Monday, January 5, 2015

Making This Year Meaningful

I know my northern friends are suffering frigid winter temperatures right now and dearly waiting for more travel stories and pictures from warm and sunny Baja.  I promise to post more of those soon, but today, as my first post of 2015, I need to share some thoughts from my heart.

Back in September, when I learned that Millie’s cancer had returned, I vowed to make whatever remaining months or years Millie might have as enjoyable as I could make them.  Finding her great, warm places to swim was (and will continue to be) a top priority, like this gorgeous beach (Playa Santispac) that we camped at recently in Baja.

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2014 was a transformational and completely mind-bending year for me—my first full year of being intentionally jobless and the year I sold almost all of my possessions to live in a 130 square foot rolling home.  Friends and blog readers have often commented “you’re living the life others only ever dream about”  and it is the honest truth that I never go through a day without at least a brief feeling of gratitude for the incredible freedom and blessed life that I currently live.   But every day is not picture-perfect postcard.

After 4 days of paradise at the beach, I returned to Loreto (and the conveniences of a cell/internet connection) on Christmas Eve looking forward to connecting with family via phone and catching up with friends and news of the world via Internet.  Firing up Facebook, I was sad to hear news that my childhood friend’s mom had finally lost a long battle with cancer, and not 2 minutes after reading that, was shocked to discover that another cherished friend and old classmate had just received a frightful cancer diagnosis himself. 

That news set the tone for a pretty depressing Christmas day.  It was my first Christmas spent entirely alone, and the first without any presents (not counting a few sloppy kisses and companionship from Millie).  I thought the RV park would be as social as it had been a week before, but now on Christmas Eve, I seemed to be surrounded by Gringo RVers who preferred to keep the spirit of the day to themselves rather than even share a simple “Merry Christmas” greeting with their neighbor.

I finally pulled myself up by mid-day to take Millie for a walk along the Malecon.  As I walked down the side streets passing small, and VERY humble homes, I passed a few other lone townspeople out walking.  Each and every person looked me in the eye, smiled, and said “Feliz Navidad” as I said and did the same back to them.  Such a simple, fast, and completely free gesture, that made my day feel a bit less lonely and lost.  Could my greeting have made as powerful an impact to one of them?

It was certainly something to contemplate as I learn to live a new life defined less by material possessions, and more by personal actions.

Three days ago, I learned that another high school classmate had just died on New Year’s Day from cancer.  I had not kept in touch with her after high school, but Lisa was one of those people you seldom forget.  She was our class president, and if I remember right, voted “most likely to succeed.”  Succeed, she most certainly did!  She graduated at the top of our class, earned a law degree, married, and had 3 children.  She was an active member of her church and community, volunteered her time often to help those less fortunate, and from what I can glean from others who knew her in recent years, she remained as selfless and giving as she had been in high school.  One of those rare souls who manage to be universally admired by everyone they meet.. 

For the last 3 years, Lisa kept an online journal of her final journey, sharing the ups and downs of living with cancer.  In January 2013, doctors advised her that she only had about one good year left to live.  After overcoming the initial shock of the news, she decided to give that year literally everything she had!  She called it her “Living for Now” tour, and set out to compress decades worth of life events down into just a single year.

Lisa left her job,  planned visits with friends and family around the country, and tried to experience as many things as she was physically able.  Some were easy enough, like swimming with dolphins.  While others defied the boundaries normally expected of a cancer patient—she bicycled a marathon to raise money for a friend with MS, and even went skydiving!

The last entry of her journal (that she was able to write herself) included this enlightened summary:

This journey has given me a chance to be very philosophical about life and death. I have done my best to share some of those realizations with each of you.  I hope that maybe you have made some decisions in your life that will bring you more joy but also will expand that joy to those you love.  If one or two of my entries resonated with you, then I feel I will remain among you even in a limited way. 

Some of you have shared with me that my journal entries have encouraged them to be better people, to try harder, love deeper, and be more intentional in one's life.  Life really is just so fragile and the tragedies we see around us daily confirm we suffer ongoing injustice.  Yet, people reach inside themselves and try to do SOMETHING to make this world a better place.

In her brief 53 years, Lisa lived and gave more than most others will likely ever do by the time they’re 95.   But her story was also a reminder that it is never too late to live your dreams.  One can still achieve some incredible things with just one final good year of their life.

The saying “Live each day as if it’s your last”, has often been hard for me to put into action.  Some days, I finish up thinking of that saying and feel truly deflated.  I’ve just squandered yet another perfectly fine day to accomplish absolutely nothing of any value to myself or to others!

But, maybe a single day is just too unrealistic a timeframe.  So short, that it sets you up for failure before you even begin!  So, perhaps a year is really the better yardstick to work with.

Looking back at my entire year of 2014 makes me feel much more satisfied…amazing accomplishments when I think about them in sum!

So, my goal for 2015 is to make it meaningful.  To give more to others than I get.  To share and encourage others to stop waiting to live their dreams, and start moving mountains (and making those tough prioritization decisions) to start living them now.  To be nicer person to my family, friends, and neighbors.  To forgive, and be more humble.

And to honestly live this year as if it were the very last…because be it cancer, a heart attack, or slipping on a banana peel in paradise, good health really can flip in an instant.  Life, indeed, is fragile.  Make this year count!

30 comments:

  1. Lynne - I'm sure that you will make this year count! Looking forward to hearing about your Mexico adventure and crossing paths with you again.

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  2. A beautiful and heart-felt post. Intent is a big part of life's equation IMHO. If we set out each day with positive intent, we have already succeeded in so many ways despite what actions that day may bring. I certainly resonate with your feelings here, and there are definitely days I feel I've "wasted" my time, but I start with intent...and love...and hopefully some of that touches someone out there. Your post touched me, so you've already made quite the action today. Wishing you a strong and experience-filled 2015!
    Nina

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    1. Oh wow Nina, your reply has touched me as well! Starting each day with positive intent and love-- that sums up so perfectly the thoughts I was trying to express! Thank you! I will think of that each morning, and God willing, it will get me moving in the right direction each day!

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  3. Nicely said, Lynn. I follow / read a few blogs. Many show the nice places and interesting things that people are doing. But life is not all palm trees and margaritas. Few write what may be really happening with them or what's going on in their head. But the best ones (and you're one of them), in my opinion, at times share their thoughts and feelings and write about the things that are hard to say. I had some similar experiences last year loosing some very good friends to early deaths. It put me in a funk for a few months. But I try to not focus on the day or the year. Those times are way to long for me. I just try to give myself some good moments out of each day. Wishing you good moments in 2015. I'm looking forward to following your travels in Baja.
    J. Dawg

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    1. A terrific suggestion -- striving to make "good moments" each day. I'll add that my morning mantra! And I promise to get more Baja pics posted soon!

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  4. Bring it on Lynn! Live it up, life is short.

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    1. I'm going to do my very best! A meaningful year to you too!

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  5. It is so true that you need to actually experience the life you lead. At my age, I am seeing friends leave this world on an all to regular basis. It is a constant reminder of limited time we all have here. It would be a shame to waste it.

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    1. Well said. I really didn't expect to start hearing of so many friends facing major health issues or death until I was in my 70s or 80s. Seeing it starting to happen just in my early 50s reaffirms the life changes I made last year. I wish I had not waited so long, but am glad I didn't wait a minute longer to start living life with more urgency and intensity.

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  6. I think of one of the best tributes to those who so inspiringly reached their finish line of life is to take that inspiration and make it count. Thank you for doing that, and sharing a bit of that with us. Moving words and thoughts, and sending you lots of positive wishes for the year and the time spent with Millie.

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    1. Thanks Cherie! I didn't discover my friend LIsa's online journal until after she had died, but what a wonderful legacy and inspiration to leave for others here on Earth. Blogs can (and should) do the same, so I will aspire to write more posts this year that can stay relevant well beyond the date they're posted. Yours already do that quite successfully :-)

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  7. I'll try again... thanks for the heartfelt post.

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  8. Making a year meaningful is a good goal. Examining a year by each day isn't as comfortable. Sometimes I don't have the oomph to make each day meaningful.

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    1. Well, after I read all the stuff you do most days, my meaningful contributions seem to always pale by comparison! Hoping to work a bit harder this year to catch up!

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  9. What a wonderful start to your 2015 posts. I look forward to following your (& Millie's) journey!

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    1. Thanks Karen, glad to have you along for the ride!

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  10. I look forward to reading how you accomplish your goal this year. My goals this year aren't quite so lofty, but do include volunteering in my community.
    I'd love to hear more about travel with the RV in Mexico. I admire that you are brave enough to try it solo. We've driven in Baja, my dad used to have a house there, but I'm not sure I'd feel safe in the RV. Have you had any problems, especially when not in an RV park?

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    1. Volunteer work is quite loft-worthy! I hope to find more ways to do that this year too.

      I've got a number of posts on the radar for Baja and RVing in Mexico. Baja is incredibly safe and the people are much friendlier and more respectful -- more so than many towns in southern California! But then again, I don't drive or go out at night, and only stay where there are other RVs. Safe, but not stupid!

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  11. Lynne: Once again you've put together an incredible post. I'm just getting back to your blog after being pretty busy during Christmas with Santa season, but am so glad now to have the time to read all the wonderful entries you make. Often your blog posts are wonderful because of the brilliant and stunning nature scenes you photograph, but more than a few times, your philosophical musings and unbelievable open-hearted and frank expressions of some of your deepest feelings are what are most impressive. And just look at what you've accomplished by just this one post--all the comments you've received where people talk about how you've inspired them to live more intentionally. And what you have done this past year and are continuing to do is about as intentional a living program as one could imagine. So thank you for what you are doing by sharing your adventures with all of us--meeting you and getting to know you, both through the many blog posts and emails, but also the personal time Trisha and I spent with you--this is one of the most wonderful blessings that have come my way. So keep it up, dear friend, you give so much to so many--just remember to give yourself lots of hugs, in whatever way you find to do so. And I look forward to the next time our paths will cross. We'll head to Sarasota next week for 3 months, then back home for a month or so and then back out west, and on to Alaska for July and August. So maybe 2015 will see another meeting!!

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    1. If I manage to give and share just 1/100th of the joy and inspiration you and Trisha do, I'll feel like I'm making some progress! I was going to give Santa a couple more weeks of R&R, but I do hope you'll get back to your blog posts again soon-- not just travel posts but inspirational thoughts as well. And I sure hope we can meet up again this year somehow! I'll be in Colorado in June, but have no firm destinations before or after that yet. Enjoy your Florida sunshine!

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  12. How sad that you felt so entirely alone in an RV Park especially on Christmas. You my friend are so special and have created so much with your life in the past year. What a wonderful first post for 2015. You just keep on giving to everyone, your family, your friends and your blog readers and now you have inspired many to see life just a tad differently then they did before reading this. Wishing you and Millie many warm swims and much inspiration in the year ahead. LIfe is short and I know we will see each other again this year but meanwhile many hugs to you both.

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    1. Yes, I certainly missed the Isla celebrations this year, so I will make it a priority to get back next Christmas! Hope to see you and the other Cs before then too!

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  13. Wonderful post! Our motto is to live each day as though it's the last. But often difficult to do as we have human failings. Thanks...may each day of 2015 be filled with joy!

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  14. Lynne,

    This is a truly amazing post. It really hits home in so many ways for us. Thanks for posting it, and a belated Merry Christmas to you and Millie!

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    1. Thanks, I've been admiring your recent posts as well-- quite courageous to stay RVing in Michigan this winter to care for family, but I'm certain this will be one of the most meaningful times of your lives.

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  15. Several things..........I didn't know about Millie - I wish her warm waters, soft sand and many great walks.

    One of my sayings that I often repeat is "Doing nothing is doing something.........for yourself" In other words, reflection is
    doing something but it appears you're doing nothing.

    Having my husband's death at 36 and my daughter's at 42, I've always been aware that we only have today. So I try to live "in the moment" and really feel that the BIG season of doing for so many others for so many years is over and now it's time for ourselves. It that sounds selfish, so be it! Enjoy the sunset, mi amiga and, of course, the sunrise!

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  16. What a wonderful and heart felt post. It reminded me of a favorite analogy. That life itself is like driving a car. In so many ways! For one, you are the driver. Millie rides shotgun. How many times each and every single day does she share her appreciation to you? She knows alright!

    Happy 2015 Lynne and Millie!

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