Fair warning. I am feeling a little philosophical today. I may even ramble a bit, but hopefully, my musings will make sense to you. Join me if you dare.
American author, poet and naturalist Diane Ackerman once said, " I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it. I want to live the width of it as well."
I see the line she is describing as something more than just a wide, straight track from point A to point B. Rather, it is more like a curved arch that starts out a mere pinpoint - that spark that marks the birth of consciousness. Then the width gradually broadens and fills in as we move through life adding experiences to its dimensions. But somewhere around middle age or, if we are lucky, not until lat in life, the line begins to narrow again until that spark of consciousness dwindles once more to a single point and we transition to a new existence.
It is what lies between those two singular points that defines a life. What have we done to make a memorable mark, to create a legacy of joy, laughter and love? Have we stared life in the face and laughed with the sheer exhilaration of being alive, living every moment to its fullest? Or have we cowered in the shadows, just hoping to get through another day? One way is living wide, the other narrow. Some days we live wide. Others, we can barely sustain a narrow existence. Our line is not always wide. It contracts and expands between those first and last points. The question we must ask is whether on average it has been wide.
When I look back, I realize I have lived most of my life as though I would live forever, as though I would always have time. I dieted for looks more than health, never looking to a future when health would be paramount. I played and partied rather than exercise, never seeing a body that could begin to fail. I took chances, savoring the rush of adrenaline that came when I dared to do something risky and exciting. And I cared more for how events would impact my own comfort than I did for long-term issues. But I think that is how most young people see themselves – invulnerable and immortal. With experience, we learn otherwise. But I would like to believe that we hold on to that magical thinking for as long as we can. It adds substance to the width of the life we live.
Life has managed to smack me upside the head a few times, but still I believe I have lived the full width of this life of mine. I am content. Oh, I have known broken bones and a broken heart. I have felt love and betrayal and forgiveness. And I have seen unimaginable changes that would never have happened in the Pollyanna world I knew when I was young. And yes, I have known grief in seeing death claim those I loved and even those I did not know. In seeing them pass from this world, I have learned that I am no more immortal than they were. Their immortality lies in the memories they leave behind. But their deaths also taught me an even more vital lesson. What defines living wide for me is not necessarily what it is for anyone else. When Diane Ackerman wrote about living, she talked of living the width of her life. Not mine. Not yours. No one else but hers. I am content with the width of my life. So, my question to you is, how wide is the life you are choosing to live and is it the life you want?