Labor Day musings, and putting things into perspective

In a bit of a departure from talking about politics and other hot button issues, I wanted to write some today about human failings – that is, the inability of all of us to, at some point or another, practice certain things that we preach, take things in stride, and not live our lives to the fullest.

In my piece about my time in NYC during 9-11, I wrote the following:

It would be an understatement to say that one of the events that changed all of our lives in a most major way was 9-11. As you all know, I was in NYC when 9-11 happened. The first plane struck at 8:46 a.m. and during that time, my friend and I were in Rockefeller Ctr laughing and joking and taking a few more pictures for what we thought was going to be our last day there. We’d no idea what had happened or what was yet to come. A little before 9, we were standing by the Today show studios, trying to get on TV. By 9:25 or so, we were eating breakfast at Roxy’s Delicatessen in Times Square. We’d made lunch plans with a friend for around noontime. Well, while we were sitting there eating breakfast, my cell phone rang once and went immediately into voice mail, which was odd. The little voice mail notification kept going off and it was bugging me. I thought it may be my friend having to cancel lunch plans with us. I went outside of Roxy’s to try to the voice mail. I couldn’t get any of the buttons to work, and was irritated a bit because as I was standing outside, all of these emergency vehicles were roaring by with their sirens going off. I thought to myself “Can I not go anywhere in this damn town without it being so loud?”

I didn’t know at the time that those emergency vehicles were headed to the WTC. I couldn’t get the ‘peace’ I desired because those vehicles were headed off to try to save people. I couldn’t hit the buttons on my phone to check my voice mail because the WTC had been hit and as a result just about all forms of phone communication had gone down. Shortly after, the WTC went down, too. I was riddled with guilt for months – I still feel it sometimes – for the petty things I let myself get irritated over. It was not a big deal I couldn’t check my voice mail. It wasn’t a huge deal that breakfast wasn’t so great. What was a big deal was what was going in Lower Manhattan. If only I’d known, I’d never have acted so petty over the little things that morning.

Ever since that day, I’ve talked often to friends and family about the daily problems we all wrestle with, and have advised them to try and put those things in their proper perspective. So many things we worry over are, in the big scheme of things, not worth the time and energy we expend to worry over. Of course, I’m not talking about life or death situations, but things like how long it’s taking the waiter to bring you your food at a restaurant, or the long lines you have to wait in on days like today, when everyone is out shopping the Labor Day sales, or when some guy cuts you off at the redlight, or when you can’t check your voice mail due to unforseen circumstances and it’s driving you nuts. These things are really too meaningless to get upset over, when you think about it, yet so many of us will sit there and fume and/or glare at the offending person/object. Or we’ll stew over it in the privacy of our cars, home, or at work.

I’m writing this today because over the course of the last year, both my mom and dad’s sides of the family have seen more and more losses. They are mostly distant relatives who I wasn’t close to, but all the same, it’s a reminder that 1) my mom and dad are getting older and of course the family is going to experience more losses as they age and along with that, 2) it’s a reminder of my mom and dad’s mortality, which I don’t particularly want to contemplate, 3) that it’s important to treat life as a gift which we should enjoy to the fullest, and, most importantly, appreciate and not take for granted, and 4) that if you are a believer, as I am, you should continue to grow in your understanding of God, and to be aware that He is in control, and that you should rest contentedly in that knowledge.

Today, my dad visited an aunt and uncle, both of whom have cancer, and one of whom (aunt) only has a few months to live. Granted, they are both in their mid 80s and have lived a full life, but all the same, knowing what they are going through has once again made me think about how trivial so many things are that we worry about, because they’re just not that important. If we spent less time worrying, and a lot more time living, our lives would be so much more fulfilling – emotionally, physically, spiritually …

I worry so much about things beyond my control, and at the same time there’s so much I want to do with my life that I’ve held myself back from experiencing out of little more than fear of the unknown. The older I get, the more I realize how much of a hindrance these (mostly) irrational fears have been to me living life to the fullest. Don’t get me wrong – I’m happy with my life, but it’s easy to get too “comfortable” in the daily routine without challenging myself, and there’s a restlessness inside of me that has grown with each year, a restlessness the origins of which I can’t exactly pinpoint. I figure by the time I hit 40, I’m going to dip into the ol’ savings account and take some time off to do some extensive traveling, or perhaps buy a motorcycle, take some classes in painting or photography, or just, heck, – do something that takes me beyond my “comfort zone.”

In the meantime, the struggle continues to make myself not sweat the small stuff, while at the same time trying my hardest to let go of the fears that hold me back from getting the utmost fulfillment out of life. I’m one of those people who love giving advice to other people in an effort to try and get them out of a quandary, but find it hard to take my own advice when the situation warrants it. Like, I can see so clearly when talking to someone who is fretting about taking a risk – I generally will tell them to “Just do it! You only live once.” Yet more often than not won’t take that same advice myself, mostly out of fear. I hate being afraid. Especially when I know the fear I have is one that was, in most cases, brought on internally, not by outside events. I know I only have one life to live, shouldn’t let myself get worked up over little things, and should throw caution to the wind and quit holding myself back from so much I want to do in life, but all of that is easier said than done. I know I’m not the only person who feels like this, but when I look around me, sometimes I feel as though I am.

I didn’t have a particular direction I wanted to go with this piece, but I wanted to write about it anyway as it was something weighing heavily on my mind. Thanks for listening to me “think out loud.”

Comments are closed.