Thursday, May 20, 2010

Squandering Time

One lesson I am thankful to have learned is the lesson about the frail, preciousness of life. Living in New Orleans during Katrina, finally showed me how precarious life really is. It can all be taken away in an instant. Thousands, never seen alive again. And thousands more displaced forever as a result of the storm. New Orleans, as a city...will forever be altered.
For some reason, those of us caught up in the cycle of addiction rarely see how precious life is. We do not seem to care about this because we give up all pieces of life as we once knew it. We disconnect from our families, and we do not even notice that life is passing us by. And if we did notice, most of us would not even have cared. It is hard to see out of the rabbit hole. A lot of us can thank Hurricane Katrina for breaking that cycle for us. Sometimes it takes something that epic to make someone see the light.
When I talk today with the people I once used with in New Orleans, we all feel similar about certain things. One sentiment I hear a lot is that we feel like we squandered too much time. We feel like we took things for granted, and we did not enjoy life's gifts as we had them. For instance, I feel I did not take full advantage of what New Orleans had to offer. I got so caught up in heroin that I forgot to relish in the moment, and the beauty of the city. I would love to be standing on the banks of the mighty Mississippi right now, just breathing in that sweet and humid air. I wish I could feel the breeze coming off the river, or smell the spicy seafood. I wish I could walk through the Quartet right now, and I would soak up all the live music I could. I would look up at the beautiful balconies, noticing the architecture and a million other things I never noticed before. I regret that I did not soak up New Orleans in all the years I lived there. I could have taken notice of her beauty, and cherished how much I loved the city...but instead I took it all for granted. And now, it is gone from my life. Katrina has displaced me. Drugs have displaced me.
Now, I try to remember to take notice of things. I notice the sunset, as the horizon gets cooler and grows more black against the buildings of the city. I look my son right in the eye, and I watch him like a hawk...I do not want to miss a single precious moment. I make an effort to spend several hours of quality time with him, where all my focus is on him. I notice the breeze when it blows, and I smile when I hear a trumpet on the radio. I hate to watch is just a distraction to taking it all in.
I guess it took a tragedy to make me notice. I almost feel more sorry for the people who are not stripped of their lives through something grave and terrible. I see it all the time...people just letting the small things in life pass them by because they are just self absorbed. Too bad they must deal with great loss to ever realize. A father comes home, tired most days. He always sits in front of the tv, unreachable to his family. Or he goes in his room and takes a nap, only to emerge at dinner. Before you know it, the kids are all grown up...and you never even saw it happen. Or worse yet, something happens to one of those precious kids- and that is time you can never get back.
I see it all the time. Young people in the business world, rushing from place to place. Jet setting and hanging out at a posh martini bar...while the real stuff in life is passing you right by. Or a mother, consumed by depression. She cannot even be present when her child needs her. Or a man so filled with anger that he cannot allow himself to feel any joy. Angry, furrowed brow just wearing away at the world around.
I guess I am just lucky. I will never take life for granted again. When something is gone, that is when you realize your mistake. I miss the things that once irritated me the most, now that I know I can never have those things again...they, too, are the things I miss. I am lucky to be alive. And well. And I am lucky to be taking it all in. Many of us New Orleanians can thank Katrina for showing us all we took for granted.

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