No more deadlines: Be kind to oneself now

Time really does pass quickly, often more quickly than we realize or are willing to acknowledge.

That thought hit as it dawned on me that one of my favorite movies is 25 years old this year. That would be “When Harry Met Sally,” starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan.

One quarter of a century has passed since this romantic comedy was released. It doesn’t seem possible it has been that long.

It has been awhile since I sat and watched the film straight through from beginning to end. In fact, my version at home is VHS, not DVD. Maybe some evening soon, I will fire up the old VCR to see if it even works and throw in the tape.

Most people remember “When Harry Met Sally” for Ryan’s deli scene, in which her character of Sally proves to Crystal’s Harry that women can indeed, um, shall we say embellish the truth when it comes to expressing satisfaction.

And then follows the line that everyone associates with the film: “I’ll have what she’s having,” uttered by Estelle Reiner, the mother of the film’s director, Rob Reiner.

But there’s an exchange from the couple which resonated with me. Sally and Harry are talking because Sally’s upset that her ex-boyfriend is getting married. Harry is trying to offer comfort.

Sally says, “No, no, no, I drove him away. And, I’m gonna be 40.”

“When?” Harry replies.

Sally says “Some day.”

Harry responds “In eight years.”

Sally then says, “But it’s there. It’s just sitting there, like some big dead end. And it’s not the same for men. Charlie Chaplin had kids when he was 73.”

To which Harry offers the punchline: “Yeah, but he was too old to pick them up.”

“When Harry Met Sally” was released when I was 30 years old. Like the character of Sally, at that age I was always looking at the years as a deadline. You know, the kind of thing where you say to yourself, “by the time I am this age, this had better have happened.”

As the years have gone by, I have not only grown older but hopefully somewhat wiser. Those self-imposed deadlines can drive a person a bit batty at best and damage one’s self-esteem at worst.

Having life goals is wonderful, but putting an expiration date on them can be defeating.

That hit home for me shortly after my 50th birthday, when I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. The prospect of the cancer being fatal made me look back at my life to that point and I realized something. While I hadn’t met all my self-imposed deadline goals, my life had been darn wonderful to that point.

Because unmet goals aside, my life was filled with family who loved me, friends who cared about me and a job which was mostly satisfying. My life had music and books and other worldly pleasures. I had a warm home and all other necessities met.

Not to diminish the struggles that followed the diagnosis – chemotherapy, radiation, a pulmonary embolism and the rest – life has gotten even better because I have grown kinder to myself.

Certainly I still have dreams and objectives, but no longer will I treat myself as a failure if they are not met by an arbitrary self-created deadline.

Thinking of “When Harry Met Sally” reminded me of all that. It’s time to watch it again, I do believe.

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.