Thursday, 19 September 2013

What makes a full life?

My beautiful mum turned 70 this month.  My sisters, brother and I are throwing her a big birthday bash on Saturday because she deserves it, she’s worth it, we love her to bits and want to make a big fuss of her, and making it to 70 is a pretty big deal!   It’s such a big deal that her sister, my aunt, flew into town earlier this week to help us get ready for the party (read: chill mum out and help her get ready for the party!).  After the initial excitement and fuss of seeing each other again, my mum answered my aunt’s exclamations of making it to 70 with “I’ve WASTED my life!” 

I was gob-smacked!  I was shocked at the time, but her words have been sitting in my mind since then like a stubborn bird on a branch in a storm.  “What do you mean you’ve wasted your life?”  Wind gust, lightening flash, rain dripping off beak.  She pretty much single-handedly raised four children who have grown into pretty awesome grown-ups.  She volunteered all through her life – from the school tuckshop and cake stalls and fetes, to fundraising drives and campaigns, to telephone counselling, which lead to her starting a university degree in her 50s and getting her Masters in counselling not long after.  “What do you mean you’ve wasted your life?”  Tree branch blown about, ruffled, soaked feathers, crash of thunder.  True my dad was a schmuck to her and left her for another woman, but she is now surrounded only by love - of family and friends and her seven beautiful grandchildren.  “What do you mean you’ve wasted your life?”

This got me thinking in the shower last night, where all good thoughts come and world problems are solved, what constitutes a fulfilled life?  Do you have to ride a bicycle around the world with nothing but a pump, spare tubes and a toothbrush?  Do you have to live on a remote Pacific island and build a school and teach poor children to read and write?  Do you have to go from rags to riches?   Do you have to foster 100 children and take in people in need? 

I’d never really thought about it before.  I like having adventures, though I’m getting more “settled” the older I get.  I’ve accumulated a few regrets in the first 34 years of my life, but I am content with where I am now – my beautiful husband, my beautiful daughter, our ramshackle house that needs work, my career (though I may still lose my job, I love what I do) and I have a small handful of awesome friends.   My life is small.  Meaningful and full of love, but small.   But since hearing my mum’s declaration, I’m starting to think…  Is that not enough?  Will I get to 70 (God willing) and be kicking myself for being so boring?

Maybe we should sell up and move to Tasmania to build that hay bail house my hubby and I talk about when we’re feeling crummy?  Maybe we should pack up and go live in a remote place of the globe and try and make a difference there?  Maybe we should throw caution to the wind and spend a year travelling around our own country?  Money, money, money!  Paper, plastic and coins run the world and we don't have much of it.  Dangnabit!

So what do you think constitutes a full and fulfilled life?  Is raising a family, paying off a house, working on your marriage, making friends, laughing and making memories and doing your part to make the world a better place (like having sponsor children, volunteering, raising your children well etc) not enough?  Or do you not figure it out until you’re 70?   I’ve only got 35.5 years to go!  Better get a wriggle on!