those moments that made me feel alive, although that was definitely a part of it. In fact, the words that instantly come to mind when I think about being alive they are laughter, joy, freedom and fun. And when I think about all of the times that I feel those things in life these days, they are woefully fewer than I would like.
For me, sometimes I feel that a big part of what gets in the way of those feelings is simply “adulting” – those things that we do as part of being an adult. Paying bills, having responsibilities, going to work and spending my days on things that feel more like they drain me than light me up most of the time. And the funny thing about it is that I remember being a teenager and feeling like being an adult would be just the thing to bring me joy, freedom and fun because I would have autonomy! Seems as if the only part of living that I truly enjoy most days is the laughter (this morning, like most days it was at myself – I accidentally sent a selfie to a friend when I was trying to take a picture of something!!! Me and technology is like monkey handling gun sometimes!!).
One of the questions that I have been asking myself along this journey is how do I make sure that every day I am able to live, and to feel alive. Not because I don’t want to have regrets when I am old and grey, but because I want to truly live now and make the most of this God given life that I have. Will it depend on some distant future goal I have for my health, or my finances, or my vacations? On retirement? On meeting the “right person” (or indeed on meeting the “wrong person” and having some fun?) Does that even make any sense? Or can I find a way now and every day to bring life into my life?
As I said earlier – this is a reflection. I have not by any means figured this out, although I sometimes think that the first step for me was the simple realization that life is too short to spend on auto-pilot, waiting for some mythical thing to make me feel alive; too short to spend all of my waking time on things that weren’t truly valuable to me. A big part of feeling alive for me is to be of service to others, to find meaning in what I do, and to spend time with the people that I love, and who light me up, and who I hope I can do the same for. So for me, it is important to fill my day with these things and the joy, laughter, freedom and fun that they bring! And it is also important to try to remove some of the things that don’t bring me those feelings, or try to reframe them in such a way that they don’t drain me.
It has been hugely inspiring for me to see people who have gone through tragedies in life take the opportunity to make each moment matter. So I will close with 3 things that I learned about truly being alive (or that were reinforced to me) 2 nights ago as I started my birthday celebrations early with my two dear friends.
1. Enjoy the journey – I will aim to live in such a way that even if I never reach my goals, I have enjoyed each step of the journey
2. Live out my dreams with boldness – I will be courageous enough to take steps towards my dreams
3. Keep in touch with good friends – no matter how far apart we become in distance.
What does truly being alive mean to you? I am curious to know.
Big love from a small island
Ps the above photo was taken in the Lake District when I visited some years ago, one of my favourite spots!