I once read an article about a famous surgeon who developed a number of innovative procedures that are used to save countless lives today. As he approached retirement, he still spent an hour on the treadmill and worked 12-hour shifts. When he was asked what his great regret in life was, he replied that he had wasted too much time. It's funny that I can remember the quote, but not the surgeon.
Most days, I fill up too much of my time with things that seem like busy-ness, but really aren't important or useful. Then, there are the evenings, when my 150th sensible email of the day has drained the last ounce of blood from my brain and I watch Korean soap operas or read chick-lit. I don't flatter myself when I tell you I could probably teach an hour-long class on the psycho-social implications of paranormal romance novels. That is, if I wanted to pretend my hobbies were intelligent ones.
But when you're reduced by a virus to contemplating the germ count on your nasty sheets and trying to ignore the itch of your sweat-slicked hair, your regular hobbies aren't ridiculous enough. Because your eyes are tired and all that's left to do is contemplate the whole damn Universe.
"What will be the meaning, the point of my life?" "Why do some people have it so easy and I don't?" "Why can't I always be happy knowing at least that I have a warm bed, food to eat, people who I care about around me?"
This isn't the first time, but certainly the most prolific thinking I had done on this subject in a long time. I realized that I didn't worry so much about all that existential stuff if I truly enjoyed what I was doing. There are days, when I wouldn't trade my cluttered apartment and constantly breaking down car for the Duchess of Cambridge's royal everything. But those moments of rose-colored glasses and sunshine mimosas more often than not were clouded by my regrets - namely spending my twenties overweight and under-dressed and hunched over a small cubicle desk trying to make Senior Associate.
And then the cold front of frustration sweeps in as I try to unclog a drain. I wonder why I didn't spend more time writing my children's book. By now it could be a best-seller, and I could live in a house with drains that didn't clog and a dusty rose-colored Jacuzzi bath tub.
There's also that person on Pinterest living the dream: baking, crafting, and running her own public relations consulting firm. Of course, she's planning a trip to the Amalfi coast. Of course, she's got a perfectly coiffed family. Of course, I could imagine that her handsome husband farts in his sleep.
At this point, a wizened monk living in seclusion, high atop a snowy mountain would probably whisper to me that the true meaning of life is to become one with a higher spiritual power. If we understand how beautiful and connected we are to each other, we will experience great joy and compassion. Any jealousy or bitterness in my heart would be erased by this precious understanding of everything around me. Then his sole candle would sputter out and the monk's cave would become pitch dark.
Perhaps the people doing Life right are the ones who have done one of three things (I won't depress myself too much by thinking of those who might have accomplished all of them):
1) Made a great fortune - Our American Dream is rife with stories of people who raised themselves out of poverty to make good and buy $45,000 watches. I find it interesting that sometimes, these very same, self-made CEOs often complain about paying taxes for social services and providing health insurance for their employees. You know, the same ones trying to improve their own lot in life through hard work and ingenuity. But we'll save that for another day and another post.
2) Found great fame - Maybe because they did something heroic, or maybe because they are outrageous. The annals of history shall never forget Capt. Sullenberger, but I am slightly bothered that my future grandchildren may know more about Snookie than the Miracle on the Hudson. (Who wants to place a bet that Nick at Nite runs Jersey Shore in 2027?)
3) Sacrificed family/friends to pursue an extremely interesting profession - These are the Indiana Jones-types or people who spend all their time on sailboats traveling around the world and barter kale and handmade shea butter soaps. I don't know how people get to just move to Asia and set up shop there either. Maybe that's why Great Aunt Agatha never left Brooklyn and spent 35 years as a seamstress making school uniforms. She couldn't get her visa for Shanghai approved.
I don't have children yet, upon whom I can pin my hopes of future fame/fortune/interesting professions. I suppose then, I'll have to make something of what I've got right now. And the primary thing in my life to have given me the greatest sense of meaning is my writing. That means, I actually have to write more often.
This is hard because I'm not an honest writer. I like to write about other people's thoughts and feelings. I get paid for it too. But my own words and voice? Well, it can be a bit messy and complicated at times. And you, dear reader, will have to examine me closer than I would like.
So, I'll admit to you, that yes, all I did today was complain about how it sucks to be sick, and ate a ham and swiss crepe and played two hours of Smash Hit on my iPhone, and saved $23.77 using my Kroger card. And I'll also admit to you that maybe I'm a little too much in my head sometimes and too quick to judge, and not a little patronizing.
But, if I do put myself and all my values and beliefs out there, maybe, they might mean something to someone else. Well? I'll wait to hear from you.
P.S. I tried to do a Google search to find a "thinking woman" picture that was somewhat artistic. According to the Image search, there is just a bunch of lame stock photos. Here is a thinking cat instead.