Detours - A Life Fully Lived

Last week I was on vacation, our only scheduled vacation for the summer.  We decided we would head North to Washington (state), because that typically means that temperatures will be cooler and their will be less people around to obstruct our enjoyment of nature.  Oh, how wrong we were!  

The weather was unbearably hot, over 100 degrees on most days, and there were people everywhere.  To make matters worse, British Columbia has almost two dozen (no joke!) wild fires burning right now and the smoke from these fires blanketed the entire state of Washington, causing wide spread air quality issues.  So much for enjoying the great outdoors!  We stuck it out as long as we could, but finally threw in the towel and headed home early.  

Time to head home, regroup, and come up with Plan B.

But then Plan B didn’t even have time to materialize before we were hit hard with family issues, health problems, sick grandparents, people who needed our help.  It was easy to start thinking about myself and all the things I was missing out on, what I wasn’t getting done, how time was slipping through my hands.  I could have gone there, I could have gotten really frustrated, anxious, mad that things were spinning out of my control.  But I didn’t...ok, maybe for just a few seconds, but then I tuned in.

One of my deepest desires is to be present in my life.  I want to be fully alive for everything that is happening right in front of me.  When I originally made this realization I was thinking mostly about being present so that I could absorb every minute with my children, so I wouldn’t miss a thing. I wanted to experience every minute with them. The truth is that here are literally years of my life during which I was so enveloped in achieving the next thing, the next goal, that I can hardly remember the events of my life (mostly this happened during college and medical school, but that’s a lot of years!).  

So this past week, when my plans started taking a turn down the life detour route, I decided to be present with what was right in front of me, whether I was thrilled about it or not.  Sure, my vacation was cut short, I wasn’t able to do the things that I wanted to, I didn’t get done what I thought would put me ahead of the game, and did I mention that I’m 7 months pregnant and the crazy summer heat was making me pretty dang uncomfortable?!  But...

I got to be with my children while they sat at their great-grandfathers bedside and loved him up while saying what will likely be their last good-bye’s.  I got to feel the ardent, amazing partnership with my husband as we navigated not only the logistics of having multiple family members sick, dead, or dying (literally) at the same time, but the emotions and compassion we can have for one another during these most intense of life transitions.  I got to speak deeply and candidly with the most kind-hearted old man about what it means to have lived fully, to have experienced the love of children and grand-children, to know true faith, and how it feels to be ready to move on from this life.  And I got to listen to my 11 year-old son say his bedtime prayers, after which he explained to me that death, for some people, is a way to feel better, to feel happy.  I was there, for all of it, fully and completely present in each moment.  Burning the memories into my psyche like a branding iron on my soul.  

I will not forget these moments, ever.

Life and death are such perpetual metaphors for our lives, aren’t they?  In so many ways that it’s impossible to count.  The constant birth-death-rebirth cycle of things.  Even vacations.  Even best-laid plans.  Even desires and goals.  Things are constantly being created, coming into existence, fading, leaving, dying, and new things take their place.  Profound yet happening constantly, eternally all around us, in every aspect, corner and shadow of our lives.

Are you paying attention when things take a detour in your life?  Or is it full steam ahead to get “back on track?” What vistas are you passing up?  What opportunities to honor your soul and your humanity might you be missing out on?  What life are you not fully living?  And most importantly, what do you need to let die so that you can fully live?

Can you be more present?  Instead of just flat out striving, can you strive for a life of presence?  What would that mean for you and how would that make you feel?  How would that make those you love be looked at in the eye and really seen, to be truly heard, to have your presence, your attention and your time?  I know what it feels like for me when someone does that for me—it feels freakin’ AMAZING!  And the sad part is that it is such a rare occurrence that when it does happen, we really notice, don’t we?  What a gift we can give to those around us, and to ourselves.

A life fully lived.  A life of presence.

Life detours can teach you and grow you and change you. 

Eyes wide open.  Heart wide open.  Say YES!


Peace, Love, & Light,

Dr. Erin