Let’s just get one thing straight.
Life is too goddamned short NOT to be stupidly, ridiculously, obscenely happy.
About three years ago, I resigned myself to keeping the life I had. Working in a job I disliked, living in a home I hated, floundering in a failing marriage, I came to terms with spending my forever being miserable because, as they say, it can always be worse. Changing things seemed impossible, so I accepted the unhappiness and chose to live my life in a way I believed provided some stability for my kids, despite recognizing the once bright light of my soul had dwindled to a mere flicker.
At the time, I lived a distance away from my family, so I’d established a good support system of friends in town. One in particular, we’ll call her Bea, transcended friendship and we became so much more than that. She was about my Mom’s age. Everyone in town knew and loved her. She was sarcastic, and honest, a larger than life figure who gave until it hurt because she knew no other way. I’d often stop by Bea’s house, and we’d sit on her porch for hours just chatting and laughing and watching the world go by, and she’d opine on life and gossip about town goings on and gush about my beautiful babies. She’d get wind of a lemonade stand in my driveway, and pop over in her big, blue sedan, happily hand my kids a twenty dollar bill, sip her cool beverage, oogle over how delicious it was, then insist the kids keep the change. She loved us, and never let an opportunity pass to tell us just that. I can hear her yelling to me as I left her house. “LOOOOOOOVVEEEEEEEEE YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU! Now, don’t go fucking anything up between here and home, ok?”
One day, Bea was gone.
I like to think she gave so much to everyone else that it left no time to care for herself. Maybe that’s true, maybe not, but that’s the story to which I stick.
She didn’t want a funeral, but in true Bea fashion, she wanted a party. Always a supporter of the city’s football program, her fans filled the bleachers looking out over the field, the skies parted after days of rain and storms, and Bea wowed us with a spectacular sunset. Grown men wept as speaker after speaker waxed on about Bea and her crazy, loving antics. The boys, the big, tough football players she loved and cheered on, and fed every week before their Friday night games, wiped tears shed for the loss of this incredible woman.
If this force of nature, this institution, this fixture and pillar of strength could be taken away, then surely nothing was certain, ever. I’m sure I’m butchering the quote, but it’s something like, tomorrow is a gift? It’s so much more than that. It’s a storm that might blow out to sea. It’s winning the lottery. It’s getting drafted and playing in the NFL. It’s something we hope for, never something that just comes.
I desperately wanted to be happy. So, what the hell was I waiting for? I began concocting a plan on my way home from Bea’s memorial that night, and never looked back. I’ve had more tomorrows to continue my work, and I have zero regrets about the decisions I’ve made. The journey has been colorful, and wraught with mistakes and downfalls and excitement and hilarity, but it’s genuine and I’m happy. Can’t ask for much more than that, although I’d give anything for one more porch sit with Bea, to hear her tell me, “Good for you, kid. GOOD. FOR. YOU.”
Bottom line is, you only get one chance to live life, and tomorrow is never, ever a given, so why hold back? Take the day off. Smile at a stranger and start a conversation. Take the trip. Buy the shoes. Kiss the girl. Write the book. Say I love you, everyday, to someone.
Be fearless and have a life of living, or play it safe, and be regretful. You have a choice. Always.