What’s really important?

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I just received an email from my cousin.  It resonated with me, especially at this time of year – and especially at this time in my life where suddenly, time seems to have sped up and so much of life seems to have already gone by.

I guess that the end of one year and the beginning of another sparks the philosophical in many of us.  For that reason, I thought I’d share my cousin’s email with you.  Here it is:

“Wednesday, December 23, 2009 at 6:41pm

This was a speech made by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Anna Quintile
at the graduation ceremony of an American university where she was
awarded an Honorary PhD……

I’m a novelist. My work is human nature. Real life is all I know.

Don’t ever confuse the two, your life and your work. You will walk out
of here this afternoon with only one thing that no one else has. There
will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree: there will
be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living.

But you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life.
Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk or
your life on a bus or in a car or at the computer. Not just the life of
your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank accounts but
also your soul. People don’t talk about the soul very much anymore. It’s
so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is
cold comfort on a winter’s night, or when you’re sad, or broke, or
lonely, or when you’ve received your test results and they’re not so
good.

Here is my resume: I am a good mother to three children. I have tried
never to let my work stand in the way of being a good parent. I no
longer consider myself the centre of the universe. I show up. I listen.
I try to laugh. I am a good friend to my husband. I have tried to make
marriage vows mean what they say. I am a good friend to my friends and
them to me. Without them, there would be nothing to say to you today,
because I would be a cardboard cut out. But I call them on the phone and
I meet them for lunch. I would be rotten, at best mediocre, at my job if
those other things were not true.

You cannot be really first rate at your work if your work is all you
are.
So here’s what I wanted to tell you today:

Get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the
bigger pay cheque, the larger house. Do you think you’d care so very
much about those things if you blew an aneurysm one afternoon or found a
lump in your breast?

Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on
a breeze at the seaside, a life in which you stop and watch how a
red-tailed hawk circles over the water, or the way a baby scowls with
concentration when she tries to pick up a sweet with her thumb and first
finger.

Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who
love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work. Pick up the
phone. Send an email. Write a letter. Get a life in which you are
generous. And realize that life is the best thing ever, and that you
have no business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its
goodness that you want to spread it around. Take money you would have
spent on beer and give it to charity. Work in a soup kitchen. Be a big
brother or sister. All of you want to do well. But if you do not do good
too, then doing well will never be enough.

It is so easy to waste our lives, our days, our hours, and our minutes.
It is so easy to take for granted the colour of our kids’ eyes, the way
the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again.

It is so easy to exist instead of to live.

I learned to live many years ago. I learned to love the journey, not the
destination.

I learned that it is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only
guarantee you get.

I learned to look at all the good in the world and try to give some of
it back because I believed in it, completely and utterly. And I tried to
do that, in part, by telling
others what I had learned. By telling them this: Consider the lilies of
the field. Look at the fuzz on a baby’s ear. Read in the back yard with
the sun on your face.

Learn to be happy. And think of life as a terminal illness, because if
you do, you will live it with joy.”

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