Saturday is my sister’s birthday. She would have been 37. Her journey the last two years of her life was heart wrenching and bittersweet. But it was also a powerful education for me on the brevity of the time we spend on this planet. A few times a day I see a post on Facebook that highlights this make-each-moment-count, or life-is-short-carpe-diem idea—but they are like greeting cards: thanks for the sentiment, now on with the present. I nod my head knowingly, then scroll on or turn back to my work at the computer screen moving pixels around. The truth is, though, that life is too short to spend it on manufactured deadlines and corporate machinery. Without getting too “down with the man” I’ve come to realize that when I take that last breath, I don’t actually care what kind of an exemplary employee I was. What kind of dad? Yes. What kind of brother/son/husband? Yes. What was my contribution to the world as a whole? It better be helpfulness, happiness, laughter, great memories, and maybe some positive leave-behind materials. It will never be related to my timecard, or how well I managed those projects—no matter how well I do those things.
The next time you read an obituary, look at how many words are devoted to the work that person did. Usually, it’s, “John worked at company x for x years.” If even that, anymore. It’s usually followed by some version of, “he loved the outdoors, spent his free time tinkering on motors, loved raising chickens, or some such thing that that person chose to or loved to do with their free time. And I’ve not been at too many funerals and wakes where the entire time is spent talking about the great employee they were, the projects they worked on, or their fantastic time spent in the office. In the end, the time spent at work is too often inversely proportional to its importance at the end of the journey.
The second lesson I learned on the journey with Sarah, was that writing is important to me. I documented many parts of her struggles as a way to communicate for her, and to keep family and friends up to date—but I realized as the time progressed, writing was my way of processing what was going on. It was balm for my wounds and the way I could get the jumbled mess of my mind into some sort of order. It was my job to do and my guidepost. I could cry for a while, but I needed to get that next update written and that meant sorting out what was going on and how to communicate it.
I have always been this way. It is only by communicating my ideas to others—written or spoken, that I can best comprehend them myself. Looking back at these mile-markers, I see my thoughts and experiences throughout the whole ordeal.
Sarah challenged me to write. One of the last things she said to me was to encourage me to explore writing, as a creative pursuit, further: to commit myself to the endeavor. I always saw her talent and desire for creating art, and I did my best to help her pursue that avenue. Now, after years of pushing her to pursue her love of art—I am writing. Over and over again I heard friends and family say to me in the time after her death, “don’t stop writing.” Well, this post is the one in which I jump in with both feet and formally declare that process has begun.
Partly to honor Sarah’s memory and rise to her challenge, but mostly because I have stories inside of me that are trying to get out, I am making a concerted effort to explore this “writing” thing. It’s easy to forget, in the bustle of all the stuff that must get done each day that I am on a journey too. I’m a storyteller. I always have been. Now, I just need to figure out how to ramp it up and refine what skill I have.
I once read that the difference between writers and everyone else is that they actually write the things they think about. I keep telling my kids that they are never going to be great at something the first time they try it, and it’s only through practice that they will get better at anything. So, I’m listing to my own words. I’m going to write. Everyday. Some will frequently make it’s way to a post here, much will be for the two books that are trying to tumble out of my brain. But I’m going to get my writing chops exercised.
I also know they seem to highlight the reams of stuff psychopaths write after they have gone off the deep end—so we will try and avoid the crazy-rant side of things. There is enough inane blathering on the internet—but well, this will just add my voice to the cacophony.
Draft of Book 1 by the End of the Year.
Draft of Book 2 by June 7th next year.
Hold me to those, alright?