We’ve been enjoying very fine weather, as Margaret says at the beginning of the most dramatic final scene in any Jane Austen story ever. (Shortly after that, Elinor finds out that Edward is not married and that his heart is, and always will be, hers, and then she sobs.) Margaret knows the scene is thick with tension, but she has recently been told to keep her remarks on the weather only, the poor thing. Is this in the book? I don’t even know. I’ve only read it once, and I’ve seen the movie a lot. (And we actually have been enjoying unseasonably fine weather, so the line constantly comes to mind.)
I watched a lot of my favorite movies while I recovered. When you consume stories in large doses like that, the patterns really stand out. Over and over, I rode the train to the top of the character arc where the protagonist realizes she doesn’t want any of the things for which she is striving. Then I plummeted as she lashes out at every one of them and loses it all. And then we chugged our way to a happy, if smaller sort of peak. She’s on a different path now. She’s not as far along. But it’s the right path this time, and she feels it so deeply and so happily that all is right with the world. This is all true – you can look it up. It’s classic story arc stuff. By the time I faced only one more weekend at home before The Big Return to Real Life, I was all set to figure out all the things I needed to ax, purge, give to goodwill, quit, burn, yell at, throw away, or abandon so I could get on with the next and more appropriate life adventure.
To my great surprise, it didn’t go that way. I went back to work; and lo and behold, I didn’t hate it. The very fine weather allowed us to throw open the windows of our old house and suddenly none of its flaws seemed to matter so much. I mean, seriously, the street I live on. It’s straight Father of the Bride, I’m telling you.
And it gets worse than that! I came to this big, fat, (scary, if you’re inclined to think that way) conclusion that holy milestones, Batman, I have experienced – at least in tiny amounts – everything I could want from life. Hold on. Let’s go back to the tone of the movie section, because it’s not that I have experienced it all like my life is so wonderful. It’s that maybe – if you give it a bit of thought – you have tasted life the same way. Let’s unroll it and see if I’m right. Here are the things I was thinking about.
I have experienced great love. This is what we want, isn’t it? What pretty much every single one of us wants? I love that I have experienced this in the boy-girl, let’s get married kind of way. But I’m reminded of a Jennifer Aniston quote when someone asked her if she got tired of the tabloids talking about how unlucky she had been in love, and she was confused by the question. “I feel like I have been very lucky in love,” she said. Because she had loved, and she had been loved. More than once – with men, with family, with lifelong friends. Great love is several parts luck and one huge part you giving of yourself in a way you’ll never regret no matter how it’s reciprocated.
I have been places. It has, at times in my life, been a bit terrifying to imagine that maybe I will never go anywhere or do anything. Maybe I’ll never see the Eiffel Tower in person. Maybe I’ll never even get to Europe at all. But then, I have been to Colombia, South America. I spent three jam-packed days in New York City, and it was everything I imagined. I’ve been to the ocean, too. It’s starting to become really clear to me that at the end of life these are the things I’ll be counting, the meaningful experiences and unforgettable moments, rather than the things I didn’t do or the change left over from them.
I have struggled and survived. I know we can’t all have cancer. THANKFULLY, it’s still only a percentage of us who face that. But there is quite a plethora of other struggles just bouncing around for the taking. Let’s be real. They are everywhere, and we can’t avoid them. Every time we get all the way through one and to the other side, well – to put it simply – we have lived.
I wrote a book. Maybe you’ve done that, too. But if not, what’s your writing-a-book? Can you think of at least one thing lots of people wish they could do but you have? Much, MUCH, more importantly, can you think of something you wanted to do, and you did? I hope you didn’t forget how much you wanted it before you finally got it. If so, remember now. And then be super proud.
The last time I had this thought, I felt a little worried that it meant I actually was at the end, as if my content was actually a sign of my imminent death. I think things like that; it passes.
In this case, I’m just grateful it’s been good so far, and I’m wondering – in another few years – how much fuller I can make the list. Which is exactly what I hope you are wondering, too.