04 Aug

We get sidetracked by things that don’t matter. 

Long time friendships broken forever over poorly placed words on social media. The stress of an overdue report at work leads us to the liquor store on our way home. The assaulting vibration of music blasting in the car next to us takes us to the brink of doing something far outside of our normally reasonable behavior. All these triggers that can lead to an unfavorable ending fade quickly, are manageable or can be forgiven, and are soon forgotten. 

A pregnant co-worker was recently hospitalized. She had a very loaded schedule at work with much pressure to get it done. Some things were overdue. Laying in her hospital bed, hand over baby in her belly, she worried about all she had to do at work. Why? In a few days, weeks, or months, whatever work was so important at that time will be overtaken by the next round of important things, layered and layered over time, each new layer being more important than the previous. All these things, layer by layer, are soon forgotten. Nobody remembers the task you didn’t complete 5 years ago. 

The grass is long and needs to be cut, today. The dust on the shelf, a spot on the floor, and some crumbs on the carpet needs to be cleaned, today. The slow drip in the kitchen sink, the chipping paint on the floorboard, and the squeaky screen door all need to be fixed, today. These things need attention, for sure. But in ten years will we remember any of these? Will we know that we fixed the sink on Thursday of a particular week in a specific year? Tomorrow there will be a new list. All the things from yesterday’s list will soon be forgotten.

I recently hiked a portion of the Wind River Range in Wyoming. It was part of an extended leave from work; two and a half weeks away. I thought about what I left behind in my work, about tasks that were coming due, about the adequacy of the training I gave my replacement, about the people who needed my direction. But the days I spent in “The Winds” were incredible. I have images from my camera and even more in my memories. When I close my eyes the entire experience floods my mind and emotions. I can smell the freshness of the air. I can see the brilliant colors of the wild flowers. I can feel the freedom of open alpine space and being surrounded by mountain peaks and big puffy clouds. I can hear the rush of water along mountain creeks, cold and refreshing. In those moments I didn’t miss work or anything else. 

When I think back to the many hikes and summits I’ve been on, I can feel it; I can see it; I can sense it. And I’m drawn back. These things are not soon forgotten. I suspect they will live with me until I take my last breath.

That time off of work was also spent with family back in Michigan. We had the first family reunion with all my surviving siblings; there are six of us now. It was a reunion that wasn’t instigated by a funeral or wedding. That was special in itself. It was wonderful. Everyone got along. All the kids and grandkids played on the beach like they would with their best friends. The adults were chatty, laughed, and enjoyed their time together. We are all old enough now to appreciate the so little time we have together, since we are spread out all over the U.S. Again, I have pictures from my camera, but mostly I have great memories. That weekend will not soon be forgotten.

I’d like to say that my life has been focused on things not forgotten. It’s not true. I have spend a good part of my life on things I don’t even remember. I’ve worried about things I had no control over. I’ve reacted poorly to triggers that brought out the worst in me. I suspect, as is the human condition, that this is the case for most of us. 

So, today, let’s be responsible for the things that need to be done today. But let’s also, with great intent, direct our activities toward things cherishable. Creating positive memories with our loved ones. Going on an epic adventure. Doing an unexpected act of kindness toward a stranger. Being the person everyone will remember in a positive way. This is what matters. This is what makes a difference. This is what makes us love life. Set our path upon the road of things not soon forgotten.

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