Grateful for the Ride
My first son was born a short time ago. When he was lying in the baby warmer, being weighed, I looked at him and thought about how he had been allotted roughly 100 years of life. When those first 24 hours were over, 100 years suddenly seemed like such a small amount of time— already one day was gone! As I’ve gotten older, the weeks and months have started passing by faster and faster. I thought about how a quarter—or more—of my time here on earth is gone. It scared me that I’m already that far along. Had I wasted my time here so far? Could I have used it in a better way? Do I have regrets?
I’ve heard a great analogy about life as a roller coaster. When we enter into life, we step onto this ride knowing that we are going to be experiencing a wide range of ups and downs. But we climb aboard, knowing that it’s just a ride, that it’s only temporary, and that we made a choice to be on it. When we experience the thrills or the fear of the ride, it feels real throughout our whole body. But we know that the ride will come to an end and we’ll be let off safe and sound, back where we began.
It helps me to think of this when times get tough. When life doesn’t seem to be treating you well, it’s very easy to feel like your whole world is crashing down and that this one bad experience will ruin you forever. Looking at life like a ride helps me to step back. I remind myself that I chose to experience these emotions and hardships. I know it’s only temporary, and I know that in the end they will return me to where I began. In this perspective, my troubles seem less grave. I don’t have to worry about “wasting” days or losing time. I don’t have to worry about my success or regrets. I’m just experiencing the ride, and in the end I’ll be getting off none the worse for wear.
I hope my boy doesn’t take life too seriously. I hope he enjoys it, and realizes that it is only a ride, and that the ups and downs and thrills and spills of everyday life are just temporary. As long as he’s happy for the majority of it, it’s time well spent. Life is too short to be spent dwelling on worries and pain. In 100 years or so, he’ll be undoing his lap bar and stepping off of it, as we all do eventually. If he’s learned a few lessons for what’s next, and, as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, if he “knows that even one life has breathed easier because he has lived,” he’ll have succeeded in my book.
And if not, I’m a strong believer in do-overs.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #38.
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