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See Life In Color

And if it looks like we were scared to death, like a couple of kids just trying to save each other, you should’ve seen it in color.

Words from Jamey Johnson’s 2008 country song, In Color, from his album That Lonesome Song.  Co-written by Johnson, this song came before the recent influx of redneckie-rap-pop country garbage. It’s a simple ballad about a grandfather recounting memories through black & white photos.  The hook is that “you should’ve seen it in color.” (Lyrics at the bottom of post)

We spend a lot of time remembering the “good times.”  For some, it was when they were in high school – winning a state championship in front of parents. For others, it was their marriage.  And others, when their kids learned to walk or said “dad” for the first time.

Each of us has special times engraved in our memory, romanticized by the years gone by.     As our preacher eloquently prayed before my grandmother’s funeral this spring: “Whatever we deeply love lives on and becomes part of us.”  These events & memories actually become part of us.

Forgotten is the noise of life that surrounded those blessed times.  We have forgotten the nagging sister that we argued with before the big game.  Excluded from memory the stress of combining two families and lunatic friends into one ballroom.  And pushed aside the weariness from a year of sleep deprivation that preceded those first steps (but led to plenty of arguments with our spouse).

Don't Stop Watching Life Because of Stress
Don’t Stop Watching Life Because of Stress

During all parts of my life there have been stress & noise.   It’s been amazing to me that my stress level has remained relatively constant over the last decade while my responsibilities have skyrocketed.   Just owning a dog was hard out of school as a single dude.  Ends up, it’s not that tough compared with raising two kids.

My conclusion is that we adjust our stress level up to our particular tolerance/comfort level regardless of our actual circumstances.  Therefore our stress level is our choice.  You can either be overwhelmed by the stress & noise, or appreciate the good times happening around you. It’s hard to do both. So ignore the noise of life and enjoy the good times.

Maybe too much...but you get the picture: colorful and enjoyed
Maybe too much…but you get the picture: colorful and enjoyed

We only get one shot at this life – so finding joy is worth the effort.  The best way to enjoy the good times is to pay attention.  So many things pull us in other directions.  Ignore that you are tired, or stressed out. Stop looking forward to your (my) next trip, or when your (my) kids stop wetting the bed, or even when you (I) retire early.  Of course keep working toward these goals.  Just pay attention to the life of yours while both the normal and the great times are happening.  Don’t wish your days away.

As someone nearly obsessed with finances and early retirement, this message is extremely pertinent to me.   The goal (FI) is a respectable one.  It’s part of crafting a journey that will be more fulfilling than the rat race.  But the goal is still distinct from journey.  The goal does not hold happiness or satisfaction; the journey does. The journey is the part to watch out for – don’t miss the moments that will define my life.

Great stories and pictures are hewn from ordinary times. They capture the passion & emotion of the situation. Usually involving love; sometimes involving loss. A picture is great, but lacks the contextual details. The nuances, relationships, and tradeoffs of the day. Understanding and involvement in these takes time & attention.  You have to truly be there.

A picture’s worth a thousand words
But you can’t see what those shades of gray keep covered
You should’ve seen it in color

So a message to myself: Slow down, pay attention, and be there for my life.   The experiences are better in-person.  As another generation would tell me: I should see my life in color.

 

 

Lyrics:

I said Grandpa what’s this picture here
It’s all black and white, and it ain’t real clear
Is that you there, he said yeah, I was eleven
And times were tough, back in thirty-five
That’s me and Uncle Joe just tryin’ to survive
A cotton farm, in the Great Depression

And if it looks like we were scared to death
Like a couple of kids just trying to save each other
You should’ve seen it in color

This one here was taken overseas
In the middle of hell, in nineteen forty-three
In the winter time, you can almost see my breath
That was my tail gunner ole’ Johnny McGee
He was a high school teacher from New Orleans
And he had my back, right through the day we left

If it looks like we were scared to death
Like a couple of kids just trying to save each other
You should’ve seen it in color

A picture’s worth a thousand words
But you can’t see what those shades of gray keep covered
You should’ve seen it in color

And this one is my favorite one
This is me and grandma in the, summer sun
All dressed up, the day we said our vows
You can’t tell it here but it was hot that June
And that rose was red and her eyes were blue
And just look at that smile, I was so proud

That’s the story of my life
Right there in black and white

And if it looks like we were scared to death
Like a couple of kids just trying to save each other
You should’ve seen it in color

Yeah a picture’s worth a thousand words
But you can’t see what those shades of gray keep covered
You should’ve seen it in color