No matter how true this statement is, it is one that I easily forget. In fact, I orginally wrote this post in 2013. And today I felt the need to revise and refresh my thoughts.
My thoughts today…
Recently, a beloved teacher in my district died unexpectedly . She wasn’t suffering from a long illness, instead she tragically passed without much warning. And while I didn’t know her personally, many of my friends did. You should see their faces light up when they talk about her. The messages former parents are writing in facebook pages paint a picture of a wonderful woman. I have heard countless people describe Andrea as a mentor, a teacher who loved her job and adored her students, a friend, a mother and wife who cared so deeply for those she loved she left them feeling grateful for having the chance to love her back, even if it was cut short. As I listen to my colleagues and read the tributes online describe such an amazing woman I feel moved to learn from her legacy. I may have met her once or twice at a district meeting, but I didn’t know her and yet her impact on me, through the stories I have heard and her abrubt passing, has been something I haven’t been able to shake since I heard the news. Our district was on break last week. We all rushed out the door on that last Friday eager to get to our vacation destinations, or simply to relax at home. Before the end of the day I tidied my desk, organized my plans for when I return and joined my friends and colleagues in the rush to hurry up and relax. I assume, Andrea did some of the same. Prepared for her “tomorrows” at her buidling just as we all did in my building. And today, after a week off, we all returned. As I drove my commute I couldn’t help but think of Andrea, undoubtedly in heaven, who wouldn’t be returning to her classroom she had left just the week prior.
That trail of thought reminded me of this post and drew me back to my blog to reread it. I laughed out loud when I read the title and the first line; “I am not promised tomorrow… No matter how true this statement is, it is one I easily forget.”
I had forgotten. I had wasted moments of my days complaining, focusing on the negative, or unimportant, putting value in things that don’t really matter…all while assuming that tomorrow I would do better, be better, be more. But what if there wasn’t a tomorrow? What if today were my last day? Would I be proud of what I gave? Would my legacy of love be as present and glowing as Andrea’s? This may be a jarring way of thinking for some. Or as my dad would call it, maudlin. But for me it is real and honest and so very valuable. I don’t think of it as living in fear of dying, but living with a sense of purpose and passion for the shere fact that you are alive. That in itself is something to be grateful for, something to honor with your every action. I am alive today. Today, I was able to go to work, teach, make dinner, walk my dog, wash dishes, snuggle on the couch with my kids. Today I was given the chance to live my life. I am grateful for Andrea, a collegue I didn’t know but whose actions in her daily life inspire me to raise the bar of my own actions in my own daily life. Because, once again, I am reminded. I am not promised tomorrow.
The 2013 version…
In 2009 on the night before my 30th birthday Tim and I folded a lot of laundry and left it all around our livingroom as we went to bed. Every couch and surface was covered with what seemed to be a year’s worth of clean clothes. But we went to bed, folding had done us in, I was seven months pregnant and I was tired. Nevermind that my brother Jeff and his girlfriend (now his wife) were flying in the next day and staying with us for my birthday weekend. We climbed the stairs anyway and told ourselves we would put the clothes away tomorrow, when we got home from work.
And then at 2:30 in the morning my water broke. After hours at the hospital we learned that a hospital room would be my home for a while, and that the next time I would set foot in my laundry covered livingroom our family would have grown by one. So there goes tomorrow. The laundry stayed strewn across our couches until Jeff and Dawn so kindly put it in baskets and out of sight while Tim and I made a new home on the 5th floor dealing with what was at the time the scariest medical drama we had ever faced.
On a Spring day in 2010 I was trimming the bushes out back and looking at all of the toys littering our yard like plastic land mines, thinking I should really pick them up when the phone rang. It was my dad, my mom had a “spell” and as he talked to me from the front patio of the hospital he was watching Mercy Flight take her to Buffalo General. I put the trimmers down, told Tim I had to go, and I left. The days and weeks following were filled with anxiety and real-life problems much bigger than the plastic toys now collecting rain water in my backyard, or the trimmers, forgotten and left to rust. “Tomorrow” didn’t happen the way that I had planned it. It was only a split second before my dad called that my head was reeling with my list for tomorrow. All the things I would be sure to accomplish – tomorrow.
I am sure the day that my mom died in October of 2010 I was making lists for my tomorrow, but I don’t remember. That day has been swallowed up by grief. Even so, if I know myself, there was a list somewhere.
When I was pregnant with the boys in 2011 I had a better handle on the fragility of my days that I thought were promised to me. Maybe it was because I was still recovering from the loss of my mom, the lesson in the fragilness of life still fresh on my mind. Maybe it was because I was fully aware of the fragility of my current state. Everyday those boys stayed in my belly was a win in my book and frankly I was too terrified to even consider what may lie ahead in a pregnancy I was repeatedly told was fragile from the start. In 2011 tomorrow meant something very different on any given day.
(Added today) On December 30th 2014 I found out my dad had cancer. The diagnosis wasn’t official but I knew it was bad. That New Year’s Eve I balled my eyes out, one of those raw uncontrollable cries, when you are happy the lights are off so you can let it all out without seeing the ugliness of your pain. Tim held me, and I cried. And cried. I remember saying to Tim, that I didn’t want 2015 to come. I knew what lie in wait for us in 2015 and it was going to be the worst year yet. I wanted so badly to skip ahead a year, and skip over what I knew my dad’s cancer had in store for him. The two previous lay offs, Addie coming early, my mom, the boys arriving at 25 weeks had all turned me into a realist. I prefer to see the future for what it is, so I can better deal with the monsters head on. I knew this particular monster, that I now had named “2015” was going to be simply horrible. And so at 1 a.m. on January 1st, I cried. That New Year’s Eve I wanted to avoid my “tomorrows”. Cancer can do that to you. Make you wish tomorrow would just fly right past you. I wish I could say that my crying was for nothing that night. That it wasn’t so bad watching my father slip away and being swallowed up by disease. I wish I could, but I can’t. But I can say that on that New Year’s Eve, in the dark as I cried I learned a valuable lesson about accepting the tomorrow that you so desperately want to avoid. You can’t avoid them, and the alternative, that there wouldn’t be a tomorrow would always be far worse. Tomorrow is a day, one day when you put one foot in front of the other. Set your expectations on course, be honest, stay the path and live. It must be done, each day, each tomorrow, must be lived.
(2013) But as time as passes and the experiences that I have lived through fall farther into my memory so does the lesson that I am not promised tomorrow. And I don’t mean this in a morbid way, although the statement itself does lend itself to that line of thinking and that too is true, I do not know when my time here is up. More so, I mean it in a sense that I am not promised the time, the current feeling of comfort or same level of stress or happiness from one day to the next. I am not promised the tomorrow I have planned. And yet, I spend my time planning for and worrying about all that I must do or all that might happen, tomorrow. You would think I would learn.
So why I am writing all of this now, I haven’t blogged for months and while I have wanted to I just haven’t found (or worked hard to make) the time.
Here is why: I recently went back to work unexpectedly. Long story short after being laid off I was called back at the very last minute. I love teaching, and of course a paycheck, so in that regard I was thrilled. But I was used to being home, to planning my days around the needs of my children and working life in accordingly. I now have to answer to the clock. I am scheduled in a very different way than I was a year ago at this time. And I find with this new demanding schedule that there is a lot in my life that is getting left until tomorrow. All of this putting things off and unfinished jobs is taking a toll on my stress level. That was until two days ago as I made my daily 40 minute commute to work. That is when this blog post popped in my head. It came to me as the title. “I am not promised tomorrow.” After which I said to myself – “so stop living like that has more merit than today.”
So my house is a mess. There are toys and lone socks, dust bunnies and books, dress up costumes and backpacks in every nook and cranny of my house. And of course, laundry – that is still there. And it drives my husband and I nuts. We pick up, our kids pick up, but it never seems like enough. (No need to revise this section…the mess is still there four years later!) But you know what – if my tomorrow doesn’t come like I planned the mess of it all will be the least of my concerns. As Tim and I sat in the hospital preparing for the arrival of our first preemie we weren’t stressing over the piles of laundry. We were embarrassed, but it wasn’t high on our list. And I never thought once about the yard of toys as we sat in the cardiac ICU waiting for the results of my mom’s heart surgery. Life happens and the details fall where they may – life has a way of sorting out what matters. While I would LOVE for my house to be completely clean, it is a detail that doesn’t rank high on my list.
Playing, reading, snuggling, laughing with my family. Being the best version of myself, and showing love. That matters. If tomorrow we face another emergency I will feel grateful for the time I took today to do what matters. Just writing that, and rereading it on my computer helps me to let go of the stress I am already gearing up for dealing with tomorrow.