You never know when you’re going to run out of minutes
A month ago, my sister in law died on the way home from celebrating her wedding anniversary. One minute she was tweeting about her wonderful dinner, the next minute she was dead.
End of story.
No do-overs, no second chances, no more minutes; just death, right up close and personal.
Her husband was driving the car, and he tried valiantly to save her, but nothing worked. She was gone.
I’ve been very reflective in the weeks since then, and I’ve realized I’ve spent a good portion of my life worrying about trivia.
I was taught at an early age that worrying was the way to get through life. My father worried himself to death, as did my brother and my nephew. My dad died of his third heart attack, my brother and nephew from their first.
It was almost as if my father’s goal was to die as young as possible after grinding through a life of misery and poverty. He wanted something better for me but still wanted me to follow in his footsteps. Like a good son, I tried to make my life an imitation of his.
But I never got sick. I never had a heart attack, my gallbladder did not need removing, I never gained the weight my father did, and when I left on my great adventure of life, I never went back home the way he did.
What I did do was worry. I worried about everything. I needed to plan in advance, or the world did not work right. I would plan out my driving routes so I wouldn’t have to make left-hand turns across traffic to get to my destination.
I was vindicated
When Stephen Covey popularized the idea of beginning with the end in mind, I was all into that. I had thought that way as long as I could remember and here it was an actual legitimate idea in a book. I felt vindicated.
What I didn’t realize then was while I could begin with a goal in mind, I could be flexible with my path toward that goal. I was seriously that guy who planned the trip from San Diego to the Rock and roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, and knew where I was going to stop for gas along the way.
Overall, planning is not a bad thing, but if I had to deviate from my plan, I started to worry. I worried because I felt if one thing wasn’t going according to plan, that meant everything was going to fall apart.
It took me a long time to understand this was my father’s way of thinking. My mother worried, too, but her worries were masked by her bipolar disorder, and it was hard to figure out what was real in her thinking.
Most things in the world are details. And very few of them are substantial enough to warrant a second thought.
In my writing, I don’t like typos or misplaced commas or pronouns with unclear antecedents, so I edit my work. A lot.
Because I do that, I know that I rarely publish with errors.
Because I do that, I know I have always published my best work.
So I don’t worry about publishing anymore.
In regular everyday life, I also do the very best I can do. I live that way consistently. Because I live that way, I know that if something untoward occurs in my day, I have already done the best I knew how to do. I don’t worry anymore if I have to fix something.
I no longer feel guilty if I make a mistake in anything. And I have almost released the need to be perfect.
The death of my sister-in-law changed my life in ways I didn’t even think were possible. I was sure I was stuck in my path for the rest of my life. I don’t want to spend even one more minute bogged down in the pursuit of trivia. I’d much rather fill my life with exactly what I want.
If that means I have to let go of some ideas that no longer serve me, I’m letting go of those ideas.
Perhaps the idea of letting go of things that don't serve you might help you also. You’re welcome to borrow it if you like.