In perusing yahoo news, I came across an article about a study done of older Americans (aged 65+) and what they regretted most in their lives. The most common answer? Worry. Out of 1500 people, the most common regret was that they’d spent too much of their lives worrying.
You can read about the study here.
I found this to be particularly relevant because I notice more and more young adults riddled with anxiety, more and more middle aged adults suffering the side effects of stress, and more and more people turning to pharmaceuticals for relief.
Some worry is unavoidable. If you’re a parent, worry comes with the job. If you or a loved one is suffering an illness, make room for worry.
But kids? Really?
School is harder than ever. The things my kids learn about in high school were college subjects in my day. A friend was talking the other day about a five year old who didn’t want to go to kindergarten because she didn’t know how to read. In kindergarten! When I was in kindergarten, we learned to tie our shoes. And it was half-day.
Bottom line: life’s too short. Every day is a gift. If we spend too much time worrying about things that either don’t matter or can’t be changed, we are frittering away the gift of life.
So get off the computer. Go outside for a walk. Read a good book. Call a friend. Smile at a stranger. Live the gift, and have no regrets.
My son recently completed his freshman year at college. With 1500 miles and two time zones between us, for me this past year has been a lesson in letting go, in sitting back and believing we taught him right, in trusting him to make his own choices.
I thought I was doing so well, too. And then Sunday happened.
Sunday was the first day massive tornadoes tore through the Midwest, and the first day of his trek, alone and by car, from Denver to Atlanta. The same trek I’d offered, countless times, to fly out and make with him, so I could keep him company, so his father and I wouldn’t worry.
But he chose to make the trek alone, and I was okay with that. He’s a good kid, he makes good choices, so I had to be. Practice what you preach, right?
Or I was, that is, until I checked Twitter.
Okay, so clearly he was joking but he also was not. He really was huddled under a bridge, mostly because, he told me later, it was raining too hard to drive and he followed a parade of cars there. He said he figured there was… well, if not safety than at least comfort in numbers.
Words every mother wants to hear.
His second tweet was even worse.
That’s when I pulled my I’m Your Mother and I Command You card and told him to find shelter for the night, preferably underground. He was already on his way to the nearest and sturdiest hotel. He made it home a few days later, a little shaken but safe and sound. Looking back at the footage from Sunday and Monday, I know he was one of the lucky ones.
When faced with an EF5 tornado, my son made the right choices. He found shelter under a bridge, then as soon as it was safe, found better shelter. He watched the radar and listened to local radio, and planned his route accordingly. And his mother, had she been sitting beside him, wouldn’t have done anything differently.
Still. He was blessed, and so am I.
For those of you who’ve ever read my byline, you’d know I’m a bit of a news junkie. I wasn’t always such a nerd, but when the kids started school and I was at home for large chunks of the day by myself, I’d turn on the news just to have some noise in the house. I figured it was better than the soap operas I used to be addicted to in college.
So when I turned on the news first thing Friday morning, of course the Colorado massacre was all anyone was talking about. How could someone do something so horrible to so many innocent people? It was too much to process before my first hit of caffeine, and still impossible to believe three days later.
What that person did on Friday made me not want to go to the movies, or to a mall (although I hate the mall, so that wasn’t such a big deal), or to a restaurant, or anywhere with large groups of people. Isn’t it sad that we now have to think before we take our families to the movies! What I need to focus on instead of the danger lurking outside my door is the love of my family and friends. Life is precious, and short lived, and tragedy can strike when you’re least expecting it. I’ve had enough reminders of that lately and so have you, I’m sure, because life is messy and real and full of as much heartbreak as love.
So, as we see the faces of the victims and read about their lives cut tragically short, we need to remember to tell the people we love that we care about them. Hug your kids, call your parents, reach out to your friends. We can’t stop the crazy people of this world, but we can make sure we don’t have any regrets when it’s our time to go.
Thank you, readers of Women Unplugged, for reading—be it once or faithfully three times per week. Thank you, my Women Unplugged blog sisters, for making me laugh and think and occasionally shed a tear. Your cyber friendship means more to me than you know.
Now it’s your turn. Call a friend, send an email, give someone a hug. You’ll feel better for it.
I’m revisiting this post from one of my tour stops last month. It was one of my favorites, since it brought up some great memories.
I’m not a big traveler. I mean, I’d like to be, I’d like to be toodling around in a giant Winnebago or flying off to exotic locales like ones I read about. But my very blue collar world doesn’t include scenarios like that. I’ve only really been on a few big trips in my life.
A big vacation when I was in the fourth grade brought me to the Grand Canyon and all up the West Coast. I’ve been scuba diving in Grand Cayman and Cozumel and Honduras. I’ve been to London. I’ve been skiing in Taos, NM. All of those things were in my twenties. And I went to Vegas for my honeymoon. That about sums up my travelling portfolio.
But one trip that wasn’t a vacation, stands out in my head as life altering.
When my daughter was five, her dad and I called it quits. We were living in Colorado at the time, a beautiful, majestic place. Also rivaling California for expensive living. I couldn’t afford to live there on my own, and I didn’t want to. It was time to move back home. To Texas. To family.
The small town I was going back to would be very different from what I was leaving behind. I knew that. I knew I was making the conscious choice to raise my daughter in an entirely different lifestyle. She would be a blue-collar Texas girl, like I was. So my dad and my brother rented a uHaul truck and drove the 2-day stretch to come help me pack up everything I owned, and we left.
I remember looking in the rearview mirror with tears in my eyes as I watched the big rock formation in Castle Rock, Colorado disappear around a bend.
I knew I’d never be back. I felt the loss as I drove through mountain passes and little picturesque towns. I looked at my daughter, coloring in a Barbie coloring book, who really wasn’t old enough to register what she was leaving behind, and both celebrated that fact and regretted it.
I got to spend precious moments with my dad, that I didn’t really realize was precious at the time. We stopped and ate at little mom and pop diners along the way, and stayed at the tiniest roach motel I’ve ever seen…lol… I remember pulling up finally, at the end of the second day, into my mother’s driveway. Thinking: “I’m finally home” and “Oh my God, what have I done” at the very same time. I had no house, no job, no security for my daughter other than a support system of family. I got us there two weeks before Kindergarten started, so she’d start in one place and not have to move in the middle.
One month later, I found a rent house and a job in the very same day. And five years later my dad died…with my mom to follow eight months after that. My choice gave my daughter a chance to know them, hang out with them almost daily. She has deep rooted memories that I wish could have lasted longer but at least they are there. She’s 17 now, and remembers certain activities with them vividly.
I still miss Colorado sometimes, but I’ve been here for twelve years now, have remarried into a wonderful family and have fully reinstated my Texas drawl and attitude. It’s home again.
Do you have a trip that changed your life in some way? Share!