Last week I attended a memorial service for Donna Varner. If you didn’t know her, you missed meeting an incredibly vivacious woman who loved life and brought her enthusiasm to everyone around her.
She started two businesses in Fairhaven, the Blue Horizon clothing store and 12th Street Shoes. I admired her business skill, her fashion style and her attitude. She was the same age as me, and died at 49 of ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Though we all know that life is short, most of us get caught up in our daily routines and forget how important it is to enjoy the time we have. We stress about things that may not be important in the big picture, and forget to do the things that keep us happy. We tell children we can’t play because we have to do the dishes, and let our day be ruined by things we can’t control.
ALS causes the victim to slowly lose the ability to control their muscles, taking them from cane to wheelchair to bed. After Donna was diagnosed, she had the wise foresight to make the most of her remaining months. Though she loved her businesses, she sold them to do what she had planned to do later, travel with her family. She went to Africa, saw the U.S.A. and spent time with family and friends. She refused to give in to her increasing disability, continuing to do as much as she could while she could.
One day we met in line at the grocery store. She was using a cane and shopping alone. We talked about the progress of the disease. I told her how sorry I was.
“No,” she said. “Don’t be. I could have been hit by a truck. This way I have time to do the things I wanted to do.”
We all have that time right now. Even while running the busiest business, having the most stressful job or family life, the time is ours and we spend it the way we’ve chosen. Having spent most of my life a workaholic, I came up with a few thoughts and recommendations on the subject of life-courtesy of Donna’s inspiration.
Identify what you like to do
Sure, sitting around on the couch having a beer and watching TV is fun, but does it feed your soul? If you did it all day long, would you feel better? A counselor once told me that whenever I talked about writing I lit up. He was right, and I found a way in every career I ever had to incorporate writing into it. Do you like organizing, dealing with people, crunching numbers, decorating or teaching? Any of these skills can work into your job and your personal life easily. Everyone is good at different things. Find your passion and incorporate it into your life.
Prioritize the important stuff
Is the spouse more important than cleaning? Perhaps giving them more attention will make everyone happier. How about the kids? Is your work schedule competing with family life? Schedule some days off to do family things at home instead of fixing the garage door or fighting freeway traffic. Maybe a more flexible job is in order. Maybe you can work from home. We all know people who have changed their careers in mid-life to make their lives more fulfilling. It can be done. It can be fun.
Create balance in your life
Each day should be a combination of work, home, friends, exercise, eating and sleeping. Taking too much from one to allot to another will cause an imbalance. You may end up cranky, tired, stressed or even divorced. If one part of your life is difficult, make sure the others balance out. Too little sleep is dangerous and unhealthy. Eating without thought to nutrition will make your whole life more difficult. Exercise can be incorporated into a daily routine like anything else, and doesn’t have to be hard or painful.
Give yourself space
Take some alone time. Clean your work space. Read a book. Get a massage. Do yoga. Learn something new. Work in the garden. Do things that clear your mind, reduce your stress level and give you the energy to do battle again. Constantly living on adrenaline causes lasting damage to your body. If creating stress is an addiction for you, step back and learn how to control it.
Life life now
As Donna said, you can be hit by a truck. Ask yourself what you would change if you know your time was limited, and then realize that indeed, it is.
Taimi Dunn Gorman is the founder of the Colophon Cafe and The Doggie Diner. She is a marketing consultant and serves on Gov. Locke’s Small Business Improvement Council. She can be reached at Taimi@gormanpublicity.com.