By Tim Hayes
We had only been married about two or three years, living for the first time at an appreciable distance from any family, and broke as hell.
After finishing dinner at the all-you-can-eat Pizza Hut Buffet one evening, we carefully loaded some slices into a carryout box to serve as lunches and maybe even dinner the next day. Walking over to the car, I felt a gust of wind suddenly rise like vicious and well-placed uppercut, sending the box flying into the air and out of reach.
It flew open, tomorrow’s lunch sailing by, pepperoni-laden slices silhouetted against the street lights, before landing, toppings down, on the gritty sidewalk.
“Son of a bitch!” I shouted, the frustration and embarrassment of our just-scraping-by existence bubbling up and out. Only years later – more than 30 years later, actually – did the truth finally grab me by the metaphorical lapels and issue a good hard slap across the face.
And it came, of all places, from a tweet.
Scrolling through Twitter a few weeks ago, this sentence stopped me in my tracks: “Right now, you are living the life that someone else is dreaming of living.”
So even then, with little money in our checking account, we lived someone else’s dream life. We were very happy, very much in love with each other. We both had jobs and a safe, clean townhouse in a good neighborhood. We had our health and our hope for a long life together. The money would come later, we believed. And we were right.
It reminds me of a character from one of my favorite movies, “Field of Dreams.” In this mystical journey to renewal and reconciliation through the game of baseball, we meet Dr. Archie “Moonlight” Graham. We see him first as an elderly small town physician, who only played one half-inning in one major league game as a younger man – and who never got the chance to come up to bat.
When asked how that makes him feel, to come so close to your dream and never get it, Moonlight says, “You know, we just don’t recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they’re happening. Back then I thought, ‘Well, there’ll be other days.’ I didn’t realize that that was the only day.”
What he means is that what’s past is past, and it can’t be changed, so who wants to live there? What’s yet to come is anybody’s guess, and it’s foolish to spend too much energy or anxiety over it. No, Moonlight Graham learned the lesson well that today is the only day that matters.
What that’s meant for me comes down to that fateful night when our pizza took a flying leap onto the cement. And the days when each of our children were born. And the nights when I’d read to my little girls as they climbed into bed, performing all of the voices and making them giggle. And the day my son and I drove a golf cart clear across four fairways on a blistering afternoon in Phoenix, laughing like loons. And the lunchtime phone call when I learned I had cancer. And the day I watched my father-in-law being taken out the front door of his home for the last time. And the mornings when I open my eyes to see the most beautiful face in the world beside me.
Life is happening, even when we fail to realize it, appreciate it, or notice it. Some of the greatest moments occur on the most otherwise lackadaisical days. John Lennon is quoted as saying, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
But there is no “other.” There’s only here. There’s only where, and with whom, you are now. This moment is all that matters.
To quote from another favorite film, “Dead Poets Society,” the prep school English teacher played by Robin Williams instructs his young charges, “Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”
Your life, no matter how much or little may be in your checking account, is indeed extraordinary. It’s worth remembering that whatever situation you may be in, right now you are living the life that someone else is dreaming of living. I finally connected those dots in my head and heart.
So I plan to appreciate this day, this life, this moment. Because, as Moonlight Graham realized as a country doctor, long after his playing days had ended, this is the only day.
Copyright 2018 Timothy P. Hayes