Living a life that matters

There’s nothing like the cold slap of a tragedy to wake us up.

If any of us were to condense our lives into a few brief minutes, what would we say?

If I were to check out of this world tomorrow, would I feel I’ve really lived, or would I feel like I wasted my time on things that didn’t really matter in the end?

These questions were brought to mind again this past weekend, as we celebrated the life of young Derek Flowers-Johnson. In his short life, Derek truly made a difference for good in the world.

I’ve made it a practice to stop periodically and ask myself how I want to spend my precious time on this planet, but even then, I fall asleep sometimes.

We all want our life to represent and stand for something. But, in the busyness of living, we sometimes forget to consider what’s really important.

Life’s filled with many things I consider a diversion from really living.

People are filled with ideas of great ways for me to spend my time.

But in the end, will those things even matter?

When life’s demands pull us along, from one activity to another, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really of true and lasting value. We can get pulled off course.

We can become absorbed, spending so much of our life’s coin on making a living, that we forget to make a life.

My Dad was a company man who dedicated his working life to doing an excellent job for his employer. He rose through the ranks, he had many great accomplishments, he bettered the company, and he supported our family well, financially.

Dad spent a lot of time travelling, conducting trainings and investigations. He was a tough old bugger, but he was well respected.

Dad had no hobbies. He worked. He never took vacation. He’d drive us to Christina Lake, drop us off, and return the next day to Calgary, to work while we played.

When my older brother died at the age of 27, he received the shocking news and then he went to work. That’s what he thought he was supposed to do.

I keenly remember a day many years ago when Dad, now retired, reflected upon his life and how much he worked. The wheels of the company he was dedicated to kept on rolling after he left, like nothing happened.  Life goes on. He knew that.

I remember the sad look in his eyes, as he lamented, “if I’d only known how little it all mattered, I never would have lived my life that way.”

My beautiful Dad was filled with regret in his twilight years. Dad felt he had not spent himself, proportionally, in the areas of life that were of greatest importance to him in the end. He’d missed out on so much.

I’ve taken the lesson my Dad taught me, and use it to guide my life. I choose to spend myself on those things I consider of greatest value.

But we still need to make a living. We still need to work.

I believe our jobs are simply an opportunity, a vehicle through which we are able to engage with the world.

How we show up is what matters.

Our attitudes and the way we touch people is where the magic happens. This is what creates meaning in our lives.

For my Dad, he came to recognize the way he’d supported and cared for those he worked with was the magic.

Dad came to see what was of true and lasting value was the way he touched and influenced many lives, including mine.

When he was home, he was a present and loving father. He even let me curl his hair. Seeing this eased his burden of regret.

Dad recognized the quality of the time spent with us was where memories were made. It was about relationships.

We are each a unique piece to the puzzle of this thing called life. We’re all on this planet to spend ourselves in our own unique way, as no one else can.

What matters most to each of us will differ. Thank goodness we’re not cookie cutter people. That would be boring, and make us redundant. What’s important and of value to one person will not matter a lick to another.

For me, what’s of true and lasting value in life isn’t the material. It’s the way I’ve touched people’s lives. It’s about relationships, the way I’ve cared, and how I’ve made people feel. I want care to be my legacy.

Pausing to consider what we want our lives to stand for, what legacy we want to leave, certainly helps to clarify matters. We’re always at a point of making a new choice, of living a different way.

When we’ve gone off course, we must remember to be gentle with ourselves, as we reset our compasses to sail in the direction, we value most.

We are always in the process of becoming, no matter our age.

Today is an invitation to pause and consider, “What do you want your life to stand for?”

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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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