Take Time to Smell the Roses
Please forgive me for taking the opportunity to get a little personal this week, but I felt compelled to share this message. I am not one who particularly enjoys writing these columns, as I do not have the wit of other writers. But this message is from the heart and doesn’t require any wit, so I hope you will indulge me.
We all have heard the phrase “take time to smell the roses,” or something similar, at some point in the middle of a crazy day. If you are like me, you hear this phrase, you nod your head yes, and you speak a quick reminder to yourself that you should slow down and enjoy the little things in life. You promise that you will stop taking so many contentious cases, that you will quit checking email and text messages on your phone 24/7, that you will take an afternoon off to spend time with your spouse or kids, that you will call the family member who you know really wants to hear from you, or that you will reconnect with an old friend over lunch. But then the demands of work and life take over, and you forget the promise you made to yourself. You never reconnect with that old friend, you keep adding more responsibilities to your plate, you keep billing more hours, and you don’t make that phone call or take the afternoon off to be with your family. You tell yourself that it’s OK that you aren’t smelling the roses today, because there is always time for that tomorrow. If you just get through your current “to-do list” and complete all of your “important” tasks, you will have plenty of time to smell the roses.
But here’s the thing: What if you wake up tomorrow and the opportunity to smell the roses is gone? Will you find comfort in knowing that you completed three of your 85 tasks while missing the chance to smell the roses? I suspect that if you are like me, there will be no comfort in having completed those tasks. Rather, you will wonder what you were thinking and how your priorities got so twisted.
Why am I sharing these thoughts with you? Because unfortunately I have experienced two harsh reminders in the past five months that life is precious and you never know when it will end. My dear friend and colleague, James Bell, very unexpectedly lost his little brother James from the Big Brothers Big Sisters program this past December at the young age of 26. I remember seeing the grief on James Bell’s face when he told me about his little brother. It was as if I could visibly see that his heart was broken. James and I had several conversations those first few weeks after his little brother’s passing, and many of those conversations included “what ifs” and questions about priorities and what is really important in life. Were we spending too much time working? Had we lost sight of why we wanted to be attorneys in the first place? Were we really using our skill and talents for the better? I am not sure about James, but for me, while I spent a lot of time asking questions, I did nothing to change how I lived my daily life.
And then, last month, I experienced a very unexpected loss with the passing of my mother. For the first time, I understood the depth of James Bell’s pain and the questions of “what if” and priorities.
At my mom’s calling and celebration of life service, I had an incredible number of people, some of whom I had never met before that moment, come up to me to tell me how my mom had made them feel special or loved. Over and over, I heard how my mom took the time to make people feel good about themselves and how she knew that the little things in life were important. She always had time to give a hug or to offer a word of encouragement. Yet, not a single person talked to me about the number of hours that she put into a day or the number of tasks she was able to complete.
So here is my question for you: Are you going to take time to smell the roses? Are you going to finish reading this column and go back to your work task, or are you going to schedule time for a friend or family member? Are you going to focus only on billing more hours, or are you going to recognize that you have an opportunity to impact someone’s life today by offering a word of encouragement or a hug? Are you going to schedule some time out of the office to enjoy the beauty of a summer day or are you going to work on that never-ending task list?
I know that I have work responsibilities and commitments that I must fulfill. But I also know this: I am going to take time to smell the roses before it is too late, and I hope you do too. •