“Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass… It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” – Vivian Greene
Rachels mom Barb died last week. “Beautiful Barb”, as she was called by high school paramours back in the day, was a big part of our lives. It was jarring; despite a devastating, near fatal stroke last year, she had fought like a lion and was doing well for some time. She was the most popular lady in her nursing home unit (called “Evergreen”), and Rachel did everything in her power to take care of her mom and spoil her rotten. We frequently executed precision jailbreaks and escaped in a wheelchair-accessible getaway vehicle. And when we couldn’t get her over the wall, we snuck in more contraband than Morgan Freeman in Shawshank Redemption. Red Lobster, mostly.
Despite her partial paralysis, her physical and cognitive limitations, and her slow recovery, Barb was unfailingly positive. She was frustrated by things that people told her she couldn’t do, but she never stopped trying to take care of other people, and lived as if there was no medical issue at all. She excelled in little gestures that were no less meaningful for their modesty.
More importantly, in a brief time, she taught those around her that your circumstances may be godawful, shitty, and unfair, but that doesn’t mean that you are condemned to a miserable existence. You can’t control much in life, but you can control the way you live it.
We do a lot of talking on this blog about Heroic Quests and Exotic Adventure and the like. And I have tried to embrace the whole Carpe Diem thing as if I belonged to some sort of Society, wherein we read works by Dead Poets. Call it, I don’t know… the Deceased Wordsmiths Association.
Barb’s funeral put us in an understrandably philosophical mood. The whole Life is Short collectors set of cliches.
The Bucket List. It’s a thing that people do in order to dodge future regrets. It was also a movie, coincidentally co-starring Morgan Freeman, who once famously remarked, “Get busy living or get busy dying“.
Usually bucket lists are comprised of a bunch of “experiences”, and often they are adrenaline boosters, to make one feel like they have led a worthwhile existence, retrospectively speaking. Stuff like:
- Swimming with manatees
- Climbing a mountain, or mounting a climber
- Doing your taxes on acid
- Punching Chuck Norris in the beard
I don’t have any particular objection to this sort of thing. On the contrary, Heroes need to be ready and willing when Strange Adventure comes calling.
In that spirit, I am joining my nephew in his Dream of performing standup comedy, as we will be taking part in an open mic night in the near future. I thought, I should support him and put my funny where my mouth is, so to speak, since I’m forever blogging about chasing one’s bliss. Not coincidentally, my nephew is not only a Hero in training, he also kicked the absolute ever-loving snot out of Stage 4 cancer in the past many months.
I’ve also toyed with ideas like Polar Bear Plunging, body piercing/tatooing, and/or motorcycle trekking. But these probably have more to do with my fast approaching fortieth birthday and the resulting mid-life crisising.
It’s just that watching Barb over the past year and a half, I think that it’s important not to get sidetracked simply checking boxes, making an interesting photo album, impressing people with your impressiveness. Living a worthwhile life isn’t a bunch of events that you participate in. It’s a state of mind, a philosophy, a code. Heroes always have a code.
I’d put it like this:
- How you live is more important than where you’ve skinny dipped.
- Who you influence and how is more important than the celebrity you’ve got illustrated on your lowest common denominator.
- How deeply and madly you love is more important than experiencing zero gravity. Anyways, if you do it right, you can kill both of those damn birds with one rock.
So, yeah, I’ll be indulging in some zany escapades in the name of Grand Adventure. But I will also be mindful that, no matter how broken you are, in quiet moments there are Heroisms all around us waiting to be done-in inconspicuous kindnesses, in unpretentious acts of humanity. Don’t miss an opportunity to leave a lasting mark.
Seize the day. Do it for Barb.
Next time: Living by a Heroic code.