What are you doing with your one precious wild and crazy life?
That question, posed in a Mary Oliver poem, came up recently in something I was reading, and I remembered it had been used in the speech of a 2010 St. Louis Park grad last June before she and her classmates tossed their mortarboards into the air and walked off the football field into the next phase of their lives. It’s a great line. And yes, “What indeed?” I ask myself regularly. I’m 64, married, the mother of one adult daughter (who will be married in July), work full time, own a home, and do the daily “stuff of life” like everyone else.
But that “what are you doing with your life” question raises its head more visibly at particular times—like “big” birthdays, the ball dropping on a New Year’s Eve, class reunions, anniversaries, or when one’s child is about to be married. And the question makes one pause. In the first half of life, the world seems wide open, the possibilities endless and so too, it seems, the time to do it all. As you get older, one day you begin to look at the obituary column from time to time and begin to truly relish having made it to the age you are, to feel sadness for those who didn’t, and to realize how incredibly lucky you are. And you again ponder, what am I going to do with my one precious wild, crazy life.
Some go-getters may accomplish every single thing they ever dreamed of doing. But perhaps more of us than not accomplish some of what we’d hoped, and in the busyness and chaos of “doing” life, lose sight of or procrastinate on much of the rest.
What I’ll do today is be thankful I have a job and a home to go to afterward. I’ll check to see if the grass seed we tossed on the bare spots of the backyard is sprouting yet, shout a greeting to the neighbor, take my mail in, sit down with a nice glass of wine, and then figure out (again) how to lose 30 pounds (formerly a 50 pound goal) in the next 60 days before my daughter’s wedding. Once I’ve browsed through magazines picked up over the past several months with the headlines like: “Lose 10 pounds in One Week!” and “Eat all you Want and Lose Weight,” or “Lose Two Dress Sizes in 30 days,” I’ll finish my Friday night slice of Papa Murphy’s pizza and plan the exercise program that begins tomorrow.
Life is an awesome, mysterious, challenging mix of busyness (sometimes magnificent, often mundane), sadness, joy, work, play, exuberance and exhaustion. Each day brings new possibilities. That is a gift. On this day, I’ll take comfort in knowing I raised an awesome kid who will have a wonderful life and marriage, that I didn’t hit the jerk who darted in front of me without signaling on 394, and that I made someone at work laugh out loud. As to becoming an astronaut or finding the cure for some dread disease or beating out Meryl Streep for the next Hollywood hit—well, those ships have sailed. But, I do still have time to write the great American novel or learn to play the piano or even start a new career. And maybe, just maybe, I can lose a dress size before the wedding.
So, what are you doing with your one precious wild and crazy life?