Life is short, and there’s plenty of time. Make the most of today.
A few weeks ago, I turned 55. This meant a lot to me because 55 is the first birthday my big sister did not get to celebrate.
“Help me plan the second half of my life.”
Eight years ago, I was 47. My sister was 54. She had just retired after being incredibly successful in her career, and she was visiting the Bay Area with my niece and nephew to tour colleges. We had a lovely few days together, and as we were walking through Muir Woods she told me that now she had retired, she was thinking about the second half of her life.
“I’ve focused my entire life so far on being a mom and on my work. You have worked with a lot of nonprofits, Peter. I really want to do something meaningful with the second half of my life. I have the time and the ability now. Would you help me figure out how I can really make an impact?”
I said yes, of course.
We lived on opposite coasts and only saw each other once or maybe twice a year since I’d moved to California. This would be a great bonding opportunity, and anyway, how often does the little brother get to be a source of information and guidance for the super successful big sister?
This was long before I even thought of becoming a life coach. Now I wonder how much that conversation played a subconscious role in my career choices since.
A very different conversation
Three months later, in the middle of the huge hullaballoo that was the peak of the Ice Bucket Challenge, she called me while I was at work.
Instead of the conversation I’d been anticipating, we had a very different conversation.
She told me that she had just been diagnosed with ALS. They didn’t know a lot at that point, but the doctors thought it was progressing quickly.
So, instead of helping her figure out how she could make the most of the second half of her life, I was listening to her tell me the impossible news that there would not be a second half to her life.
She passed away only eight months later, a few weeks before her 55th birthday. I’m now officially older than my sister ever got to be.
Life is short
Most of us have suffered loss. Most of us have grieved in one way or another. I went through that all in my own way at the time. That’s not what this post is about.
This post is about making the most of every day. That’s what I vowed to myself after I got that phone call.
None of us knows how long we have. Not one of us knows the day when we officially flip from the first half of our life into the second half.
For my sister, that happened when she was just 27 years old. But none of us knew it at the time.
There’s plenty of time
What does “make the most of every day” really mean?
It means something different to me every day. Productivity, relaxation, reverence, exercise, creativity… whatever today feels it needs from me, and whatever I feel I need from today.
Everyone responds differently when they look mortality in the eye. Some feel a desperate need to achieve as much as possible. Some focus on their legacy. Some turn to religion. Some turn to family.
For me, making the most of every day means being present and grateful. It means really coming to understand myself and what matters to me—not what others think should matter to me. And then trying to live every day in alignment with that.
As one of my clients said today, being on vacation and gazing at the vastness of the Pacific Ocean made her realize how insignificant a lot of her little daily worries and annoyances were, in the big picture. She’s going to remember that moment when she feels unsettled, and bring that feeling back to her mind.
Life is short. But there’s also plenty of time, if you keep perspective.
What do you want to do with your time?
When do you think the second half of your life will begin? Or has it already begun? Have you ever considered it? I mean, really, deeply thought about it?
Think ahead to the day after your life is over. If you are given a chance at that point to look back and reflect on all your days, what would you like to see? What would make you happy in that moment?
What are you doing to live each day in alignment with that?
I am looking to help new clients!
I recently realized that some people think my client list is full. Not so! I am available and eager to work with people who want to make the most of their time here. Whether you’re facing a big decision, you’ve had a big change like layoff or divorce thrust upon you, or you’re trying to build the best career you can, set up some time to talk with me about it, or send me an email.