Life Savers

“Our lived lives might become a protracted mourning for, or an endless tantrum about, the lives we were unable to live. But the exemptions we suffer, whether forced or chosen, make us who we are.” ~ Adam Phillips*

When I was growing up, there was a Life Saver’s commercial featuring a little girl watching the sunset with her father and just after the sun slips down past the horizon, she whispers, “Do it again, Daddy.” I’ve always loved that commercial. I easily placed myself under that tree at sunset with my own Dad, who I believed knew everything.

I hadn’t thought about that commercial for many years until after my father died. I was brushing my teeth when a vision popped into my head of myself on my own death bed, my father waiting for me on the other side, feeling an immense joy in having experienced the wonderful roller coaster of my human life. In my vision I turned to him and asked, “Do it again, Daddy.” As if he could control not only the earth and stars, but restart life itself.

One of the most painful things to me at the time of my father’s death was viewing all his unfinished business splayed around his office. Projects half finished, goals uncompleted, life interrupted and cut off. I started to want my own life back for all the things I hadn’t done or would do differently or to make up for all the times I had held myself back.

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 1.34.38 PM

illustration by Gizem Vural

My personal jury is out on reincarnation. I don’t not believe in it; I’m open to the possibility. But I’m more inclined to believe in things like cellular memory, or ponder how the air I breathe was also breathed by Neanderthals or that we’re all made of the same star dust. I’m more inclined to see the interconnectedness of all things or that all of life happens all at once.

Life feels too short at times, and time has gotten slippery as I’ve grown older. I’ve written several times about how, on his death bed, my father turned to me in a sudden lucid moment and said, From a baby to an old man is three days. I’ve divided those days and if what my Father says is true, and the years are merely days, then the months must be hours, the weeks minutes, and each earth rotation a second.

With so little time to live, I grew determined to fill my life up with doing, achieving, joining. I created a pressure to get things done and not leave anything unfinished, even though my own father happily spent so much of his time alone in his garden and greenhouse. It has only been in the past few years that I’ve discovered the secret to having more of life is doing less and being more.

I used to wonder how older people could just sit around and watch grass grow. Hours on park benches, hours on porches, hours in the garden. But now I, too, find myself pulled in the direction of stillness and silence. Instead of filling myself up with things to do, I feel the need to retreat and enjoy and let go of what used to simply feed my ego and my time.

This doesn’t mean NOT participating in the world, it’s just another way to participate. One that allows, at least for me, a way to cherish and appreciate what is. Living in each now moment has opened me up to magical connection and synchronicity. And living in process (rather than product) and community with creativity, whether it’s writing, communicating, observing, or simply breathing allows, ironically, for more fullness, not less.

*FURTHER READING: In Praise of Missing Out

 

YOUR WRITING WORKOUT**

Where has your character lost touch with the “now”? When does ze obsess about the past or worry about the future? Where does ze try to fill in the silence for fear of missing out?

TIMED WRITING GUIDELINES

Set your timer for 7 -15 minutes per start line 
(I sometimes increase the time with each start line: 7 min, 10 min, 12 min …). 
When timer starts: write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

PICK FROM ANY OF THE BELOW START LINES

My Character feels disconnected from the world because …

The first/last time my Character felt connected to the world was when …

My Character over-worries about …

My Character fears ze will never achieve …

My Character regrets that ze …

When my Character slows down, ze discovers …

Happy writing!

**I decided to use gender neutral pronouns in my workouts from now on. I was tired of writing “he or she” and “him or her” or alternating… plus I was leaving out my gender queer friends or anyone who has a gender neutral character. My preference is “ze/zir.”

https://genderneutralpronoun.wordpress.com/

 

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4 Comments

  1. Mark Cameron
    Aug 2, 2016

    Wonderfully said, Danika. A beautiful and thoughtful post that inspires me to appreciate the little things today — like sharing the same space with both my parents and children, which we only get to do a few times a year.

    • Danika
      Aug 2, 2016

      Thanks, Mark! Moving to the Sunshine Coast has been a blessing for me. I’ve slowed down and spent more time simply watching the water and listening to the birds and feeling totally complete, appreciating all that is right now.

  2. Derald Breneman
    Aug 10, 2016

    Very nice, Danika. Just the other day I was musing about my fairly profound appreciation the act of sitting and doing nothing–except watching the hummingbirds, or the high-flying hawk, or the tree tops swaying to the rhythm of the breeze, or the bees, or the dragonflies, or on and on. Being the accomplishment-driven sort, however, I seem to enjoy it best at the end of the day.

    Dying fathers: While on his deathbed, my father had me dial up his friends–some going back to college days–and he told every one how honored he was to have known him or her. He didn’t cry, but he was authentic in a way I can’t do justice to. He left me with something that day, and I suppose I’m still working out just what is.

    • Danika
      Aug 12, 2016

      Thank you so much for sharing, Derald. What a beautiful story, and what a gift to the people in your father’s life.

      I think true peace lies in being able to get to happiness by doing nothing but watching / listening to the birds or ocean or trees. That Taoist expression wei wu wei – do nondoing, strive for nonstriving – comes to mind.

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