There’s no time like the present

Last week I turned 46 years old and my kids offered up a delicious home-cooked dinner followed by a sweet dose of unexpected reality.

“I wish I was you,” my nine-year-old daughter said as we enjoyed our decadent dessert. “But I’m kind of glad that I’m not.”

“Why are you glad that you’re not?” I asked.

“Because your life is half over,” my 12-year-old son chimed in from across the table.

“It kind of is, Mom,” Daisy agreed, nodding sympathetically. “No offence.”

Sure. None taken.

Eager to know more about her first statement, I asked Daisy why she wished she were me.

“Because you have an amazing life!” she replied.

“And you look less old than you actually are,” Sam added, smiling.

I was glad they thought I looked young for 46, but the fact remained that they thought I was old.  Duh. Of course they did. I remember being my daughter’s age and thinking my mom was ancient too. She was 27 at the time.

I explained to my children that I planned on living to be at least 100 and that I hadn’t reached the halfway mark quite yet.

“But you’re close,” Sam teased. “So, no wasting time, Mom.”

And there it was, just the advice I needed to hear that day: no wasting time.

Since the age of 17 I’ve spent many of my birthdays seriously reflecting on what I had yet to accomplish rather than simply enjoying them as a wonderful celebration of life. In that moment I realized that I had been doing it again to some extent, and it was completely unnecessary. Serious reflection could wait.

I didn’t think my children had any idea what was going on in the deep recesses of my brain, but I guess they’re more perceptive than I realize. What they might see in me could be similar to what I saw in my parents when I was young, and that is a person who works too hard for the future and doesn’t play enough in the present.

Like most everyone I know, my life is full, my days are busy and my schedule is packed. I have ambitions and dreams that I’m working on constantly, but am I relishing the entire process or am I waiting to cross some magical finish line first?

At times I feel like I’m loving every minute of it. There are times though, that I become lost in the chaos and life feels like one big chore rather than the magnificent gift that it is.

I believe in dreaming big and going after my goals with fearless optimism. I also believe it’s important to remember to live every day to the fullest, because, as we all know, there are no guarantees that our life will be long.

Even though my plan is to live another 54 years or more, there’s a possibility I might not. So, if I die tomorrow, I hope to have enjoyed today – and the only person than can make that hope a reality is me.

Back when I was a brooding teenager my dad, the eternal optimist, taught me that happiness is a mindset.

“You can choose to be happy or you can choose to be miserable,” he said when I was in one of my darker moods. “Life will keep chugging along however you decide to feel.”

I can’t say his words completely sunk in at the time, but as the years have passed, I’ve tried to live by that motto more and more. If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t be able to recognize that my daughter was right: I do have an amazing life.

I’m grateful that I have some incredible people in my world who remind me of that every day. Even on my birthday.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com 

Honoring their memory

Like every adult out there, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing on September 11, 2001 when I first heard news of the catastrophic terrorist attack on America.

I was feeding my firstborn breakfast when my husband called. All he said was “Turn on the news.” I immediately went to the TV and turned it on to watch in horror as they showed the first plane hitting one of the tallest buildings in the world.  Moments later a second plane hit its twin.

Watching the events of that day unfold was as haunting a day as I’ve ever experienced and woke me up in the middle of the night for weeks.  Clear across the continent in the safeness of my own city of Vancouver, I could only imagine the horror, the grief and the pain of the thousands of people who lost their lives, and those who had lost their loved ones.

Ten years later it’s still hard to fathom that day actually happened, even though we’ve all felt the enormous effect it’s had on North America and our world in general.

So much has been written about 9/11 and will continue to be written for years to come. I will read much of it and watch the tributes and talk to my children about it when they come home from school with their questions again this year. But rather than succumb to the sadness and grief that befell the beautiful city of New York, I will honor the memory of  9/11’s victims by simply feeling gratitude for my own life and doing my best to live it to its absolute fullest.

It’s something I try to do daily and don’t always succeed.

People who read my column often remark on my “sunny disposition.” But, like everyone, I can get grumpy too. I can feel overwhelmed, sad, irritated and even downright depressed by the pressures and challenges of everyday life, and I have to work on changing my attitude. When tragedy strikes we are reminded of how precious life is, and how important it is never to take it or anything we have for granted.

“Worse things than 9/11 happen all over the world,” one of my friends said to me recently. “It’s just because this happened in America that it’s been made into such a huge deal.”

Comparing atrocities isn’t something I’d ever want to entertain. Yes, horrific things happen all over the world on a daily basis, and anyone who’s ever read or watched the news knows that. And hearing those stories is bound to have an emotional impact on us.

When I was younger, the misery of others could debilitate my ability to feel happy. Now that I’m older it still can, but I don’t allow it to because I learned that my misery won’t help anyone. Least of all me.

Life is a gift. And being grateful for everything we have is what we owe it.

To honor the victims of 9/11, I asked some people how they remind themselves to be grateful when life gets rough. Click on the TV on the top right of my website to hear what they had to say. LoriWelbourne.com