It is not length of life, but depth of life. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
As you may recall, I have committed to training for my first full marathon, thus giving me more time than ever to reflect as I trek through the long miles. Earlier this month, my husband and I lost a dear friend to cancer. My mind keeps returning to thoughts of her, how well she lived her life in joy and productivity as she modeled excellence for her two daughters. I think her life was her lesson. I keep coming back to how important it is that we be present in our own lives, not on automatic pilot. In a way, how we live could be seen as our ultimate art project. Is your life rich and vibrant, valuable, and enjoyable? Is it full of color and adventure?
Last week I was training along the shoreline at Crystal Cove where several surf fishermen were casting their lines into the gentle waves. It reminded me of a similar scene I once encountered. My husband, Ken, and I were on the way home from one of my presentations when we decided to stop at Carpinteria State Beach in California. We delighted in being together on a sunny fall afternoon and removed our shoes to wander hand-in-hand along the wet sand. Far down the beach we came upon a barefoot woman standing in the surf throwing out her fishing line. Curious as to what she might have caught, I raced up the beach to peer into her bucket. It was empty.
As I walked back down to where she stood, we exchanged smiles. I noticed her wide straw hat, her radiant face and that she was well into her eighties. Remarking on her activity, I asked, “Are you enjoying your life?” That question might have startled her a little, but immediately her face broke into a wide grin as she heartily exclaimed, “Why, this is fun!”
“So did you catch anything?” I continued.
“I caught a rather nice perch a few minutes ago though I put it back.” Conspiratorially, she whispered, “We don’t like to eat them!”
In that moment I saw her key to happiness. She was doing what brought her joy. She was fishing in the warm November sunshine for fish she did not need nor want, just for fun. That simple incident highlighted for me a secret to a satisfying life. I think we need to find things to do that fill us up. This may require some changes on our part. By making the best choices available, happiness and taking care of ourselves can become a habit.
As the authors of our own lives, I like these words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: It is not length of life, but depth of life. I take solace in knowing that my wonderful friend lived a rich, deep and joyful life. I hope you are doing the same.