. . . is one less day you have left.
Sound morbid? It’s not. I quoted my dear friend Nancy’s father, something said at his funeral and which I wrote about last summer:
“What you do today is important, because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.”
Whoa! Pretty convicting. But so much of the time we don’t think that way. A day passes and we don’t take stock and ask ourselves, “Did I spend today well? Was what I did worth that time out of my life?” And the supply of time usually seems endless, even when we know in principle that the current situation can’t last forever. How many parents think as their children are growing up, ‘That’s one less day I have with my children at home’? Actually, one person who does think that way is Gretchen Rubin’s sister Liz, who said in a recent podcast episode that she dreads the day that her son Jack, who’s only seven, moves out of the house. (I decided not to spend the time necessary to find the exact quote; I think it was in this week’s podcast but I’m not sure.) So she still has eleven years to go before she becomes an empty-nester (Jack’s an only child), but every day, she says, feels like a death. Well, maybe we don’t all want to feel quite that strongly! I do remember thinking when Gideon was a toddler that, since he was our only child, we’d get to go through each parenting stage only once. And there were never any terrible twos to speak of. I still say to Jim once in awhile, “I miss my little boy!” And here he is going off to grad school in less than two months.
Why am I thinking this way right now? Because of our move. We hope to stay here for a number of years, but the understanding is that at some point we’ll buy a place of our own when the time comes for this house to be sold. Each day is precious. And we also want to move ahead quickly to make our living quarters into a real home. It would be a real shame if a year from now we still felt as though we were just camping out. That would be a waste, fueled not by lack of resources but by lack of action.
So much of life does indeed have a known end point: the school year, the summer, the vacation, the job assignment, the military deployment. But mostly it doesn’t. The trick is to treat each day as a stand-alone event and also as part of a continuum with an unknown end. Will I still be thinking this way a year from now? I’m going to consciously try to do so.