“This life is not a dress rehearsal”

I was telling someone the other day how hard I work not to use cliches in my writing. Now, here I am writing a post in which the very title is a cliche. Yet my soul demands it.

I have been feeling emotionally raw lately, not in a bad way, but certainly filled with thoughts and feelings about the world around me. I have been witness to some of the best parts of humanity and, though words aren’t really adequate, feel compelled to speak to these events:

I have seen the work of a young mother who has given an ocean of love to her children. This story is told in many ways. It’s told in visits to doctors to receive diagnoses, in sleep deprivation, in sometimes second-guessing herself despite Herculean efforts on behalf of her young ones. It’s also told in dance recitals, moments of triumph, and hugs that come unexpectedly at just the right time. Most of all, the story plays out with an unyielding and irresistible determination to do what is right, to get back up when knocked down, and to eek out joy from even the smallest corner where it exists.

I have seen weekend athletes conquer the elements and their own fears to perform prodigious feats. The rewards for this are finisher medals, the admiration of friends, and a sense of accomplishment. But there’s something bigger at stake, which is a statement that life is to be lived and not merely spectated. I have long admired athletes who do their sport for the love of it rather than for the glory. And I find myself in the midst of these everyday heroes.

I have seen a young friend who takes virtue and makes it look beautiful and intelligent and kind. She is like a surfer who fearlessly approaches big waves and sails along using them to move her forward. Just as I could watch surfers all day, I hope to watch her for a lifetime to see the captivating, inspiring way she navigates through life.

A few years ago, I was talking with a brave woman who was in the throes of cancer, knowing that her death was not far off. We were talking about fear. She asked if I was afraid to die. I said, “Yes, a little. But I’m more afraid of not having lived.”

These days I know that I’m alive. I see the others I’ve mentioned and try to drink from the same well of life. John Wooden once said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” I see the gallery of beautiful works created by those around me and it inspires me to create my own.

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