On Emergencies and Tragedies

So while I was at my library meeting yesterday, someone had a seizure or a stroke–I’m not entirely sure which. It happened suddenly, with no warning at all. I hear they’re feeling better, which is a relief, but it was–needless to say–a pretty upsetting experience for all involved. And it’s been something I keep going over in my mind. Which means I need to write about it to try and understand it a bit better. Bear with me, or skip today’s post. Your call.

It’s so easy to live life with certain assumptions in place. Assumptions about continued health. No serious accidents. That we are more or less in control of our fate. Experiences like the one I witnessed yesterday go a long way to disrupting your willingness to make those assumptions, at least for a few days.

When you get down to it, life is full of risk. There’s always the risk of tragedy striking at any time and at any place. I’ve seen this happen in my life and in the life of my friends–particularly now that Facebook is around and I’m in touch with so many more people on a daily or weekly basis. I’ve seen friends lose children, lose jobs, lose their health. I’ve seen friends disappear from a social network, only to find out a month or a year later that they died. In an instant, everything can be different.

I remember when I was living in Utah, Denisa and I were staying with my aunt and uncle. It was on the agreement that should my cousin need to move back to live with them, Denisa and I would need to find a different place to live. I really didn’t handle that uncertainty well at first. The idea that at any moment, I might be forced to scramble to find alternatives. And I basically asked my aunt “what if I have to move out tomorrow?”

Her answer has stuck with me. She just shook her head, shrugged, and said, “What if a meteorite strikes the house? What if we have a fire? What if you get in an accident?” Her point was clear: we can spend all day worrying about the “What ifs.” There are tons of things to worry about, after all. So many ways life can just be changed forever in a moment. But if you’re focused on all those what ifs all the time, then you’re never going to get any real living done. You’ll be too focused on preparing for every eventuality that you miss out on all the opportunities to be happy.

This isn’t something I do too well with. I don’t like change. I don’t like it when things don’t go according to plan–even little things. If I have a plan for an evening, and it gets altered, that upsets me. I’m that kind of a guy. But I’m beginning to learn that it’s a waste of time to worry about every eventuality. Something might pop up. I can worry about it when it does.

At the same time, I do think it’s important to live your life as much as you can when you can. Enjoy the happy times, because there will be sad times that come along, too. Trying to prepare in advance for all the potential sad just makes you miss out on the happy.

And that’s my deep thought for you today. Go out and do something you enjoy this weekend or this evening. Spend time with friends, family, or on yourself. Time is like money. You can only spend it when you have it. Saving some is good, but save too much too often and you can end up never having the chance to enjoy it.

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