Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Race

How do I stop living and wait to die? I see people do that. I see them plan their funerals as if they are family reunions complete with potluck dinner and Uncle Johnny saying a few words. I see them make arrangements for music and burial outfits and photo presentations and such. I see them look forward almost to this event they will never actually attend. I see them getting ready for their final days. I see the excitement in a weird if-only-I-could-be-there-to-see-how-people-mourn-me-after-I'm-gone sort of way. These people are not old. These people are my age. Pushing fifty or fifty-something. Why don't I know how to do this? And why do I feel it completely pointless?

To paraphrase and twist a bit a popular saying, don't bother sticking a fork in me. I don't think I will ever be done. I asked a friend the other day what he wants to do before he dies. He said he wants to live! With an exclamation mark. I told him I will assume that the exclamation mark changes the word a tad. I told him I will assume that he wants to do a smidge more than just breathe until he stops. Isn't that the whole point? Living life with an exclamation mark until the game is over?

It's sort of like a marathon. I run, and I run, and I run. Then when I am near the finish line, I look and say, "Well, hell, it's been a great race. I'll just sit down right here and start planning the victory party." Come on now. I think that's cheating a bit. There's more race to be run and more bagels to eat. There may be fellow runners who need my encouragement. They may be flagging a bit. I might have the words they're looking for to keep up their momentum. They may have something to teach me. We may both fuel each other, become great friends, and go on to inspire others. Who knows. But we can never find out the ending to that story if I am ordering flowers and booking a room.

Which brings me to the question of what exactly it means to live until I die. To me it is like this. Every day is a what-do-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up kind of day. Every day is a what-can-I-do-for-you kind of day. Every day is a day where I put myself out there for all of humanity, where I learn and I teach and I give back what I've been given. Every day is a day where I throw myself out at the world hoping that something is what someone is looking for. Every day. If I wake up and fail to do any of this, I have lost the exclamation point.

I don't want to lose that exclamation point.

To lose that is to have started party planning early. To lose that is to have missed maybe the most beautiful section of the entire course. To lose that is to have lost the race itself.

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