I remember growing up on a block surrounded by kids of all ages whose laughter and playful taunts echoed throughout the neighborhood. We anticipated sunrise to feel the warmth as we rode our bikes, played hide and seek and walked to the pizza shop. We rode the bus to the mall to check out the latest sneakers that dropped, although none of us could afford it.  We watched as the moon crept through the skies, turned on our porch lights and we would sit outside tossing around amusing stories of the day that unfolded before us, listening to the chirping crickets and catching lightning bugs. When overcast clouds gave us a rainy night, it was a reminder we would all arrive outside bright eyed and ready to wash the dirt off the cars in the morning. As we lay in our sound and safe beds brewing up the next day’s adventures, it was never forgotten that tomorrow would indeed be another magnificent day to explore, laugh, cry, and fall and most of all, live.

Fast forward to a day in the life of those same kids now. Things have changed drastically. Wanting to prolong sunrise so we can get a few more minutes of much needed rest to battle a day of kids’ lunches, school drop offs, delayed subway trains and unbearable coworkers whose life’s goal is to make you miserable. You leave the house without even a peck on the cheek, or simple “have a nice day.”  The thread on your jacket begins to unravel and the clash of thunder and lightning just makes you wish you never got out of bed.  You finally get off the train totally drenched, walking up to the coffee cart, only to realize you left your wallet home because you were in such a rush, so now, you can’t even buy yourself breakfast.  Catching only a glimpse of the beautifully decorated store windows as you scurry off to work and missing out on the talented teenager dropping some serious chords with his guitar. We anxiously await darkness to hover over, so we can put the kids to bed and fall asleep besides them, dauntingly exhausted and drained. We never ask about each other’s day, never steal a kiss or even a stare.

It’s inevitable we must all fulfill the duties of our everyday tasks. It’s pretty much written in stone that we have an unbroken responsibility to our children, to our homes and to our jobs. How could we possibly get through the day without doing a single chore or raising an elbow to clean up a mess (at least I can’t).  But nowhere does it forbid that we live our lives. I cannot say we should live as we did as kids, because a flood of memories would spiral me into wanting to skip work as I skipped school to get Ralph’s Italian Ices, or round up all the neighborhood adults for a quick manhunt game.(This would be awesome!)

Just stop and wonder. Stop to take a breath of fresh air and admire all the yellow Lilies in the summer midst or the multicolored butterflies fluttering about. Listen to your favorite song on the radio and sing it as loud as you can without a care in the world, strap on those dancing shoes and dance your heart away in the rain (As cliché as it sounds) or just hold on to your loved one’s hands and cherish that you can feel their soft touch.

We forget to live, to really live. We forget what it’s like to be free and full of excitement to wake up and experience the outside wonders, as my kids do every day. We forget to realize, every day, no matter how unusual to our expectations and clouded with complications and seemingly impossible obstacles are in that day, no matter how stressful we become and inundated with tasks, every day, is a day to live.

We smile at the teacher at school as we drop off our kids every day and say, “how are you?”  But when’s the last time you asked your significant other how they are?  Your boss needs you to take the highest paying client you have to dinner and you say ok. But, when your kid asks you to play outside, you say no because you’re too tired.  You come home in a frenzy, rush to make dinner and clean up the kitchen. But, when it’s time to eat, you’re still washing the dishes, the kids are sprawled in the living room watching TV eating their dinner, and your spouse is reading the newspaper while scarfing down a plate.

As life accelerates, we tend to roll with the punches and tumble into equilibrium of repetitive habits. Get up, make breakfast, feed the kids, go to work, come home, eat dinner, sleep.

How do we stop or at least alter this reoccurring cycle to find enjoyment and peace- even for a few minutes a day.

Forgetting to live is almost like not living at all.  When we become open and vulnerable to unnerving and raw negativity that influences what we think, say and do and how we aim to define living, it creates a bubble around us that forces us to envision nothing beyond the realm of this bubble.

The prerequisite for achieving satisfaction in life should be fulfilling simplicity. We get caught up in achieving “the American dream” that we neglect our own dreams.

The challenges that lay ahead are only true challenges within us if we haven’t really lived for what’s important. Face the unexpected with your heart and soul attached to your loved ones. Love the sunsets and raindrops as they tap on your window. Listen to the sounds of the ocean and tell your children incredible stories about heroes and mermaids.

Spend more time with loved ones. Cherish what you have today, or it can be gone tomorrow. Make memories together, hold on to life together. Live in the moment or by chance, live for the purpose of your deepest dreams and fantasies.

Whatever you do, however you do it, don’t forget to live.