Thursday, April 3

Live a Life Without Regrets

Dear Jacob,

I'm sitting in the Dallas Fort Worth airport writing to you and hoping my battery doesn't die.  This world of finding outlets and charging things at every layover has forever changed the world of travel.  It's humid here, I just spent $8 for a sandwich and Grandma needs to stop texting me so I can focus (Hi, Mom).

When I left home this morning there were four inches of snow on the ground. I put on my coat and gloves to drive to the airport and then I stripped down and left them in the van because where I'm headed it's supposed to be nearly ninety degrees today. Kind of a shock to my system, but the whole reason for this trip is a shock to my system.

For the past several years I've had one guiding principle for the decisions that I make: have no regrets. I don't mean that I say yes to everything, or that I explore all the ways I can have the most excitement every day of my life. I don't mean that I try to have a hedonistic position wherein I yell YOLO while I go jumping off bridges... because you know how I feel about jumping off bridges. I mean that there are times when I just know something inside, or I have a little voice in my head that deposits an idea, or I just feel a physical yearning to move a certain direction and when those things happen I stand at a crossroad.  I can ignore the impulse, push, voice.  Or I can move with it no matter how much courage or cost is required.

When I determined to write you a letter everyday of Lent it wasn't my own fantastic idea.  It was one of these promptings.  Daily, it takes me a certain amount of courage to tell you these stores and make these connections and show you the raw things that make me human.  It costs me several hours of my day and there have been days where many things were pressing on me, but I keep writing.  It's not a comfortable commitment, but it's the right one.

There have been a couple of times in this past decade where I haven't followed that leading, where opportunities have presented themselves and I found a reason not to take them. I had good reasons, but in the end I should have climbed a mountain, or said the thing, or bought the plane ticket and just pushed into it instead of opting out.

When my cousin, Doug, got married ten years ago, our family was in a tough place.  We were in Santa Cruz, living on a severance pay that would be running out soon. We were in a state of emotional gloom that soon would turn into spiritual desperation.  There wasn't room in our bank account to buy the tickets, the wedding gift, the time away from our search for work. Besides all that, he got married on my birthday, and the most selfish part of me didn't want to share the day. That was a minor reason, but it told me something. It told me that if I was willing to scrape the edges of my excuse box to that extent, then I was running from an opportunity I needed to run toward. I regret not going to Doug's wedding. I missed something that day and I'll never know what.

When your Aunt Karen's mother died I shrugged off the nudge again. My first response was "I'll be right there," but then I hung up the phone and looked around at what was happening. We were living in Portland, preparing to move to Denver in two weeks. We had half our stuff in boxes, dad was headed to Denver for some initial meetings already and one of you was sick. I forget which one. I looked at all the things that needed to happen, at the cost of flying four of us to California and the trouble of taking two kids and a toddler on a plane by myself and it was enough to make me back away from the opportunity. When I see your aunt now it's one of the first things that goes through my mind, "You didn't go." While I wouldn't call it self-condemnation, I do call it a signpost to keep me from taking that path again, that path that leads to regret.

When the events happened in our family last week I had that same first response, "I'm going." I could have looked at the cost, at the challenge, at the calendar and found good reasons not to give my presence to my grieving family. I could have chosen not to go.  No one asked me to do it, but those signposts of regret remind me that something is always to be gained from being with family, from going through grief together, from being there strong when one less person is now among us.

So, before my battery runs out, I just want to tell you this.  When you know that there is a true choice to make and when it seems like it would be easier not to make the choice than to make it and when that choice will lead you deeper into life, into family, into truth -- take that opportunity, follow that nudge, say that thing and get on the plane.

I miss you. See you soon,