The past 5 days rank among the most emotionally trying of my life behind the loss of my grandmother in April 2009 followed by my black lab Duke barely two months later.  On Friday, I made the difficult, but ultimately the correct decision to resign as a part-time after school teacher, leaving 17 teary eyed children and their understanding yet sorrowful parents in my wake. Read my good bye story here. Without even 24 hours to contemplate the significance of this moment, I was involved in a car accident.

Today’s question for discussion is Are you Living Your Life or Waiting In Line, Simply Surviving Until Your Number is Called?

As I recover from the jarring event, I recognize how truly blessed I am. Suffice it to say, even though I was wearing my seat belt, I could have sustained far greater injury than I did, walking away with nothing more than minor scrapes and bruises. As my truck was suspended in air, turning on its side, the moment seemed to last an eternity, an eternity to reflect upon life and all that has yet to come of my own. Collecting my belongings yesterday, I could not help but be overcome by sobs and tears as I likely looked at the truck that saved my life for the final time.

The next day, as I greeted the rising sun on my knees thanking God for the gift of life, I was blindsided by the realization that this was not the first time I had vowed to myself and my Lord starting from that very moment, I would do things differently. Each minute forward, I would live unencumbered by the petty inconveniences of life. I would rise above the lure of mediocrity, stand resolute against the seductress of whimsical pleasure, and forge a life of character and virtue in order to live with purpose and value.

Many times before have I stood at these crossroads, one hand shielding my eyes from the sun, gazing down the path of the life I want to lead. Each time I’ve come here, I’ve arrived differently. I’ve read books that inspired me to start anew. Prior emotional hardship and failed relationships refocused and reinforced my resolve. I’ve listened to religious sermons that have cleansed and resuscitated my soul and set me forth to this point.  And among other reasons, I’ve had little moments that have shaken me to my core, awakened me from my zombie like trance, and set me firmly on my feet to begin my journey conscious of what I could and should become. From this vantage point, I am able to see each stop along the route. Each moment of greatness and success. Every obstacle that will need to be hurdled and overcome. It is clear, and it is concrete. I stand there, and I realize that I have all the tools that I will need for the journey. All that remains is that first step forward.

2010 presented me with many such instances. And as I’ve recounted with detail on Life as an Experiment, I’ve tried to toe this path winding toward my destiny. I began this blog with ambitious hopes in the Fall of 2010. I would recount my follies and missteps, uncover the root forces underneath each critical decision, and better prepare myself for similar situations in the future. In effect, I would hold myself accountable to living a life worth just that, LIVING. I made a pledge to live above the influence of fear and self-doubt. To welcome adversity with open arms so that I might fortify the resolve of my spirit, educate myself on the merits of my strengths and weaknesses, and expose the opportunity that lay within each obstacle. To cherish each day as an old man but to live each moment with the innocent and naive love of life of a child, such was my lofty ambition.

These words exist. Both here on this blog and in conversations with myself of the past. But they are just memories of lip service given to change and betterment. Evidence of a momentary rekindling of my soul only to be forgotten days, weeks, or months later. Each time I have stood where I stand now, I professed to myself that this time would be different. This time, I’d see it through. But, without fail, I always retreat back to the comforts of the familiar and the mediocre of the path already traveled. I venture into the unknown forest only to realize that if I keep going, even my bread crumbs will eventually disappear, and I won’t be able to find my way back. So I turn and run for that safety. And the life that I speak of wanting to live remains undiscovered somewhere on the horizon and beyond my grasp.

I’m not sure what tomorrow will bring. Will I continue to see each day for what it is: a gift? The gift to live fully and virtuously? Will I actually begin to walk down that road that I romanticize about or will I remain victimized by my own paralyzing indecision and fear? When my time does come, will I be able to say that I LIVED or SURVIVED?

I cannot wish my circumstance on anyone. But I have a new perspective afforded to those who come so close the Reaper’s grasp, yet walk away to live on. I will cherish today to its fullest. I will be reminded to tell those that I love how much I appreciate, need, and love them in return. I will stop trying to merely survive — even though, at times, survival is the only option in business as well as in life. I will take advantage of the finite time that I have left on this earth.

I have a Bucket List, but crossing off these entries does not a life make. It is the journey, not the destinations that fulfill us. If the destinations are but side trips from our distant road, then they will not possess the value that we envision once completed. They must be stopping points along the road WE travel. If we give away too many todays waiting on the promise of tomorrow, tomorrow will never live up to our expectations. So, from here forward, my bucket list extends until sundown. What can I do today to honor and celebrate the gift I have?

For me, it’s simple. I may not enjoy the pleasure afforded by these every day, but I’ll try because they make my life worthwhile.

  1. I’ll talk to my family. Hearing their voices soothes my soul and comforts me
  2. I’ll spend 2 or more hours outside. There’s nothing like watching the clouds pass by overhead. Nothing
  3. I’ll run. There is joy in the road.
  4. I’ll write just a little bit each day, so that someone may know me long after I am gone
  5. I’ll read just a little bit more to help me fantasize about “what dreams may come”
  6. I’ll reach out to that old friend or acquaintance just to check-in without having to ask a favor
  7. I’ll talk to a stranger. A new friend is awaiting you everywhere you look
  8. I’ll remember to smile
  9. I’ll complain less
  10. I’ll live in the PRESENT because the present is the greatest gift of all – remember not to lose sight of your next step by constantly maintaining your gaze on the horizon. The future will come. Remember to enjoy today first.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? HAVE YOU BEEN LIVING OR JUST SIMPLY SURVIVING?

You talked about it. You even told yourself you were committed. You bought those expensive new running shoes or tickets to the ball game for you and your son or figured out what you’d tell your boss if he asked you just one more time to come in on Saturday. Everything was planned out perfectly. You held the reins to your new life, and this time it was going to be different. This time you’d keep that promise to yourself. But months have passed, and those shoes have seen more miles cutting grass than running on the pavement, the tickets were a one time thing, and you still haven’t  gotten around to talking to your boss because the timing just hasn’t felt right. Are you just going to give in and keep surviving, letting today pass without an effort to REALLY LIVE IT?

We have but one certainty in this life: that it will end. For me, it wasn’t this Saturday, but one day the end will come. What I choose to do with the days between today and that day will make all the difference. I can LIVE or SURVIVE. I CHOOSE TO LIVE.

As I finish this post with Bob Marley singing to me that Everything Will Be Alright, I’m reminded that no matter what choices I make, right or wrong, I will still lie there at the end guarding my deepest regrets (we all have them no matter how hard we try not to) but if I’m lucky, I’ll be holding the hands within my own and the gaze in my eyes of the family and friends that have made it all worth its while.

I thank God for my life and those who make it so. God Bless You All.

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  • http://www.enteradulthood.com Diana Antholis

    This is a really great post and I’m glad you are okay.
    It seems as though we all do this – something happens, we vow to change our lives because of it, we start to, and then we forget because we get sucked in to the daily grind again.
    I’d like to say that I’m living. If I were surviving, I would have retreated back to what I knew before, but I didn’t. And I have high hopes for the future. When my bf and I spent the weekend with close friends and told them some of our “life plans” they said, “Well, you really don’t have cobwebs under your feet, do you?” Definitely not.

    • http://www.lifeasanexperiment.com James D. Burrell II

      Diana,

      Thanks so much for the kind words. I count my blessings that I am ok. I know life cannot be full of butterflies and rainbows, and that some days, we simple have to do what’s necessary to survive — just to have food on the table and a roof over our heads. Perhaps life is more about a series of small corrections ever so inching us closer to our “path” than deciding one day to deviate from the one traveled to the one we desire to travel.

      I sincerely appreciate you stopping by to share your story today, and I wish you and your boyfriend all the success in your “life plans”.

      Respectfully,

      JB

  • http://nittygriddy.com/ Ingrid Abboud

    Whattttt?!!!!

    How did you not tell me about your accident before Jamey? Grrr….but I’m so glad you’re okay. You cal handle little scrapes and bruises and to hell with the truck – it’s only material. Material can always be replaced one day. What counts is that you’re safe and sound!

    A very thought provoking post you got here.
    I may be living my life – and many that know me will probably tell you that I do to it’s fullest whereas others will tell you I should do more – be more. I’ll agree with the latter.

    I’ve had this idea in my head of moving back to the US for a little while and working there. And as much as I want to go – I think fear holds me back. Fear of not being close to my family anymore – which is strange because I’ve always lived alone abroad somewhere. But when I came back – and now after 8 years – I’m slowly getting use to having them here by my side and the horrible question of what if?…holds me back. But I’m fine with that. I make up for it by traveling whenever I can or have the chance to.

    It’s funny how the older we get the less carefree we become. We think a hundred times before doing something that we wouldn’t have given a minute’s thought to 5 years ago.

    I have made so many promises to myself that I have every intention to keep – but I’ve been detained by so many reasons. So I tell myself I still have time. I will still do them. I will still become what I was supposed to be. And while I tell myself all that – time continues to pass.

    I’ve never made a real bucket list. One that I’ve kept. Mine changes all the time except for a few things. But maybe it’s time I work on a new one – I’ll laminate it so that it’s official lol ;).

    Anyhow – thanks for sharing all this with us Jimbo. And this isn’t the last you hear of me about your accident!!! But again – I’m just happy you’re okay :).

    Nicely written and great of you to open up in that way and allow us to be a part of your journey.

    All the best

    • http://www.lifeasanexperiment.com James D. Burrell II

      I know I will only continue to be paralyzed by analysis of decisions as I grow older and more mature, but looking back just a few years, I know how far I’ve matured in my decision making. I’ve hovered over the Post button, Enter Key, & “Sign at the Dotted Line”. Hell, “white or wheat?” still causes my knees to buckle with fright. Oh, how I kid!

      When considering moving back to the US, only you can make that call. I’m wrestling in my own mind what to do about my future residence, and the conclusion that I’ve come up with is no matter where I am, I can make IT the right decision. No matter how much I plan and rationalize my decisions, I have no control on future consequences. I can only hope to live with them.

      As far as a bucket list is concerned, the more I look at mine, the more I realize that doing those things wont fulfill me. If tomorrow I go rock climbing, will I suddenly feel accomplished? Unlikely. What will make those items worthwhile will be the pursuit of them. The relationships made along the way and the happiness that made them a reality. The actions themselves are merely markers on the horizon that keep me heading in the right direction.

      Griddy, your friendship and support are appreciated far more than these words can convey. I’m glad to have you riding with me down this winding, bumpy, and unpredictable path.

      VR – Jamey B

  • Brenda Lynn

    Jamey, I too, am very glad that you escaped the accident without any real injuries. Trucks can be replaced, you my friend, can’t! I have had several things in my life that have taken me to that place where I had to say, ok, I have got to get my life straightened out. The first time was in 2000 when we lost my precious 16 nephew to a freak accident. The second time was in 2004 when my beautiful 17 year niece was hit by a train on her way to church. Those made me re-examine my life and deepened my faith.

    I spent years not living my life to the fullest, I was just existing, but not any more! My life has had some drastic changes, divorce after 32 years of marriage. I was married to a man who put off everything. It was always, some day we will do this, some day we ill do that and life was just passing both of us by. He wanted to keep doing the same thing, but expected to get different results, yeah, right!

    I have spent time licking my wounds and healing and I am now ready to start living my life to the fullest. I still have days when I am too tired or worn out to do anything other than exist, but those are getting fewer and farther apart.

    Another great post, my friend, thank you.

    Brenda Lynn

    • http://www.lifeasanexperiment.com James D. Burrell II

      Brenda,

      I am so sorry to hear of the loses your family had to endure. Having lost a few friends over the years and witnessing the shock and horror experienced by their families, it is no surprise to me that the first thing I did was call my mother to let her know I was alright.

      Speaking of her, she often intimates that I’m too profound and think too deeply for someone my age. She applauds me at my efforts in writing and in life but ponders if I suffer from living an overly analytical and calculated one instead of allowing the chips fall where they may. I see her reasoning. But only we know what we are capable of doing. We reserve the knowledge of our wildest dreams to ourselves. It is what secretly motivates us, and when necessary, kicks in the gut to remind us to get back on our path.

      After writing this post, and more so after reading your comment, I want to backtrack. As I commented to Diana below, perhaps we can never actually make the leap from our ‘wrong’ path to the ‘right’ one, but over a lifetime of small corrections — sometimes many years apart — we will arrive there. Some people may get there at 25 others at 65, but no matter how long it takes, as long as we actively seek that better path, we will be better for it and those we meet along the way will be, too.

      There must be some proverb that sums it up, but I don’t know it. But I have to imagine it would go like this, “A man who strives for betterment will always bring it to those around him.”

      God Bless Brenda. May you have a wonderful day.

      • Brenda Lynn

        I almost put in my original comment that you seem to be an “old soul” much more mature than your actual age. We moms worry that our kids are missing out on stuff, my older daughter seemed to be an adult almost from birth. The younger one has been just the opposite! She seems to have finally grown up at almost 24!

        Brenda Lynn

  • http://twitter.com/livefortherun Nichole

    Love this.