The Journey Continues

November 10, 2009 § 13 Comments

Canadian rocker Tom Cochrane had it right: Life Is A Highway.

My blogmate, Wendy, won’t be surprised I’m using a musical reference in my blog. We both do that with regularity to explain things.

In her last post, Wendy described the search for herself as a long one. She wondered if she would stand still for a moment or if she’s destined to keep moving and to continue in search of herself along the way.

I’m certain Wendy’s journey toward more knowledge of herself will be ongoing, just as mine about me will.

Anyone who constantly looks for more out of life, who is not content with the status quo, is bound to wonder what role they play in the scheme of things. There is going to be an ongoing search of who we really are because we continue to evolve and grow with the new circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Yes, life is a highway. Mine is just significantly longer than Wendy’s since I am several years older.

Sometimes we can whip into fifth gear and zip into the fast lane on our life’s highway – things are going great and we haven’t a worry in the world. Other times there is road construction and we are forced to travel along at a snail’s pace – perhaps we are overwhelmed with competing life or work priorities that are bogging us down. Sometimes there is a blizzard and we are storm stayed, stalled from moving forward – a death has occurred in the family or maybe we’ve had a relationship go south.

Events and people along the way can serve as jet fuel to thrust us ahead while some individuals and circumstances can clog up life’s carburetor.  It is always a good idea to do a maintenance check to see our personal engine is firing on all cylinders.

In my case, I was flying through my 20s. I had the fortune of meeting my bride-to-be and my best friend by interviewing her for a profile while I was a newspaper reporter in St. Paul. I was married at age 25 and she has been my rock ever since. If I had any doubts, having my wife follow me across the country for my latest job when she loved her work and the people she worked with would have removed any questions.

My life euphemistically veered for the ditch when my father died in January 1989. Somehow I knew when I moved to Ontario, that I would never see him alive again, but you can’t live life on premonitions.

It wasn’t that my father and I were that close. We were alike in many ways – our work ethic, values, kindness, our friendliness once we get to know people, and our concern for the underdog. But we had little else in common in terms of interests, other than we shared the Montreal Canadiens as our favourite hockey team.

My father’s death became something of a Circle of Life moment in that we knew he had plans to come and see my son once he was born in April 1989.

Although I have never developed the prototypical work-life balance we are reminded to find, his untimely passing did underline for me that it is important to live in the moment.

I was able to launch my communications consulting business, The Write Stuff!, and have some flexibility in my life because my father had left an inheritance. However, I would give all that back to have seen him live longer. He was just learning how to enjoy himself when he died. In fact, Dad just attended his first NHL game on the night he passed away.

I have strived to find my own level of conformity with the work-life balance ideal, but I do love what I do, so it is not a 50-50 proposition to me.

So, I have found myself working hard like he did, but playing hard when it came time to see some of my favourite performers in concert. Between 2005 and 2006, I saw the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger live. I have also taken in numerous hockey and baseball games over the years.

After my mother died in 1991, it was back into the fast lane again. I refocused my career to move from newspaper reporting to corporate writing, editing and photography at the Ontario Lottery Corporation.  Five years moved by quickly and I learned a lot of things that would help me find opportunities down the road.

When restructuring began occurring in 1997, I knew it was time for me to revamp my career. It was in that year that I started my company. That led to my position with the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board, which in turn, paved the way for my current position with the City of Grande Prairie as Manager of Marketing and Communications.

When I think back, my highway of life has been mostly bare and dry, allowing me to travel at top speed most of the time, changing gears as needed.  Setbacks, such as my diagnosis of diabetes in 1999, have not been debilitating.

When I found out I had diabetes, I said that the D word is a whole lot better than the C word – cancer.

My good friend and best man, Darrell Skidnuk, was not so fortunate.

He was taken from us after a lengthy battle with cancer in April 2004 at the very young age of 42. Darrell and I met as reporters at the Daily Herald-Tribune in Grande Prairie. He would become associate publisher of Fort McMurray Today. Darrell was the consummate professional, husband, father, volunteer and citizen.

Even though I believe in God, I have not been able to rationalize why He would let a great guy like Darrell suffer and perish when he had so much to offer the world. Many others hate their existence and wish to die.

Darrell was one guy I could talk to about anything, so it seems natural now to wonder when I am having a dilemma, “What would Darrell do?”

Another friend, Diane Sims, has ovarian cancer and multiple sclerosis, along with other related ailments, yet still has a strong spirit to continue writing and helping others through their pain.

Again, I wonder, “Why Diane?” Is it that there are certain people put on this earth simply to inspire others?

So, how does all this relate to me and my life?

I have been motivated by them and try to be better at what I do when I think of them.

Although I don’t know where my highway is taking me, I know my role is to make every workplace I have been to better and to encourage others to be the best they can be. I am here to foster better lives for others who have not had the same fortune as I have while constantly raising the bar for myself.

Wendy is right, we only have one shot at life. Darrell packed a lot into his short existence. Diane continues to fight the odds.

I haven’t always lived up to their standards, just as I don’t always heed the Serenity Prayer when I should.

But as long as I remember where I should be on that highway of life and follow the signs, I will enjoy a rewarding journey.


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§ 13 Responses to The Journey Continues

  • Wendy Peters says:

    Get your motor runnin’… head out on the highway… looking for adventure… or whatever comes my way. That’s more my approach.

    I think living in the moment is one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do. Because, for me, living in the moment means letting go of the things I cannot control. Hello Serenity Prayer.

    We’ve each got our own journey and our own speed to travel on that highway. There’s no right or wrong way to do the trip either. As long as we’re all moving forward and doing/being the best that we can be… what more can we ask for?

  • David Olinger says:

    That is exactly right, Wendy. There is no right way or wrong way to living. I am certainly no guru on how best to do that.

    However, if people are “bored” or “stuck in a rut” it is up to them to take action, rather than being draining to other people by moping about.

    I have found myself doing my best to live in the present because there is a tendency to dwell on the past. I have never planned too far into the future from the lesson of my Dad. He was all about putting away money for the kids and he did little for himself. Like I said, I would give all that back to have had more of him.

  • Beth Zazula says:

    Life is a highway and I am on a long wide one cruising slowly along and having difficulty enjoying the ride. Getting my motor runnin’ is a little difficult for me at this time in my life, maybe because I am used to getting more than one engine going at the same time. HA!

    Living in the moment is an exercise in sanity. realizing what is truly important in life is the key!

    • Wendy Peters says:

      Haha! Thanks for injecting a little humor Beth! The last post and this one are pretty heavy topics… so it’s nice to have some lightness associated with it. And realizing what’s truly important is definitely key. But what is important for you may not be important for me. We’ve all got different ‘secrets’ to living the life we want.

  • Donna Durnford says:

    When I am finding myself thinking about things in the past that I wish I could go back and change I remember one of my favourite quotes. It is from the Lion King movie. Rafiki tells Simba “I never look back, I’m not going that way”. To use your car euphemism, I think of the traffic control devices that I’ve seen used. You can drive forward over them harmlessly, but if you try to back up, your tires are ripped to shreds by large metal teeth. Either way, it shows you to just keep moving forward in life.

  • Valerie says:

    wow very touching! Isn’t it sad though how in life it’s a death or something tragic that happens to us to make us realize the important things around and how we need to live for that moment?

  • What a great way of looking at life! Life is indeed a highway that sometimes you can follow easily and at other times you hit a road block! I also have trouble with the Serenity Prayer, it is not always easy to accept the things we cannot change. I have a magnet on my fridge that says “God grant me patience but please hurry” I have found this is never the case. One thing I try to put into practice is something my Mother taught me:” If you do not learn at least one new thing every day then your day is wasted!

  • Emilia Hovorka says:

    Life is ironic, you never know what may be ahead or what path(highway in this case)you may be lead to.

    I know within my own life I try to stay positive and keep moving forward-learning from the many, many mistakes I have made along the way.

    A motto I try to live by:
    “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, throughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming-WOW! WHAT A RIDE!”

  • Megan says:

    Funny, those life defining moments. You mention your relief at being diagnosed with Diabetes and relieved it was not cancer. September 2007, I found myself sitting across from a young neurologist at the U of A hospital. I knew beyond a doubt what he was going to tell me, but was still a little surprised and laughed to myself as I breathed a hugh internal sigh of relief. As he formed the words you have Multiple Sclerosis, I exhaled thinking “at least it’s not diabetes or cancer”.
    My logic being Diabetes would certainly FORCE my to change my lifestyle and cancer would mean chemo therapy. Insane what we think when delivered life altering news. Hmm, ironically I have changed my lifestyle and while no chemo I do inject myself daily with one of the “disease modifying therapies”. The emotional roller coaster that accompanies such a diagnosis is indescribable, to anyone that has not personally been dealt a similar hand. The work life balance, well it was easy to throw myself into work as a means of denial. Things seem to be leveling out now, as two years have passed and I feel great. A little selfishness however was in order. I look forward to following you and Wendy via your blog. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Adrian Schatzmann says:

    I love reading Wendy’s and your posts and muses (and on FB). It makes me contemplate my life and re-evaluate many things.
    Thank you very much for sharing.

  • Kathy Stoughton says:

    I’ll start my comment with a line from one of my late husband’s favourite songwriters – “The long and winding road that leads to your door . . . ” Life is indeed a long and winding road. My late husband, Darrell, who Dave mentioned in his blog was indeed taken from me and our two sons much, much too early. He was indeed a loving husband and a devoted father first and also a journalist. My life, generally speaking, seems to have been primarily an uphill battle. Although I have had many challenges I have endeavoured to view these challenges as opportunities for growth rather than falling into a stagnating pattern of self-pity. Whenever I start to feel sorry for myself, I (although it may sound trite) take time to count my many and varied blessings. We all have burdens to bear and you can always find someone’s story that will make you feel so grateful for the gifts that you have in your life. Instead of asking “why me?” I ask “why not me?”. Just because I have tried my very best to life a morally upright life with very liberal amounts of unfailing honest and compassion for all living creatures thrown in, does not mean that God will somehow exempt me from the suffering that afflicts all human beings. I do not consider myself to be any more deserving of avoiding the heartbreak and being blessed with the joys of ordinary life than any of my neighbours on this planet. All that I can ask for is for grace to make it through another day and for my eyes to be truly open to all the beauty and joy that this life of ours has to offer, even if it means leaving myself open to inevitable vulnerability. Peace and love.

  • Maria says:

    David, where have you disappeared to??

  • Jory says:

    “My life euphemistically veered for the ditch when my father died in January 1989. Somehow I knew when I moved to Ontario, that I would never see him alive again, but you can’t live life on premonitions.”

    Your choice of words in your above explanation are heart-felt and poignant. Similarly to you, I had a premonition of my dad’s imminent death (cancer) before he passed. I felt that it was the last time he would appear healthy before my eyes and my intuition, unfortunately, was right.

    ‘Veered for the ditch’ is the perfect phrase! What an all encompassing, life changing loss. It is just like a derailment of a long train, that was full with all comfort and support you ever knew, by the one who was with you and loved you right from the start. Only those who have been there will understand the enormity of such a tragic loss – the loss of a father.

    You stated: “Although I have never developed the prototypical work-life balance we are reminded to find, his untimely passing did underline for me that it is important to live in the moment.”

    I have a renewed sense of longing to live in the moment in honour of my dad, as well. No one knows when their time is up – it just makes sense to *Be Here Now.* Really, it’s all one can do.

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