Life; what’s it all about?
I saw a car registration plate this morning as I drove to work and it attempted to sum up the meaning of life. All it achieved was to kinda bring me up short. The plate contained something flashy and ostentatious, suggesting the person felt they owned the best car in the traffic jam. I don’t have a problem with that; I personally love my own car which Husband gave me a year ago when I felt dreadfully sick and sported a tube from nose to stomach. It’s ok to like the things we own, otherwise it would be pretty silly to bother owning them, wouldn’t it?
No, the thing which affected me was the writing around the plate which read;
She who has the most toys when she dies, wins.
I followed the driver until our paths diverged and pondered on whether she really believed that statement. Or was it a humorous addition to her swaggy plate? I’m currently watching a very brave friend battle cancer and I doubt she would consider toys any help as she faces the very real threat of death. Maybe that shaped the cry of my heart as I thought about the frivolity of the message.
We laugh in the face of danger, ha ha ha. No, we don’t laugh. We cringe and cower and worry about not seeing our children married and happy and self-sufficient. We worry about whether or not the family will understand that we promised the flowered tea set to that one daughter…we really did.
So is life about toys, after all?
I continued my journey and it felt as though every passing numpty thought it was okay to cut me up, narrowly side swipe my car or nip ahead only to find me on their tail at the lights. They affirmed the statement with their need to be out front and first. The van driver who wanted to be in my lane despite me being there, the truck driver who hugged my rear bumper all the way from Flagstaff to Hamilton East and the arrogant dude who pulled out in front of me at the intersection, not caring if I got rear ended because of him; all were in it to win, eyeing the short game instead of the long haul.
What’s the meaning of life for them and were they achieving it?
I love my part time job and I mean that with sincerity. I love, love, love being an archivist, even though most people don’t know what one is. My job will be done with me long before I’m done with it. But I want to get to work safely and my nana driving ensures that I do. Everyone rushes and nobody looks. I don’t think they care.
If you’ve ever sat with a dying friend, ridden the cancer-express with a sufferer or had a loved one ripped out of your hands without warning; you know how fragile life is.
Life hangs on a fragile thread of nothing and yet few of us stop long enough to be grateful for the next breath. Most are too busy counting the next shiny thing, the goal we’re striving for or the acquisition which is only just out of reach. Believe me, it’s not worth it.
What is considered ‘worth it’?
As an archivist I gather history. That comes in many forms; memories, oral stories, letters, random documents and organised systems of recording. I know there’s more because history tells me so, as do the old men who talk to me with shaking hands and rheumy eyes. They’re desperate to download something of their fabric into hands which won’t lay their memories down and forget them. They need to know there’s a system, an order and they won’t be lost in it when they’ve stepped out of their earthly bodies.
We need to stop snatching at the expense of others; driving past when someone’s engine is gasping into the twilight, walking by when someone falls on the pavement, staring at someone else’s accident, gossiping about another’s misfortune. We need to be kinder.
I was twenty six when my car broke down. I had a toddler and twins in the back seat, possessed no money, phone or way to summon help. Stupid right? Yeah, but you have to understand I was also sleep deprived, didn’t know where my next meal might come from, took finance to fund the car and lived and raised my children in a house in which only 2 rooms were habitable. I was pregnant and didn’t know it and my car exhaust fell off in the middle of nowhere. I’d gone to collect my eldest child from playschool and all three children fell asleep immediately; all of them. It was so rare that I chose to keep driving, taking an unfamiliar route but enjoying the moment of peace before the four o’clock grumpies set in. My hard working husband worked a night shift to feed us and there was nobody home to miss me. No purse meant no money and I didn’t own a mobile phone.
With normal people, the exhaust comes off and rolls away. Or at worst, it drags on the road a bit and makes a noise.
Nope, with me, it had to be different. The exhaust came away from the baffle and pointed downwards into the road, pushing instead of dragging. It sparked along the ground beneath me and made a horrific sound. I was frightened, pregnant, overwrought and desperate when I dragged my vehicle and sleeping babies into a service station on a cold, wet, windy teatime.
The kindness of strangers
The lovely cashier in the garage let me phone my husband, bearing in mind I had no money on me and couldn’t refund her the cost of the call. A sweet gentleman tied up my exhaust pipe and fixed it to the underside of the car with wire from goodness knows where and between them they soothed my frayed nerves and got me settled back in the car. The kind man drove his own vehicle ahead of me to the end of my road to ensure I got home ok and I’ve never been more pleased to see my front gate. If it weren’t for their kindness I’m not convinced the outcome would be bright. My husband worked for the police and couldn’t be released to sort out a car problem and I can’t imagine the horror in a broken car while night crowded in, hungry children waking and crying in distress and me with nothing to give them.
But for the kindness of strangers.
It’s not about toys.
I can’t stress that enough. When I listen to my delightful old men it’s about friends. It’s about relationships and making a difference. That’s what they want me to write down as they impart the sum of their life’s work. They want me to say they were good people.
I want to be a good person.
Slow down on your commute and look around you. Those vehicles you’re cutting up contain real people who hurt and bleed. You can make a difference; take your time and look for opportunities to make better memories. Imagine sitting before an archivist recounting your life and think about what you’ll be forced to say.
What’s your legacy today?
MAKE. IT. COUNT.
Oh, and for those people doing daft things on the Hamilton expressway this morning; I’ve got a dash-cam and I’m not afraid to use it…
K T Bowes is the writer of many books and the raiser of many children. If you want to find out more about her work, then click on the link and grab some free books HERE.