Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What Are You Waiting For?

I had another one of those moments. You know, the ones. You feel like you've had an epiphany, and you swear you'll keep that feeling, and learn from it and be forever changed. Until life gets in the way and that feeling slowly drifts away, and you go back to the day-to-day.

It happened on my getaway weekend to Florida. While enjoying time with my family, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face and the vitamin D replenishing in my body, the phone rang. My sister's dear friend had been diagnosed with cancer. She was in the hospital, and my sister was soon on the next plane to be at her friend's bedside. As I sat in the sunshine offering prayers of strength and healing; I drifted back to a time when I sat at my husband's side while he fought his brave battle with cancer, and I began to think "what am I waiting for?"

After Phil died, I made a 4-year plan. I was going to get my girls through their teenage years, through high school and into college. And then, I would start to think about my life. After my second one left for college, I found myself thinking "I'll get them through college, and then I'll do some of the things I want to do."

I remember a post on a support group site I was on, where a woman expressed her regret at something she found in her drawer after her husband's death: A sexy Victoria Secret nightie she had never worn, still with its tags. She had bought it to wear on a romantic weekend away that some unforeseen event prevented them from taking. Her husband asked her more than once to wear it, but she kept saying she wanted to save it for another weekend away. Save it for something special.

What was she waiting for?

I put off things I want to buy or don't go on vacations or take more time away from work with family and friends. I say it's because of work, groceries, car and mortgage payments or tuition. And while it's all in the name of responsibility, and I say I'm planning for the future, maybe its an excuse. Maybe the future should be NOW. I've watched people around me, the same age, or maybe 5 or 10 years older than me work and work and say "I'll do this, or that or travel when I retire" and then drop dead of a heart attack or die of cancer never having the chance.

What are we waiting for?

I've had another epiphany, and this time, I am going to pay attention. I'm not waiting anymore. I know the economy is bad. I get that we shouldn't spend money on things we can't afford...but life really is too short. I'm going to live for today. I'm going to use the good china for everyday dinners. I'm going to use the guest towels all the time. I'm going to invite people over, and not worry if the house isn't clean. I'm going to open my mind, my heart and even my wallet, (ever so responsibly) and spend some of the money I work so hard to make. I'm going to de-clutter, de-stress and just plain simplify. Because you can't take it with you.

Erma Bombeck wrote a piece several years ago that I just love called "If I Had My Life To Live Over." In it were gems like this: "I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage. I would have eaten the popcorn in the 'good' living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace. I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because I just had my hair done. I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime."

I'm going to live my life and have some fun. Wanna join me? And if you are hesitating...

What are you waiting for?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Hope For A New Year

Over the last couple of days I've caught a lot of those "top stories of the year" type of programs. Yep...the reviews are in...and the news is not good. The financial industry, the housing market, the automakers, the nation's retailers and the average Joe would agree that the economy is in the tanker. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, while other pockets of chaos keep popping up daily in places like Gaza, India....and in our own cities, suburbs and in some households.

With all this bad news, however, I still feel a strong sense of hope. Maybe I'm crazy, but I think a lot of good can come from hard times. An interesting example of this was a story I just heard on the news the other day. CNN reported that divorce rates are falling in a big way. First of all, couples are finding paying 2 attorneys is darn expensive. Secondly, the housing market is so bad, they can't sell their homes, or their homes' value has dropped below what they owe, so that after selling and splitting assets both parties will have nothing. Finally, the child support or alimony one would have to pay, added to the expense of 2 households has put divorce plans on hold. One couple interviewed decided to just stick together, and low and behold, they are working through their issues and are happy they stayed together.

Those of us who grew up with parents or grandparents who lived through the depression have heard the stories of sacrifice. Admit it, maybe you rolled your eyes more than once as you heard again and again how "you kids today don't know how good you have it, because back in my day..." Yeah, times were tough back then, we know. But do we? The fact is, the lessons they learned and the advice so many of us passed on now seems like wisdom from the Dali Lama. Maybe its time we head back up the mountain and heed some of that sage advice now.

As I think of the way my Dad and Mom ran their household, and their parents before them ran theirs, I think that if we ran our family finances, our businesses, heck even our government this way, maybe we can turn things around. And now that we've come so close to hitting rock bottom, maybe we will.

I hold out hope that in 2009 we can pay down our debt, not buy it if we can't pay for it, start saving, and learn the difference between wants and needs and teach that to our children.

I hold out hope, that under the leadership of our new president, we will be inspired to work together, on both sides of the aisle politically, and that tolerance among the races, the sexes, the creeds and classes develops more quickly as the realization that we are all in this together sinks in.

I hold out hope that the lessons learned through our watching the results of greed and irresponsibility become conduits for change in the world, in our country and in our homes.

I hold out hope that these lessons will sink in sooner than than later, and the quick, decisive action on the part of our government leaders will turn things around a lot more quickly than those "experts" predict. Hey--it could happen! Heck, what do they know? This time last year, the supposed "experts" sure didn't predict this mess!

I hold out hope that somehow, some way, this is the year we make progress in the areas of education and health care.

And I hold out hope for peace...in our world....in our country...in our neighborhoods and in our families.

We are the greatest nation in the world because of our diversity. There is no one set of rules that will fit us all, and it is through compromise, acceptance, and tolerance that we will come out of this together, and stronger.

Here's hoping for a great 2009...for all of us.