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Jul '08

true freedom

this showed up in my inbox today
from my tanahkow buddy in singapore, all the way
now i put it here for all to savor life’s gems and clarified clay

for effect, it got ramrom re-formatted
hope your heart will be ignited

given at the graduation ceremony of an american university
where she was awarded an honorary phd

– this was the speech –
made by pulitzer prize-winner author, anna quindlen, who beseeched:

“i’m a novelist.
my work is human nature.
real life is all I know.
don’t ever confuse the two,
your life and your work.

u will walk out of here this afternoon with only one thing that no one else has.
there will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree:
there will be thousands of people doing what u want to do for a living.
but u will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life.

your particular life.
your entire life.
not just your life at a desk, or your life on a bus,
or in a car, or at the computer.

not just the life of your mind,
but the life of your heart.
not just your bank accounts
but also your soul.

people don’t talk about the soul very much anymore.
it’s so much easier to write a resume
than to craft a spirit
but a resume is cold comfort on a winter’s night,
or when u’re sad, or broke, or lonely,
or when u’ve received your test results
and they’re not so good.

here is my resume:
i am a good mother to three children.
i have tried never to let my work stand in the way of being a good parent.
i no longer consider myself the center of the universe.

i show up. i listen. i try to laugh.
i am a good friend to my husband.
i have tried to make marriage vows mean what they say.
i am a good friend to my friends and they to me.
without them, there would be nothing to say to u today,
because i would be a cardboard cut out.
but i call them on the phone, and i meet them for lunch.

i would be rotten, at best mediocre at my job if those other things are not true
u cannot really be first rate at your work if your work is all u are.

so here’s what i wanted to tell u today:

get a life. a real life,
not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger pay check, the larger house.
do u think u’d care so very much about those things if u blew an aneurysm this afternoon,
or found a lump in your breast?

get a life
in which u notice the smell of salt water
pushing itself on a breeze at the seaside,
a life in which u stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over the water,
or the way a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a sweet with her thumb & first finger

get a life
in which u are not alone.
find people u love, and who love u.
and remember that love is not leisure,
it is work…
pick up the phone.
send an email.
write a letter.

get a life
in which u are generous.
and realize that life is the best thing ever,
and that u have no business taking it for granted.
care so deeply about its goodness that u want to spread it around.
take money u would have spent on beer and give it to charity.
work in a soup kitchen.
be a big brother or sister.

all of u want to do well.
but if u do not do good too,
then doing well will never be enough.

it is so easy to waste our lives, our days, our hours, and our minutes.
it is so easy to take for granted 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 to live.
i learned to live many years ago.
i learned to love the journey, not the destination.
i learned that it is not a dress rehearsal,
and that today is the only guarantee u get.
i learned to look at all the good in the world and try to give some of it back
because i believed in it, completely and utterly.

and i tried to do that, in part, by telling others what i had learned.
by telling them this:
consider the lilies of the field.
look at the fuzz on a baby’s ear.
read in the backyard with the sun on your face.
learn to be happy.

and think of life as a terminal illness,
because if u do,
u will live it with joy and passion as it ought to be lived”.

eins, zwei, drei
du bist frei

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