Every year, either around the turn of the calendar year, when a terrible story appears on the news, or the passing of a loved one, we pontificate on life. How we need to live it to the fullest. How we should take nothing for granted. How we must cherish every moment.
For just a minute, I want you to imagine what that would really look like - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks in a row. EVERY moment savored. Cherished. Remembered. Recorded. (Think about this the next time you brush your teeth.)
Most of our lives are meaningless moments. Errand running, sandwich making, bill paying, laundry folding, traffic sitting minutia. Routine moments that are unavoidable, unenjoyable, but absolutely necessary to the lives that we lead. You can try to shut out the world and surround yourself with loved ones all the time, but unless you're taking your family hostage, eventually someone needs to go pee.
We tend to feel guilty when something happens - that we wasted so many moments on things that didn't really matter. That we'll never remember. That we can't take with us. Except that they do kind of matter if you want to keep the lights on, and the mortgage paid, and the air fresh smelling.
It's okay to be distracted by little things. It's human and more importantly, it's realistic. We can't hold our children up like The Lion King and just gaze at them eternally. You will undoubtedly get sore arms, never mind reported to some Child Services agency.
“Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”
There's a story that gets passed around periodically about a professor who brings a jar into his class and fills it with rocks, then pebbles, then sand, then water. All to prove that there is more room than we think, but only if we put the big stuff in first. Most of our life experiences are the sand between the rocks. The glue that holds the rocks in place, binding our bigger memories together. You remember your wedding day, not the day you wrote the check to the caterer. But, they probably both happened.
So now that we've turned the page on last year, it's a big, blank canvas that lies before us. We all wake up on January 1 with high hopes of bigger, better, bolder lives and make resolutions accordingly. We set ourselves up for disappointment because we are so busy looking at the rocks in the road ahead, and plotting our course from one memorable moment to the next, that we don't see all the sand in the road. We lose traction, we skid off course and we land in a proverbial ditch wondering what went wrong.
This year, account for the sand. We have no idea how long the road ahead will reach, so we never know how to plan. Should we ignore all responsibility on the off chance that this is the final hour? We wouldn't dare. The gaps between the rocks are too big for leaping - at some point you have to walk in the sand. Pay your bills, go buy bread and milk, and don't feel badly about it. Just don't get so deep in the sand that you miss the jetty.