I awoke one quiet morning to the stray sitting at the kitchen door, waiting for some breakfast. The sun was lazily peeking its head over the tips of the pines that lined the backyard. It looked to be another day full of appointments, family visits and a special dinner if the rain held off. It began with the cat, as any other weekday had begun.
Yet, checking my social media showed that someone had passed in hospice on the other side of the country. Though we had never physically met or been close friends, I’d always enjoyed her contributions on my Facebook fan page. A total stranger, yet it was sad to know someone's loved one had died.
The news transformed my quiet morning.
I looked around the kitchen, my table scattered with evidence of a yesterday that had been busy. Snack plates framed the mail that had gotten soggy in yesterday’s cloudburst. 'Will the mailman ever learn to close my mailbox?', I had wondered. It had dried next to a potholder and some trinkets from our walk to the creek. A feather, some rocks and a twisted stick intermingled there. We had used the stick to cast childish spells on each other as we had raced back to the kitchen for a drink.
The floor was littered with shoes and the occasional cat toy. A grocery bag still stood at the top of the stairs, full of canned goods waiting to go down into the pantry. The betta fish circled in his tank, eagerly awaiting the morning’s shake of pellets.
Yet, somewhere, there was someone missing. Granted, a small hole, but yet, it existed.
'That will be me, someday.'
The thought rolled through as easily as the housecat pawed through the room on his way to his morning perch by the window.
I would be a one line on someone’s social media someday.
I didn’t want to think it. I didn’t want to be gone. I looked around at my cozy kitchen and thought of all the conversations and fun I’d had in that room just yesterday. The past decade had lined that kitchen with tons of similar memories, like layers of wallpaper. Jokes with friends, heartfelt moments on the phone with my parents, even silly toddler discussions with my son; all had happened here. I didn’t want that to end.
The living room felt the same. There, in the corner, sat my computer. Had I documented everything well enough? Would my loved ones be able to find all my tales and know how much those little moments meant to me? Did my hugs linger in fond memory as their shared tears lingered in mine? Would all the translated inner worlds I'd dreamed up last in digital form for them to find?
Would those who came after me be able to get a true sense of me by my writing? Yes, they could step into my fictional worlds, but would they really know me? Did my journal entries show a vivid picture of my spirit? My everyday routine? My compulsions to carry out the passions that were the habits of my day? Or was it vague, omitting the truth?
The housecat meowed by the kitchen door. His friend was starving to death. As I shuffled quietly to the cat food, I shook my head. Had I really just been planning on how well my life would be documented after I died? I wasn’t dead yet!
The stray thanked me loudly as I sat her bowl outside the door. She had a tick on the back of her ear and I wondered momentarily if I would be able to pull it off. Knowing how feral she was, I expected that experiment would end horribly. I hoped the winter would be kind to her.
My housecat settled himself, content to watch his friend survive another morning now that I’d attended to her urgent need. She munched away happily, blissfully unaware of her own mortality. Today was for living and once she’d filled her belly, her most important mission in building her own furry legacy was to find a warm corner of the deck and take a nap before the sun got too hot.
“Today is for living.” I whispered to myself.
No, that didn’t mean I planned on phoning sick to work so I could nap on the deck. But I was going to accomplish something today to use my talents and abilities in a positive way. Whether that was baking cookies with my toddler and embracing the mess, working on my latest website project or getting a hold of a friend and letting them know of my love for them.
I was going to do it.
Maybe the house wouldn’t get straightened and maybe there would still be laundry waiting for me downstairs. But I was going to feel accomplished and satisfied by the time my head hit the pillow that night. Even if it only felt like one inch forward on my novel, I was going to crank out a paragraph. I was going to take time to really appreciate all I had.
The hugs would last longer and the laughs would be louder. There will be more bubbles in the bath and more cheese on the spaghetti. (There can never be enough cheese!) More cuddles and talks so that I would not be a ghost on the page, a mystery to those who knew me. I would live my story with them today, right now. They would look at the pieces left and nod and smile because it would only reinforce what they already knew that had been burned into their hearts!
Some never see insects like I have in the flower beds out front. Some don’t have their own backyard where they can shut out the world and relax. Some don’t have a house of their own at all. Some don’t have today to do anything anymore for they have gone to eternal rest, I thought as I scanned the yard and took in the morning.
But I’m here.
And I must make it all count.
In that morning moment of reflection, I was spurned on. I wasn’t going to wrap myself up in the noise of the world and go through the day subconsciously. I wasn’t going to let the drama of the day disturb my inner waters. I was going to step away from the screen and live out the plot I'd been hiding inside. An authentic me who lived to help and support and love.
The journal entry could be for later.
Today was for living.
But first, coffee.