I wish…

…I had written more, read more, spent more time with my kids/friends/family. Run more.

I wish I were here.  I wish...it felt like autumn in Los Angeles.

I wish I were here. I wish…it felt like autumn in Los Angeles.

Imagine you’re eighty-six, or ninety-three. (I wish for you a long life.) Let’s pretend for now: you’re lying down at home, under your favorite blanket, knowing a last breath is around the corner. Not a bucket list. Instead, you’re saying aloud:

I wish…

…I had done ______________________.”

…I had been ______________________.”

…I had visited ____________________.”

…I had NOT spent so much time fighting with idiots too stupid to accomplish the simple stuff, and meanies* too cruel to do the right thing.”

Tell me, what is it you plan to do/ with your one wild and precious life? – Mary Oliver

When I was young and loved John Denver, I planned to spend much of it outside, in the mountains and by the sea. There’s been some of that, but not enough.

While walking the dogs yesterday, I came across a friend I’m always pleased to see. We’ve been neighbors a long time. From his wife, I know things have not always been easy, but he is always happy. When I asked yesterday, “How’s it going?” and he replied, “Great,” it was true. Of him, I have always been jealous.

Each of us knows these people. They are not necessarily wealthy, or thriving in a career, but they are happy. Their life is enough. And that’s it, isn’t it? They have enough? Food, love, money – or are they just brilliant at managing expectations and avoiding the idiots and meanies*?

There’s a wall and I’ve hit it with my head, and now my head hurts, as well as my heart. Also, my right foot. Bun Bun kicked a 90 mph soccer ball at it. (She should be scoring more goals.)

And I’m digging in front of that wall, trying to find, buried somewhere, the plan I had for my one wild and precious life. I’m sure it’s down there but I keep hitting something. Shovel on rock.

I wish I had…hugged more, fought less. (There’s your stupid bumper sticker.)

But there’s so much to fight for. If it wasn’t for the idiots and meanies*, we might occasionally win the battle. Gun control, economic equilibrium, a public school system that works for all children, paid family leave, Coldwater Canyon repaved (you’d have to live here), youth soccer games you could pull off without sacrificing your youngest child, your favorite pet, your left kidney (you’d have to be me).

I’ve tried to put the shovel down, accepting, if not embracing, what IS. But then the idiots and meanies* rise up and, like Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction”, will not be ignored. If I run across the street to avoid them, they follow. Every real and proverbial car and truck trying to mow them down misses. I am not invincible; they are.

I wish…

…we’d all had more compassion for each other.

Can you imagine? Instead of pouncing on the mistake or the inconvenience, we took a breath and adjusted. Can you imagine? Instead of trying to do it all, we asked for help – and in so doing, felt strength with each other, not weakness apart.

Page 449 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (p. 417 for newbies) suggests the following:

“…acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation… unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that… as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment… Unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.”

But what of world hunger, poverty, Syrian refugees, ISIS, the GOP? Are we talking about accepting our impotence in changing any of these? Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” What do we do with that?

Where’s my shovel? I had a plan. It’s here somewhere.

I wish…

…I’d been happier.

I wish…

…I hadn’t complained so much.

I wish…

…there hadn’t been so many idiots and meanies*.

Shovel on rock. Head against wall. Maybe a new plan.

Run more, write more, read more. Wrap arms around girls before they leave for college. Does it really matter that the house will never be as clean as I’d like? But what about the laundry? It never folds itself. And the idiots and meanies*? They’re lying in wait.

Run more, write more, read more. Breathe.

I wish…

…I’d helped you more, but I couldn’t. I was too busy fighting, and digging, and hitting that damn rock.

Okay, a new plan. Patience. Acceptance. Deep breaths. Run more, write more, read more. Acceptance. Love more. Give more. Courage. Acceptance. More laughter, more water, more affection. Acceptance. Gratitude. Pave Coldwater Canyon.

Actively avoid idiots and meanies (when possible).

Thanks for reading.

(What do you think your wish list might be?)







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  1. Mary Anne says

    Good plan – except maybe the pave Coldwater Canyon part.
    Very appropriate post for my family right now – my hope is that I go to my grave and my small bubble of people are thankful I was in their lives. That little world is the world I can change…and I think that if today was my last breath I would wish I had been kinder.

    The meanies and the idiots can go to hell. My kinder nature doesn’t yet apply to them.

  2. Jeannie Hayden says

    Tell me, what is it you plan to do/ with your one wild and precious life?
    What a beautiful line!

    Glad to see you writing this week Ms. Neil- Great piece. Helful for me to read “I wish” and I bet, helpful for you to put the words on the page!

    Now to breathe…

  3. Kimberley says

    Wowsers. That’s a very descriptive mind map. I hope it was cathartic to write that all down. I hope it brought you some calm. Life really is so short, isn’t it? It’s so easy to let the tediousness of every day get in the way of our intentions. I wish you some peace this weekend. I hope you get some time to breathe.

  4. Mindy says

    Great writing, Jo! Your Daily Cup of Jo really resonated with me. “Life on life’s terms.” Thanks for the reminder. There’s a tough balance with acceptance of what is on one end and Margaret Mead’s missive on the other. You’ve given me much to mull over. Thank you! xo

  5. Mary Seward says

    This is great. When I saw you, you said that in passing that you had a Blog. I had no idea. This is really great.

    You may be filled with wishes tonight and wondering. I am filled with pride that my friend has done this.

    Today, I turned 60 today and your as I think about my One Wild and Precious Life, I want to:
    Float down the river of Life like a Leaf.
    Have FUN

    Somehow, I hope that will all fit together.

    Thanks for your thoughts,my friend. I am proud of this wonderful place that you have created. Well done.

  6. Joanne Neil says

    Glad to see you have put your pen to the paper again. I so like the way you put words together and you make me think. Fodder fot a good dinner table discussion ??

  7. Cathy Dore says

    Hadn’t read a Cup o Jo in a while because I think there hasn’t been a Cup o Joe.
    Well, this one beats them all! It’s a gallon of Joe and I needed it. Thank you!!!
    Here’s to fewer asswipes, a better Coldwater Canyon and more love and acceptance!

  8. Jan Hart says

    At 62 years old, I have been struggling a bit about what to do with the rest of my life and what my legacy will be. (Hurry up and do something meaningful, whatever THAT means). Yesterday I heard a talk given by Mallika Chopra (Deepak’s daughter) on living with intent. She told a story about a meeting she had with Eckhart Tolle (because, if you’re Deepak’s daughter you get to have these meetings) where she lamented that being a mom might be her most important role, but she worried it wasn’t enough.

    Tolle told her that there are some people who are happy doing the small things. He calls them frequency holders and they are just as important as people who create big things, and they, too, change the world for the better. So, I’m cutting myself some slack and I will continue to be the best damn recycler I know (among other slightly neurotic things).

    I will hug my daughter more, though.

  9. Kelly Hughes says

    At Taylor’s wedding I told you that I really missed your Blog and you said, well I better get writing then. I agree with just about everyone one of your thoughts, and this was no exception. I am one of those people that are usually very happy in”Kelly’s world”, as my husband likes to call it. I have a hard time with the outside world. I used to watch the news until I just couldn’t handle it anymore. Then I got my news from the Daily show, because at least I got a little humor with it. Now I get it from the Skimm, Taylor turned me on to that. I am with Jan H. on the hug your kids more, if they let you, if not tackle them, that’s still a hug.

    • Jo says

      Kelly – “if not tackle them, that’s still a hug.” That made me laugh out loud. Great visual. Today, when the girls are done with all their stuff, and home, I fear for their safety. Hugs and tackles all around. Thanks for your support. BTW, Trevor Noah is working for all of us in the Neil household. – Jo

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