• Jeni Kelsch

Ride of a Lifetime

Updated: Jan 22

I smashed my finger with a rock. It got fat and purple and it hurt a lot, and as I observed the swelling and tried to cope with the pain, it occurred to me, yet again, that life is never easy. Sometimes it seems easy, for a while, and then you smash your finger with a rock and think, ”Oh yeah, THIS is what life is like.” But that’s not exactly true. The truth is for most of us, life is pretty wonderful most the time. We live in a world where so much is possible. My oldest son is going to graduate college this weekend. That’s amazing. When he was born, I remember thinking, OK, God, no idea how this kid will ever get to go to college, but I trust you. Turns out that kid got to go to college on scholarships and work study and he found his way. Something I totally overlooked at his birth made college possible…him.

I remember when I was in high school and therefore oh-so-cool and wise, my friends and I used to say when we fell upon hard times (usually created by our bad decisions), “Oh well, Life sucks and then you die.” We thought we had it all figured out. At the time, I missed the self-fulfilling prophecy this kind of attitude generates. On top of that, I was completely wrong.

I recently came across a quote by poet Mary Oliver I find much more true to the life I have lived, ‘What will you do with your one, precious and wild life?” That question is so much more a definition of my life than what I thought life was in high school. My life is wild, and in many ways, so am I. But I am also tamed by life, because it isn’t always hard, or even when it is hard, it is so very good. Recognizing the goodness life has to offer makes me cherish it, all of it, the good and the bad, as once in a lifetime experiences that I hold close to my heart, precious. And here is the thing I totally discounted when thinking about life, me. Turns out me, thinking and doing things, was the motor behind the journey of my life. I didn’t know how being me was powerful when I was young. I do now. But I also recognize, through all of my smashed finger experiences that obviously, I am not the one at the wheel on this trip. But that’s a good thing, because I have never known ahead of time where we are going. It’s only in retrospect that I gain understanding of the trip. Then if I’m feeling proud, I get to say, “Oh yeah, we’re exactly where I thought we’d be.” But at least for me, that’s a bold lie. I have never known where we are going, I just know whom I am taking on the trip.

The oneness of this wild and crazy ride, the preciousness of this up and down, twist and turn experience, I am so glad I lost that wisdom from my youth so I could see the truth, goodness, and beauty of this, my life, and savor it smashed fingers and all. And so when I think of passing on sage advice to my college graduate, I find I have nothing to offer but this, “What are you going to do with your one, precious and wild life?” I can’t wait to join him on the ride.


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