He sat at the wooden gazebo, staring out at the world outside its confines. The seventy-degree weather and the bright sun all but negated the possibility of any more winter. It filled his heart with a simple pleasure.
A few of his big moments happened inside the gazebo. He’d found out his brother had died, and he’d made two momentous decisions sitting in the gazebo. One was born of false optimism, and the other emerged from a “get-busy-living-or-get-busy-dying” moment. Some days, the latter still echoed in his head, the realization that so much hinges on an invisible fulcrum of thoughts. The alchemy and uncertainty both delighted and provoked nervousness in him.
As happens with some places, moments become embedded in them. One’s presence takes on a weight that was previously absent. When he needed to objectively consider a problem or opportunity in life, he often waited until he could sit in the gazebo and twirl the nuances in his mind. He learned that the right decision could still cause failure or distress; equally valid was that the wrong decision often yields surprises that lead to positive outcomes. Everyone taking a hard look at their lives surely must agree that some unexpected obstacles produce the sweetest fruit.
He sat for several minutes, silent and immobile to any observer. The gentle afternoon breeze accented the growing shadows falling inside the structure around him and over him. Though his eyes noted passers-by as they finished their respective days, the movement and transitions didn’t enter his thoughts. It was life’s static.
He thought about someone he once knew well and some of their most ridiculous moments. Her consternation with him colliding with her matter-of-fact demeanor, his weirdness punctuating all their encounters. He didn’t realize until much later that she thought fondly of him. Over the years, he failed to fully take advantage of the moments they could have shared as she grew older and frailer. He found out the day before that she’d passed away, never again to smile at his foolishness. Another small door of life had closed. It wasn’t regret per se that hit him; it was more akin to a feeling that life accelerated imperceptibly while he looked away from the more significant meaning and got distracted by mundane concerns. There would always be more pressing matters, details, or distractions. Time and people, however, would continue to decrease in supply.
He stood up and stretched his legs. The minutes in the gazebo already yielded the answer his mind required. Everything has a cost: time, money, or energy. Wasting enthusiasm or energy helps no one.
He’d go forth and find an enthusiastic smile.
Such a smile is one of the underappreciated gold standards of life. One directed at you? It is priceless and elusive. We fear that when people know us, they will recoil with annoyance.
The ‘he’ in the story is me, the proud owner of an unexpected life.