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Make It Count

Pat’s mom had a massive stroke two weeks ago. It is so not good.

Every night when he gets home from seeing her, we talk about how she is. Our conversation eventually turns, then, to what we want for ourselves. We use a bunch of if/then sentences followed by so many unlesses; two lawyers trying to make sense of life and the end of it – you can imagine how well that goes.

All of this talking night after night and all we really have for it is the same old stuff we’ve always known about how we want to live and, if we have any say in the matter, how we’d like to die. As for the living portion, we want to love each other and to show our love every day we get to be together, to be so open with each other and with our children that when the time comes at the end of our lives, we’ll have few regrets from that which we didn’t say, from how we didn’t connect. You know, the same stuff everyone says they want, mostly.

We want our kids to really miss us is all. To really miss is to really love. And the only way to really love is to be so open and connected and here with them and with each other.

I’ve been thinking about how when difficult things happen in life, often people say, “Hug your people close,” with the assumption being that if you can hug your people, it should offer some perspective for you. Of course this is true.

But, what is also true for some of us is that sometimes maybe we just feel like we don’t want to hug our people right now. Gosh, that’s hard to even admit with all of the people who get robbed of the chance to give and get another hug from their person. But, sometimes I know a lot of us are just like, “Um, yes. I love you so much. How about we all hug again tomorrow? I think we’re good for tonight, ok?” I mean, I love them with every ounce, but one of them, who shall remain nameless, has been touching one of us since last Sunday night. Eight days with a koala bear attached to you is so special and also so could-we-please-not-touch-for-this-5-minute-stretch?

And so we go back and forth in life with our people from “Oh my gosh, I am so lucky to get to hug you!” to “I need a little space!” with stops along the way at everywhere in between.

After talking about the hard stuff lots this week, even though I might want to say “Hug your people,” I won’t because maybe you are feeling a little like me and you may just want to put your own arms at your own sides of your own actual body for, say, a couple of hours. Is that so wrong?

I won’t say “Hug your people” but instead I’ll say what we’re focusing on most around here, what watching people you love grieve for the people they love distills for you: Make it count.

We get so little time here and when it’s up, sometimes it’s just not easy at all; this whole “life” thing feels like a rip-off then, especially when I think about how much time we waste worrying about stupid stuff. Even when we stop worrying about the first round of stupid stuff, we start worrying about the second round – “we don’t have enough time! I should’ve done it this way! That was so dumb of me! I missed an opportunity!” – we whine while another opportunity passes us right on by.

When we get a peek at old age, usually through our parents, some of us really start to wonder, “what in the hell?!” Yep, this is it. It’s the best we’ve got – it’s actually all we’ve got – so we’d better make the most of it.

Making it count for me means this: when you are here, be here. Being with my people, having maybe one real and true moment of connection a day? Maybe more? Maybe one whole afternoon? Day after day? Anything is enough if we make it so.

Making it count means showing our people all the parts of us as we grow in friendship and in life, so that my kids get to know me as a person and not only in the role of mother, so that my friends know me as funny and happy and also as honest and vulnerable, so that my husband sees me and I see him, the way we did and do when we are giving each other the time to do so. It’s being open and honest enough with our people so that we can talk about mistakes and successes equally. It’s loving so big that there is not just power-over but way more power-with. It’s more circular than top-down – the way life is, too.

There is such a power in connectedness, in being open with one another. Some days I am certain these are the only things that make the world go round; these are the only things that make any of this heartbreakingly beautiful life worthwhile.

Thinking about the end makes me get off the couch, that’s for sure. I even put on pants while I’m at it.

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I watch these guys – this sun, my people, your people, everyone’s love, the whole world – it’s beautiful, we know. The way we lean in towards one another while the sun shines down upon us. The way we show each other ourselves – the vulnerable sides included. The way we cope when our people slip away from us.

My baby nearly fell off this ledge right after I took this picture, even with his daddy right there. And that’s the thing, isn’t it? Even when we’re doing everything right, life can change on us. It’s certainly going to in the end, no matter what we do. It’s brutal, sometimes, even for those of us who try and see the bright side.

But, there’s just no other way. We only live once (well, depending upon your beliefs – my son is certain he’s had a few bites of the apple before, and I don’t really doubt him) and we only die once. And those are the only real rules for this whole game. No one’s making it out alive. And we will all have hard days, no doubt. We mostly only get to pick and choose what we get for the living portion of life. We can only make the most of the dying portion if we’re lucky, even if it sounds too morbid to talk about for some.

It’s not too morbid for me. I’m going to do my best to plan what I can for death by talking openly with my kids; my girl already knows she gets the jewels – you gotta start somewhere. If I can plan my life, I might as well pretend to plan how it might go when I die. YODO (You Only Die Once) as well as YOLO (You Only Live Once).

I wrote my not-at-all-legal living will the other day, which was more like a manifesto’d letter than anything any lawyer would write. My plan is to stick it on my fridge so that I remember to Make It Freaking Count more, so that I remember that being here with my people is, in fact, the whole point of all of this.

I’m not making anyone hug their people, though. You can decide to do that when you really feel it. Maybe tomorrow.

But, I promise you, if you could see the way my husband and his siblings are loving their mom right now, dear god. It’s a little bit messy because the more people you have, the messier it all gets (and there are nine sibs), but it is a mess filled with love for her. It would make you want to scoop your kids out of their beds and put them in your own, I swear to you. Even the koalas who haven’t given you a break in 8 full days. It’s why we haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep in at least two weeks: we’ve got too many kids in our bed. Oh well – not a real problem right now.

We’re making it count the best we can. It’s so hard to do when you’re just going, going, going, but – and I know you know this – when you see what the end looks like, gosh, making it count is just the only thing at all that’s worth anything at all. Because suddenly, and it feels suddenly even when you’re old and you know it’s coming, it’s all gone. Just like that.

12 Comments
  • Stephanie Rawlins
    Reply

    YES! This morning as I lay in bed thinking about how wonderful it is that my three children can now dress and feed themselves breakfast so I can sleep in an extra 10 minutes, I was struck by the fact that as soon as those three kids get on the school bus I am washed over with the ache of missing them. So I walked straight to the breakfast table and sat with the last kid eating. I hope it encouraged him; it sure encouraged me to have those extra minutes with him. Then I sat next to my eldest and read while she read. Just to be with her – even if we weren’t talking – was comforting. I want my kids to know that I like to be with them. Sometimes I don’t really want to in the moment, of course, but generally speaking, I want to be with them. Thankful for those extra minutes this morning.

    November 17, 2015 at 2:33 am
  • I’m so sorry about your mother-in-law. So sorry. There is nothing else I can say.

    There is beautiful truth in this.

    Peace and love to you all.

    November 17, 2015 at 3:09 am
  • Ellen Gebel
    Reply

    Being here with my people is, in fact, the whole point of it all. Love how you said that. I think about that every day. Beautiful writing; beautiful heart. Thanks for sharing your words.

    November 17, 2015 at 3:57 am
  • I lost a high school friend last week – he was 35. This was everything I needed but couldn’t say myself. I want to steer clear of cliches like “Live everyday like it’s your last” and “really tell the ones you love just how much you love them because, well, you never know…” Some days I just want to watch Bravo and if I ran around telling my people how much I love them all the time then they would seriously think something was wrong with me, you know? But being present, while challenging sometimes, well that is something I can try. Thank you. xoxo

    November 17, 2015 at 7:18 am
  • This takes my breath away with truth and power. Yes, yes, and yes. All the way down to sometimes wanting the koala to leave you alone for 5 minutes. I can tell you when they’re 10 and 13, you may miss the koala. I know I do. I am so sorry about Pat’s mother, and am thinking of you all. xox

    November 17, 2015 at 11:40 am
  • As always, a fresh perspective on an uncomfortable topic. You have such a gift with your words + views on life. I’m so sorry to hear about Pat’s mom. Please keep loving your people + making it count. I promise to do the same. It’s all we can do, right? XO

    November 17, 2015 at 2:46 pm

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