When I was young my mum used to tell me not to wish my life away but it’s only now that I truly understand what she meant.
For as long as I can remember my head has been in the clouds dreaming about what happens next. As a young child, like so many, I couldn’t wait to be older. As a teenager, I couldn’t wait to be a grown up so I could enjoy all of the ‘opportunities and freedoms’ that I thought being an adult entailed.
In my early twenties, I saved for two years so I could go and live in the UK, which was a place I’d never been too but to me was the destination that held the answers to all of my earnest questioning. Of course, during the “drawn out” period before leaving my homeland, in my head I was already living in Old Blighty so I was mostly gone already.
From my base in London, for the first time in my life, I probably did live in the moment better than I’d ever done before. I soaked up the people, the history and the party scene with much enthusiasm and I think started to become the confident woman that I am today.
After leaving the UK, though, again my mind was miles ahead of me in some place far, far away. I was sick of working for morons and decided to finally pluck up the courage to go to university. There I inhaled everything I could and was relatively good at being ‘present’, even though I had visions of Pulitzer prize-winning journalism long before I ever graduated.
My early days as a journalist saw me working in regional Australia, where I got to break a few cracking yarns, but where I didn’t think I belonged. So, again, I yearned for the bright lights of the city even while I had that beautiful red soil beneath my toes.
I made an 18-month detour back to New Zealand, thinking that my home city could cure me of my unhelpful habit of never being able to put down roots. Alas, as soon as I got there, I was thinking about leaving… yet again. When I returned to Australia, I spent about five years daydreaming of a new life on distant shores, but eventually it was a mortgage that kept me grounded – whatever it takes I guess.
Today, some 25 years after my head started to go walkabout no matter where my heart wanted to be, I still have visions of a “better life” and given I’m an ambitious, goal-oriented person that’s never going to change. Those dreams are just more realistic than they used to be. What I’ve also become much better at is trying to be present in every single day, which is not easy for a cloud-dwelling lunatic like me.
I know mum’s illness has taught me many things about myself, about her, and most of all about life. Back when I was a child and mum was the mum that I remember, she was trying to pass on some of her wisdom to me but I was mostly too self-absorbed to listen. The days I spend with mum now are filled with simple pleasures and I have to be in the moment to accept joy when it arises and to enjoy our time together for what it is today, not continually mourn what it used to be.
You see mum still loves to sing and to dance, and she absolutely adores milkshakes. Her hearty desire for them has been around for three or four years now and over that time I myself have rediscovered my own love for them. In fact, B and I often partake in milkshakes when we’re out for posh dinners and make them at home, too. I suppose you could say we’ve almost become milkshake aficionados (mint or banana for me and vanilla or chocolate for him, if you ever want to shout us one) if such a thing actually exists.
I know that when mum and I, or B and I, drink those damn tasty, mighty fine $5 (or more) milkshakes it takes me back to a more simple time when it was just me, my mum and my milkshake. There was nothing else that mattered – just the ice creamy deliciousness that you sucked through the straw on a summer’s day with your mum and not a care in the world. It’s a happy memory and a metaphor that serves me well in times like these.
So, deep down, I know mum was right. Life’s too short to wish it away on the promise of a tomorrow that may never arrive in the shape or form that you’d imagined. All we’ve really got is today… and milkshakes, of course. For me, milkshakes will never be the same and I’ll forever savour their sweetness that’s now mixed with a lifetime of joyous memories. Maybe you should try one sometime.