I have a simple piece of advice today. Take nothing for granted.
You can stop reading now if you understand and take that advice… otherwise buckle up, this one got a bit wordy.
Yesterday marks the 46th time I’ve taken this trip around the sun. In that time there have been some amazing adventures, memories I will treasure for the rest of my life. There have also been some awful tragedies, and I will have those memories as well for as long as I live. Among all of that, I can’t tell you how much time I’ve wasted. There are entire years of my life where I didn’t move forward, where nothing of any real importance took place. I was merely existing. I’ve been a passenger on this journey far more than the driver.
Close to 12 years ago, I met my soulmate. In that time, she has loved and encouraged me (and occasionally dragged me kicking and screaming) to push myself out of my comfort zone. Since then I have grown, experienced so many amazing things, and have so much excitement for the future. But even still, I can look back and see so many wasted days and weeks where I was just going through the motions of the day. Many time there was that familiar anxiety, stress, worry about the day-to-day things which kept me even deeper inside my comfort zone. But I wasn’t actively taking part in my life and the things I could possibly do to change it.
You see, inner joy has very little to do with circumstances. Someone on the outside could see my life, my family, my career, my accomplishments and imagine me to be living the dream. I saw the failures. I saw what I could have done that I didn’t, due to fear. I saw the mistakes I made and that I didn’t deserve what I had, let alone any more. I would just live in a quiet depression hoping that tomorrow would — somehow — just be better.
It is as I write this that I begin to see the correlation between these feelings and taking things for granted. It is a safe place to be when you just know certain things are a constant. Even if it isn’t the dream life you want, at least you have those things you can count on… until something happens and shakes your foundations. I had a situation unfold on Friday during an otherwise relaxing day with friends on the river surrounded by the most beautiful scenery. The ordeal took all of a few minutes but it rocked my world along with my wife (who was sucked under a big pile of logs thanks to the current of the water in that one particular place). She is fine with a few cuts and bruises, but we both receive a hard reality that in that quick of a moment I could be a widower, without my life partner, having to not only tell our children they won’t see their mom anymore but then having to spend the rest of my life picking up those pieces. I read a news story on Saturday of a similar situation that ended up in tragedy. Their world will forever be changed by an event that nobody expected.
I realized… I take my comfortable life for granted.
After much thought, tears, processing all of this over the past few days, my take away is this: Every day, perhaps multiple times per day, each of us has situations that DON’T happen. Occasions where someone I have never met could make a choice that could cause me or someone else in my life to be killed in a car wreck (for example), but it didn’t happen. What happened on Friday was an event that almost became life altering, but didn’t. I mean it did, but in a very positive way because it jarred me from my safe place and made me realize that I have to be much more *on purpose* with the way I live. I need to pull those who are close to me even closer. I need to stop fearing what “might” happen if I take a bold step, and just take the bold step. I need to love more fiercely, including myself. I need to get out of my own head and find someone to inspire, serve, help, or simply love.
And I am so thankful that this happened. It was, in the grander scheme of things, a very gentle nudge to me. I believe my wife was never truly in danger because she was being protected, but I also believe this was supposed to happen where it did, when it did, surrounded by the people it was, so we would all wake up a little and check ourselves. I am forever changed. My comfort zone was disrupted, and I am better for it.
Take nothing for granted.