August 26

Why I’m in a Hurry

I turned 54 today. Truth be told, as a child I didn’t know how long I’d live. There were three separate times before the age of 30 when I thought I was going to die because of complications with my asthma. That leaves a pretty big impression on you when you’re, say, 7 years old. There were no effective treatments for asthma in those days and until the age of 16 I never felt as though my breathing was predictable. I was always one cold, one pile of burning leaves, one car-ride with a smoker away from the ER. I couldn’t run more than 50 yards without wheezing and gasping for air. A revolutionary new medication came on the market in 1977 and life changed for me.

You’d think by that point I’d be able to relax and rejoice in the positive changes this medicine brought. No. That event flipped a switch. It flipped the ON switch of Life for me. It flipped the Carpe Diem switch and I’ve never been able to turn it off. I couldn’t if I tried.

There are so many things to do! I’ve been set loose in the candy shop and I don’t know when they are going to turn the lights out and close the door. Once in 1985 as a 24-year-old I was on a business trip with my Japanese boss. He was exhausted by my ambitious plans for a project I was working on. A lazy colleague had become an obstacle and I was annoyed that the project was stalled. I’ll never forget it. We were on the Bullet Train (the perfect vehicle for people like me) and he said, “What’s your hurry Ringle-san? Why are you always in a hurry? There’s plenty of time.” “No, you’re wrong!” I told him. “Life is really, really short and there’s so much to do!”

The truth is that there isn’t plenty of time. It’s going to be over, just like that! We won’t see it coming. I need more than one hand to count the number of my friends who have died before the age of 50, most unexpectedly. Two friends of mine lost their husbands unexpectedly in the past month. There is definitively not “plenty of time.” We have no idea how much time we have.

So this is it for me: I won’t waste a second. I won’t waste it on things I don’t care about. I won’t waste it on people who don’t care about me or my family. I won’t waste it regretting things that were out of my control. I won’t waste a beautiful day or an opportunity to tell someone that they are great at their job or that they rocked the solo in church. I won’t waste those simple moments with my daughter as she’s packing her lunch for school or that moment when my husband hugs me while I’m putting away groceries. I won’t waste it. It’s all too precious. I’m taking it all in.

You can ask my husband. If I ask him on a beautiful day if he wants to go for a walk or a bike ride before we start work and he says, “No, I need to get stuff done.” I will play the Life is Short, Dude card: “There will always be deadlines. There won’t always be beautiful days to go for a bike ride with your wife but if you don’t want to go, I’m going without you.” Most of the time he nods his head, says “You’re totally right,” and off we go. Occasionally I go off by myself when he has to be somewhere else.

I want to make memories with my family. I want to leave a legacy of work that inspires creativity in others. I want to live my faith. I want to take good care of the body I was given, despite the fact that I seem to have been given some faulty parts. I want to be a good friend. I want to tend my garden because that’s one way I tend myself. And I want to look deep into the eyes of hundreds more foster pets and have them know that they are safe with me and loved by me. I want to watch our daughter blossom into the delightful, smart and caring adult we’ve always known she will become. I want her to have lots of memories of us laughing. And laughing. And laughing. I want more time with my husband and daughter. I don’t need more material goods.  I need more time. There’s so much more to see and hear and do. I’m just getting started.