I had a friend who recently died of breast cancer. Before she passed, her words to us were: “take the scenic route.” It was a reminder that sometimes we squeeze too much in—rushing around, hurrying, trying to get everything done that we can in a short period of time while ignoring the quality of our lives.
When we spend so much time running from one activity to another, trying not to be late, we become stressed. In turn, our relationships with others can become unpleasant. We are shorter with those we love because we feel anxious, overbooked, and overwhelmed. The truth is we are trying to have a fulfilled life, and yes we should aim for that but we also need to enjoy it.
Every time someone is near death and reflecting on their life they say the same things (i.e. the book When Breath Becomes Air) —why didn’t I spend more time with my kids? Why didn’t I take more vacations from work? Why didn’t I take things slower, embrace the time I had when I had so much of it? There has to be something to these words of advice — you are not going to regret missing that meeting at work, but you are going to miss watching your kids play in the backyard. You are going to miss those afternoons when nothing was planned and you decided to have a picnic in the park. You will miss the impromptu movie night, the long conversations with your parents, the teaching/learning moments with your children. You will miss hearing about their day. You will not miss that you didn’t take the afternoon to clean your home or rearrange your closet.
I try to remember this when I feel stressed and overwhelmed, when I hear my kids laughing in the backyard and look at the pile of dishes in my sink. I remind myself to choose that time with my kids. In the long run, it will make the biggest impact on mine and their lives. It will be a memory, a moment to cherish…those dishes can wait.
My friend said to me: “Here I lie dying, looking back I should have shortened the to-do list and started a to-enjoy list.”