get busy living

I was reminded of a saying the other day that I like a lot: “Get busy living or get busy dying.” Hearing it made me think about my parents and how they taught me, through their actions as much as through their words, to be productive, keep busy, make the most of my time, of this life.

When we were kids and were old enough to work my father gave us a choice, “you can get a job, do a sport or work in the yard.” Somehow we got roped into all three. I have to say that, though I pretty much detested weeding and gathering fir cones off the gravel driveway and hand clipping the grass around the swing set posts and trees, and though I loathed going to swim practice knowing the pain and suffering I faced, and though I might have preferred hanging out with my buddies instead of going to work, I followed the example that my parents set for me because I knew they were right, they made sense—they were no slackers, and I didn't want to be one either.

The six of us kids didn’t get an allowance, we were just expected to pitch in and earn our keep, which, once my father explained it to me, made a lot of sense. At a young age I learned that hard work paid off and when I turned eleven I bought my first bike, a sleek sparkly blue Peugeot ten-speed. It cost me $118, way back in 1974, purchased with money I had scraped together from babysitting for a wage less than a dollar an hour. When I was fifteen I got my lifeguard certification and completed a course to teach swimming lessons. I put myself through college, with minimal help from my dad, by lifeguarding, teaching and coaching swimming. I’m very proud of that. I know my parents were, too.

So now I am the parent, and as Calvin’s mom my job has become physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, nurse, epilepsy advocate and blogger. And though these jobs are all-consuming, and though I have the help of my husband and a part-time nurse, I still find myself yearning for more hours in the day to do all the things I want to like gardening, walking Rudy the dog on the beach, being with my husband, writing more, reading, hanging out with friends and talking with my long-distance loved ones on the phone. But I do as good a job as any at packing in as much of it all as I can. And it goes almost without saying that Calvin is a workhorse just like his mom, his dad and his grandparents.

I remember once, when I must have been in junior high school, asking my mom if she was mature. She told me that as long as you live—and if you want to—you keep growing and maturing and learning new things. So I want to do it right, make the most of this life—not sit on my butt like some couch potato—improve myself. Otherwise I may just as well get busy dying.

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