Get a Life!
Anna Quindlen

  

I suppose the best piece of advice I could give anyone is pretty simple:  get a life.  A real life, not the manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house.  Do you think you'd care so very much about those things if you developed an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast while in the shower?

Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dunes, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over a pond and a stand of pines.  Get a life in which you pay attention to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger.

Turn off your cell phone.  Turn off your regular phone, for that matter.  Keep still.  Be present.

Get a life in which you are not alone.  Find people you love, and who love you.  And remember that love is not leisure, it is work.  Each time I look at my diploma, I remember that I am still a student, still learning every day to be human.  Send an e-mail.  Write a letter.  Kiss your mom.  Hug your dad.

Get a life in which you are generous.  Look around at the azaleas making fuchsia star bursts in spring; look at a full moon hanging silver in a black sky on a cold night.  And realize that life is glorious, and that you have no business taking it for granted.

Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around.

Take the money that you would have spent on beers in a bar and give it to charity.  Work in a soup kitchen.  Tutor a seventh-grader.

All of us want to do well.  But if we do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough.

Life is short.  Remember that, too.

I've always known this.  Or almost always.  I've been living with mortality for decades, since my mother died of ovarian cancer when she was forty and I was nineteen.  And this is what I learned from that experience:  that knowledge of our own mortality is that greatest gift God ever gives us.

It is so easy to waste our lives:  our days, our hours, our minutes.  It is so easy to take for granted the pale new growth on an evergreen, the sheen of the limestone on Fifth Avenue, the color of our kids' eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again.  It is so easy to exist instead of live.
  

Quindlen uses her candid, heart-
to-heart narrative voice along
with her novel-writer descriptive
skills to show readers how good
we have it:  "Life is made up of
moments, small pieces of mica in
a long stretch of glittering gray
cement."  Later she urges readers
to "Look at the fuzz on a baby's
ear.  Read in the backyard with the
sun on your face."  The format smacks
of "gift book," with an abundance
of pleasing, artsy photographs.
Don't be ashamed to fall for the
packaging, though.  This is one of 
those books that could remain
in the living room for years or
in the family for generations.

  
   

To be alive is the biggest fear humans have.  Death is not
the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk
to be alive--the risk to be alive and express what we really are.

Don Miguel Ruiz

  


 
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