I look at my daughter and realize that she will most likely be cheated out of many fulfilling experiences or events and it strikes me that the definitions of "live life to its fullest" are relative and unique to each individual.
It is a highlight of a constant internal struggle I have with my parenting. How do I find the balance of accepting her limitations without holding her back and denying her because of them? You may read this and think, "Why do you think she won't be able to do things others can? Don't you pay attention to the beautiful stories we hear and see seemingly daily about people defying the odds and doing things everyone told them they couldn't?"
I do. And that is my struggle. While I want to provide her opportunities to experience anything and everything, I have to temper these wishes with the idea that many things just will not and cannot happen for her.
I can even take it to an extreme and think about classmates and friends of hers who are restricted physically, bound to a wheelchair or other apparatus. They miss out on so much, it breaks my heart.
This is their life. It is permanent. Not a temporary injury to heal. It has always been and always will be their reality and their one shot at life. If you really think about it, it can be overwhelmingly depressing. At some point my mind will wonder and I will be back to an everyday life blessed with countless experiences, opportunities and possibilities. They will still be here.
How can they live life to its fullest?
Their "fullest" is limited in comparison to most.
It is a brutal question.
So I return back to how one lives a full life.
We think of travel and excitement. I think of a Bucket List. Checking off a list of experiences or events to do or accomplish.
But why are these items on a checklist so important? What gives them their meaning?
It's the emotion attached to these events, right?
The thrill, the love, the calm, the warmth, the excitement, the connection, the rise and fall, the victory, whatever emotion that these items on your list elicit are what makes you feel full.
The people you share them with as well, but even they are an emotion or connection.
Living life to its fullest really isn't about the events after all. It is about feeling the feelings.
Therefore, the Bucket List is bologna. You don't need it to live your fulfilled life.
The key, the essence of living is wrapped up in the emotion, the feelings. And this can be done right now.
You can start living life to the fullest by immersing yourself in the emotion of everyday life. Fill yourself with emotions regardless of what it is.
Maybe my daughter doesn't experience feelings and relationships the way the rest of us do. Maybe she never will get to do the things many people do and I will feel she is cheated.
Maybe her friends will not get to jump from an airplane, run a marathon, swim across a pool independently and so on. Maybe their loved ones will agonize over what can't be done instead of what can be done.
But they can immerse themselves in what they do feel.
They can live their lives to the fullest.