Seizing the Moment

By the time you read this, Richard and I will be on the road in our little Subaru Forester laden with anti-cancer food, camping gear, laptops and books, embarking on the honeymoon we didn’t take after our wedding 28 years ago. A year ago, generous friends collected a travel fund for us, and we planned a trip to the Pacific Coast for this March.

The wild Big Sur Coast, California

Then my mother died, after which the hematoma in Richard’s right brain caused several brain-swelling crises, necessitating two brain surgeries and three hospitalizations. As he was recovering, the glioblastoma in his right hemisphere grew aggressively. So his oncologist started him on an every-two-week chemo infusion routine in hopes of slowing the tumor’s growth.

I’d be lying (or seriously deluded) if I said we were traveling now because he has recovered. Nope, we’re off on The Big Trip because now is our moment, and we’re seizing it.

“Seize the moment” is a good lesson for life in general, one we often get too busy to remember. It’s the kind of lesson writers in particular often have to learn over and over, as I’ve realized in planning this trip. When we originally envisioned it, we planned to drive the Pacific Coast from Vancouver, BC, to Tijuana, Mexico.

But that was back when Richard was driving. Now that we’re down to one driver, and she does not possess tons of energy, we’ve shortened the trip. We’ll plan to cover less ground each day. That’s okay though, and for a writer, may actually be better.

That’s one “seize the moment” realization: Covering less ground means we have more time to stop and poke around, and for me to, well, write. Since that’s what keeps me sane in life, arranging this long-awaited trip to make sure we get to see our favorite coast AND I have time to write is paramount.

So imagine us on the road, headed across the inland West by slow stages, headed north and west across Colorado, southern Wyoming, and into southeastern Idaho, where we’ll spend a night at one of our favorite hot springs, Lava Hot Springs. And then traversing the sea of sagebrush of southern Idaho and eastern Oregon towards the Columbia River Gorge, where we’ll ogle waterfalls on our way to the coast.

We’ll spend a couple of days in Olympia, Washington, visiting my brother and family, and then we’ll meander south, sticking to that magnificent edge where ocean crashes against the continent, through Oregon and into northern California.

We’ll camp in Redwood National Park, where the groves of redwoods are more awe-inspiring than the most beautiful cathedrals, and then continue on south, planning to hit San Francisco on a Friday afternoon so we can spend the weekend with Molly.

Along the coast...

Then south again, following Highway One along the wild coast of Big Sur for a night in a favorite lodge tucked atop a cliff with a splendid view of miles of rugged coastline… From there, who knows what our route home will be. It’ll depend on how well my energy is holding out, and how well Richard is doing.

That’s the other “seize the moment” lesson here. Last week, Richard’s oncologist confirmed what we both suspect: he’s on a long, gradual decline. His brain function will continue to slowly deteriorate, his body will decline, and eventually he’ll be gone from this particular life. It might take six months, might be a year.

So now is our moment. As a writer, that’s a good reminder: None of us know what’s ahead.

Our moment could be gone in the kind of blink of an eye that send my formerly rudely healthy husband–the guy who never needed to see a doctor or take medication–to the hospital seeing birds two years ago, and brought the diagnosis of brain cancer.

Here’s the lesson: If you have something to say on the page, don’t hesitate. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t make excuses. Seize every moment you find to write. Honor your voice and your stories. Starting now. Because this moment is all we have–take it from me. Write. Now.

9 responses to “Seizing the Moment

  1. Thank you, Susan, for a much needed reminder that no matter what our circumstances, Now is all any of us have. My situation isn’t nearly as dramatic or as traumatic, for that matter, as yours and so I tend to dither and dally and think, “tomorrow.” I hope you and Richard have a wonderful journey together and enjoy every single second, every single Now moment of it. Love, Sam

  2. Dear Susan,
    Your message came in loud and clear. I’ve been putting-off, procrastinating, dragging my feet, making excuses and hesitating. I realize I don’t need to focus on why, how come or anything else. I need just to put fingers to the keyboard and get on with it! Maybe a 30-minute drive over to the Pacific Coast is in order, too. Make the most of your time and sharing. Enjoy!
    Hugs, Arletta

  3. Sam, I think it’s too easy to count on tomorrow, when in fact, it may not come, or when it does, life may be different in a way that we no longer have the capacity to write. So write!

    Arletta, It’s too easy to find ways to distract ourselves. Do you know Anne Lamott’s fabulous writing book, Bird By Bird? I love her advice in the chapter on “shitty first drafts.” She’s the best writing companion I know. Oh, and drive to the coast after you write. It can be your reward for getting in some keyboard time. ;~)

  4. Dear Susan,
    I am not a writer, though I’ve started writing over and over again. Today will be the day I complete a page and pick up the pencil again tomorrow and the next day. Thank-you. My husband is also declining from a series of strokes. The depression is malignant — and so useless, wasteful. It is truly time to seize the day! Thank-you, Susan, and peace be with you and your husband.
    Love, Sherry

  5. Sherry, Thank you for picking up the pencil again. Anyone who has something to say on the page is a writer–it takes time and practice to be a really great writer, but we all start in the same place: with the blank page and a desire to write. Writing is incredibly therapeutic too. It gives us our voices back, something that is especially critical and perhaps life-saving for we care-givers. So please write! (And not to toot my own horn, but you might find something useful in my memoir, Walking Nature Home. It’s available in print, on Kindle, and now in an audio version, and it speaks to those of us who struggle to find ourselves and our voices…) Bless you!

  6. Susan, you are exactly right to go now. If you wait until everything’s perfect, you’ll never go at all. Thanks for the inspiring article.

  7. And that’s the case with writing, too. If we expect to write when that one perfect moment, word, phrase, paragraph arrived, we’ll never write. We begin where we are, wildly imperfect, not sure what to write, not sure if what we have written is “good” (whatever that means, and I always distrust a first draft I think is good because it’s likely only scratching the surface, not getting at the real stuff), not sure at all. That place of questing, questioning, trying to figure out in words where we are and what we bring to the world is where our best writing comes from. There is no perfect place in life or writing, and that’s why we need to share our stories–to remind each other that life is what we have in every moment, not the perfect conditions we’re waiting for…

  8. A lovely, and more importantly, vital reminder of not only seizing the moment for writing, but for living.

  9. Prof Sharon, Thank you. If we don’t seize the moment, it’s gone. And there’s no guarantee we’ll get another one. To go through life unaware is to miss the gifts–both beautiful and terrible–that life offers, to stumble about with no light or hope…

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