Take Things For Granted Essay

It’s often a pivotal and life-changing moment that leaves us re-evaluating the important things in life…the things we often otherwise take for granted. You know the ones – our health, our families, our jobs, having a place to live, something to eat, or even the sheer fact that we opened our eyes to yet another beautiful day of life on this earth this morning.

You see, we often get so caught up in our busy lives that we tend to forget just how important it is to truly live in and experience each and every moment in it’s simplicity. We live for the big things, the exciting things, instead of too, always appreciating the little things. We live for the weekends, the holidays, or the vacation we’ve been dreaming of for years, instead of too cherishing the days we spend in bed with a pint of ice cream watching “The Big Bang Theory”. Oh, no one else does this? Well… you get the point.

And while of course it’s great to have goals and things to work towards, I think it’s equally important to remember that each day, hour, or minute from now is never promised, and to thus, live accordingly. By living in the now. By not taking life for granted. And by making each and every day the best as it can be. Yes, even those supposed “bad days”. Sure, we ALL have days we’d rather forget, and believe me, I have PLENTY. But really, give it a good think.. how bad is it really? Aside from the really, really devastating days, are the other ‘bad days’ really that bad in comparison?

OK. Hear me out.

You accidentally dropped your brand new iPhone, smashed and water damaged the hell out of it. Or you got in a minor car accident in which you or no one else was seriously hurt. Or your flight was delayed due to bad weather. Annoying? Yes. Life altering? No.

Consider this:

  • The fact that you have an iPhone says enough.. It tells me that you can afford the necessities and live a pretty comfortable life. It tells me that you have water to drink, food to eat, and hopefully a roof over your head. This is a luxury MANY people don’t have. Go cry about it, and tell me you’re having a bad day when you have a REAL problem.
  • Be THANKFUL you got in that accident. It will teach you to be better aware of your surroundings and to be a better driver. Oh yeah, and that cell phone you were texting on before you almost killed someone… put it away. Texting can wait. Your life won’t. Consider it a valuable lesson learned.
  • Ok. Your flight is delayed. Annoying, but tolerable. Be happy you’re not thousands of feet in the air experiencing the vomit-inducing turbulence, or worse yet, plummeting to the ground due to the planes inability to handle severely poor weather conditions. View it as a blessing in disguise.

See. You can choose to look at every situation in two ways: positively or negatively. Seems simple. And it is. You can either wallow and waste what you consider to be a bad dayon the gamble that you’ll be given a new and better start tomorrow. Or you can accept that you are simply having a bad momentand move on.

This good attitude stems from, what I like to call, re-awakenings. Moments that have us questioning all of the people and moments we don’t always appreciate to their full potential. We have all kinds of these moments that jolt us back to the sad truth about life. The fact that inevitably, it will all someday end. And it usually takes something as traumatic as a loved ones death, or experiencing a major heart break, to bring us unwillingly back to the reality that the life as we know it today, is never promised tomorrow.

And so… afterwards, we make that simple promise to ourselves that we will be better about treasuring the people and the things important to us, and make time to do the things we’ve always dreamed about doing. There’s only one problem…

As time goes on, so do we. We go on, living life, forgetting completely about our pact to ‘live in the moment’ to ‘appreciate the little things’ and to ‘not take things.. or life.. for granted’. We go back to being overworked and becoming too busy for the moments that REALLY matter in the grand scheme of things. We go back to planning our entire lives, down to the retirement we hope to have by age 65, and all of the things we’ll do once we reach this new age of supposed freedom and independence.

In fact, we often become SO busy trying tobuilda life, that we sometimes forget how to simply justlive one. 

I think that we tend to view life as this never ending road in which we are guaranteed to wake up happy and healthy tomorrow, and for many years to come. And although, we all know that’s not necessarily the case, we live as though it is. Even though we are all very much aware, that one day, it simply won’t be.

You see, we all wait for the right time to live out our biggest dreams, when the reality is… the right time is NOW. We overlook the seemingly meaningless, for the something meaningful. And we live for the big things, and not for today.

So, tell him or her how you really feel, take your dream trip, or spend every Sunday in your pajamas. Stuff your face with cheese curds, sing with your god awful voice, or watch and entire season of Dexter in one day. Dance crazily, party ’til the sun comes up, and kiss all of the wrong people. Climb the Eiffel tower, jump out of a plane, or watch the beautiful sunset over the ocean.

Do what you’ve been dreaming of doing. Enjoy every moment. And follow your heart completely.

And do it all while you still have the chance.

image – Shutterstock

Don’t Take the Little Things in Life for Granted

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of choosing happiness. Today I want to write about a related topic: not taking the little things in life for granted. I promise not to turn this blog into a personal self-help blog! But today is a special day and I’m thinking about this topic so please humor me just one more time. More later in the post.

When I was in my early 20’s I was fortunate enough to live in a small house in Manhattan Beach, CA with a beautiful ocean view. Having been born in Philly and having been raised in landlocked Sacramento, CA it was truly an amazing thing to literally hear the ocean waves crash every night from my bedroom as I went to sleep and to see the ocean view every morning as I got ready for work.

For weeks or months I gazed at the ocean at every opportunity I could. “Pinch me — is this my life?” But slowly, strangely and without notice I stopped looking quite as much. I’d love to say that I always appreciated the majesty of the ocean and the sunsets every night. I didn’t. Eventually the ocean view just became life and life was filled with work, stress, bills, cooking dinner, watching football, suffering hangovers, talking on the phone, whatever. The ocean had just become a picture on the wall that I occasionally glanced at. I wish I could say otherwise.

Through hard work and persistence I got transferred to Europe. It’s a fun story how I got there but I’ll save that for another day. By the summer of 1995 I was living and working in Rome, Italy. To this date the six months that I worked in Rome goes down as one of my favorite experiences in life. Il Bel Far Niente! Every day I took a Roman taxi to work (and still lived to tell about it!) and every day we passed by the Monument of Vittorio Emanuelle II — so beautiful. (although the Romans don’t all think so — they call it “The Wedding Cake” or “The False Teeth.”) Me? Sheer beauty. We also passed by the Colosseum. For weeks I gazed out every time and sucked in the experience. But eventually I started zoning out on the drive in — just another day in the office. And then I started reading the International Herald Tribune lest I miss my daily dose of international politics.

I think you see where this thing is heading.

In 1996 I worked (then later lived for 8 years) in London and passed daily through Trafalgar Square. It’s beauty undeniable but as ephemeral as the others.

In 1997/98 I spent months in Barcelona. I was initially in an aparthotel on La Ramblas and later in a stunning villa near Park Güell. Every day I walked passed Gaudi buildings on my way in the morning and again in the evening. For weeks, maybe months, I looked up every day. If you’ve never seen Casa Batllo (It’s the image at the top of the post) I’m telling you there’s nothing like in the world. It’s really that awe inspiring. As are Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila, Park Güell and his many other creations. (If you don’t know Gaudi or Barcelona enjoy clicking all those links. Really, it’s worth the 10 minute diversion). Predictably over time I started more noticing the tapas restaurants below these buildings of splendor as I craved a morning fix of coffee and food to stave off my hangover. Otto Zutz never let out early in Barcelona. So Gaudi became commonplace.

And this is how I lived the first 32 years of my life until I met my wife. And thus the reason for today’s blog. It’s my eighth wedding anniversary today (don’t worry, she’s as the spa having a massage while I’m typing this!). I was married July 20, 2002 when I was 34 years old. I had the privilege of experiencing so many things in life by that point that by 34 I truly knew what I wanted. And it was Tania. For life.

I knew I was in love when we first took the Eurostar together to Paris for a long weekend. We stayed in the Hotel Vernet in Paris near the Arc de Triomphe. It was a majestic hotel in the city of lights and we strolled for hours and hours sucking in every building facade, every cafe and every bistro. We sipped Cafe Creme in the mornings and Bordeaux in the afternoons. We talked for hours. We sang show tunes as we strolled through the Jardin de Tuileries. Cheesy, I know. But it was a shared common experience from childhood and to this day we still do it. What can I say, I’m Jewish — show tunes are in my blood!

But long before I asked Tania to marry me I knew what I wanted out of marriage. I came from a generation of people whose parents had big families and started at young ages (my mom was 23 when she had my older brother and had 4 kids by 30). And many parents in that generation became de facto families rather than husbands and wives. So I guess it was no big surprise that when the kids flew the coop many parents found themselves alone with partners that they no longer saw as their romantic “better halves” and got divorced. My parents included. I’m sure they’d tell their story differently but this is my version. And that of many of my friends and their now divorced parents.

I think that many of the people from my parents generation eventually took their marriages for granted. I swore never to. I wanted something different in life.

I only asked my wife for one big concession before we were married. I wanted her to agree that we would be friends and lovers as well as parents and a family. I asked her to commit to doing one night every week as “date night” away from the kids. She agreed and we’ve stuck with it since Jacob was 12 weeks old. 7 years later we go out almost every week as a couple — sometimes with friends, sometimes alone.

It’s not for everybody. Some of my closest friends refused to go out without their kids when they were young. They wanted to be families 24/7. One even later admitted to me that they felt kind of sorry for us that we didn’t see our family this way. He admitted this to me in a bar after his wife left him by announcing that “she didn’t love him anymore.” She didn’t even make a real effort at reconciliation. He (and I) were devastated. They have two lovely kids. I don’t think that the lack of date nights was the cause but I do think that there was a certain amount of taking each other and their marriage for granted.

I don’t take my wife for granted at all. Whenever I come home from a day of 8 meetings plus an evening speaking event I always instantly feel serene and I always thank her for that. I am fortunate to come home to my understanding wife who knows what it is that modern workers go through. And I know that I’m not the easiest person in the world: I have strong opinions, I’m self righteous, I’m stubborn and I’m less organized at home than I could be. I’m grateful that I have a true friend & partner who loves me for who I am rather than for my potential. And I’m grateful to have a wife who doesn’t bust my chops when I start writing blog posts as 10.30pm in the evening as I so often do. She knows writing makes me happy and she is unbelievably supportive (except when I come to bed at 2:30am ;-))

And that’s why 8 years into this marriage and 10 years since dating I can say that I’m as happy with my wife as when we met. I now have a family with two kids, whom I adore. But our life is a strain like for any family. They don’t want to go to bed and night, they refuse to eat vegetables, they have everything in life and are not as grateful as you might expect. So life becomes a routine. But not one that I take for granted.

Sleeping faces are my modern day ocean views and I look EVERY night. I’m conscious that “the days are long but the years are short.”

I love you, Tania. And I don’t take our happiness or our relationship for granted.

[and to readers I promise not to make this an annual post or to be this mushy on a regular basis. Please just think about what you have in life for which you are grateful and find ways to make sure you don’t take it / them for granted]

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