With the start of the new year, folks tend to have no lack of motivation. They also tend to over-promise and later, as the year marches on, they also under-deliver. It is for precisely that reason that I don’t tend to make New Year’s resolutions. That doesn’t mean, however, that I can’t contemplate ways that’ll keep my family moving in a positive direction.
The last four months of 2018 were incredibly challenging for my family. We lost our housemate and beloved friend to pancreatic cancer. Because we had been living as “chosen family” for the better part of four years, losing her really did a number on all of us. It also taught us some important lessons that I plan to carry forward, and I thought these lessons were worth sharing.
Seize the Day
At Sue’s funeral, one of her childhood friends told me, “Carpe diem!”, and she couldn’t have been more spot-on. I just turned 42 in December, and you’d think that means I have plenty of time to get my poop in a group, but the fact is, every day is precious. Even though Sue knew she was terminally ill, she made every day count. She stayed positive and motivated right up ’til the end, and she wasted no time. Despite the fact that it was hard for her, she still gave her all every day that she was with us, and that lesson will stick with me for sure.
Focus on Something Productive
About a month after Sue’s diagnosis, she started to experience paralysis in her dominant arm. Since she wasn’t terribly comfortable with technology, and since she was a person who loved her lists, she was determined to practice writing with her left hand. In hindsight, I think her staying productive led to a better quality of life in those last days, and if she was able to do that while she was dying, why can’t we do that when we’re living?
Don’t get me wrong. Downtime is important, but sometimes we let ourselves off the hook too easily. It’s easy to waste time being unproductive and justifying it by saying, “I have plenty of time.” It’s like that quote from Shawshank Redemption though, “Get busy living or get busy dying.” Personally, I prefer the former. Sometimes I just need to remind myself of that when it comes to productivity however.
Surround Yourself with Positivity
Folks who have positive attitudes are better equipped to get things done. They also seem better equipped to push through the tough times. While fake cheerleading can be annoying at best and counter-productive at worst, surrounding yourself with people whose attitudes won’t drag you down is a crucial life strategy for success.
Another important part of that strategy is gratitude. Throughout Sue’s last months, we all did a lot of reminding each other about how grateful we were for everything from each other to the ability to brighten others’ days. When you’re focused on gratitude, it becomes more challenging to focus on what you don’t have or didn’t get. It also helps to keep you focused on the end game.
Sue taught me so many things about living life, and interestingly enough, I learned a good number of those things as we shared her last days on this earth. It’s strange how a loved one’s death can be motivating, but it reminded me that life is precious, my family and friends are precious, and my life is what I make it. I dedicate it all to her, and because we rejoiced in the sharing, I’m posting these sentiments here as well.