How Many Seconds?

clockface with second handWe’re in the process of changing the title of this blog from “Intentional Happiness” to “Intentional Living,” and part of the reason I didn’t get much posted last week was because of that change—I wanted to have the new banner up. But that hasn’t happened yet; this post is about a week old. As I’ve continued to write on various subject of interest to me (and to you, I hope) I’ve realized that not everything I write falls neatly under the heading of happiness, and that my posts about food and books fit into this

wider category also. So I’ve done away with a separate blog about hospitality, The books I review have long been a part of the Intentional Happiness blog, but they don’t always have anything directly to do with that subject. Instead, I find myself drawn more and more to the idea of choice and intentionality.

I’m not sure if I’ve quoted the passage below from Gone with the Wind before; I just did a search in my archive and didn’t find it, so here it is, perhaps again. The level of intensity that Scarlett brings to bear during the brief week when Ashley comes home from the war is unsustainable over the long haul. (There’s no need to explain who these people are, is there?) But I’ve always loved this passage, because it shows how strongly our emotions affect our perceptions.

The past week with its shimmering, dreamlike beauty, its crowded hours of happiness, was gone.

The week had passed swiftly, like a dream, a dream fragrant with the smell of pine boughs and Christmas trees, bright with little candles and home-made tinsel, a dream where minutes flew as rapidly as heartbeats. Such a breathless week when something within her drove Scarlett with mingled pain and pleasure to pack and cram every minute with incidents to remember after he was gone, happenings which she could examine at leisure in the long months ahead, extracting every morsel of comfort from them–dance, sing, laugh, fetch and carry for Ashley, anticipate his wants, smile when he smiles, be silent when he talks, follow him with your eyes so that each line of his erect body, each lift of his eyebrows, each quirk of his mouth, will be indelibly printed on your mind–for a week goes by so fast and the war goes on forever. (accessed via Project Gutenberg Australia)

This passage is from a work of fiction, but it rings true to me. This is how you act and think when you know your time with a loved one is limited. Can we somehow keep a glimmer of that attitude when life is just moving along at its regular old pace? I keep returning again and again to the idea of time’s inevitable passing, the fact that we get to go through life only once. It seems so unfair that we can’t go back and re-live or re-do moments in time, but we can’t.

So as I sit here typing this I have the “Countdown” app visible on my phone. It’s set to show how many seconds are left until May 22, 2018, the first anniversary of our move here to my in-laws’ house. There are over 16 million seconds left. (I had the app set on my old phone to show how many seconds were in our wonderful trip this summer, but that’s one that was stolen in the Great Car Break-In, so I didn’t get to see it count down to zero as we arrived home.) I try to look at this screen periodically to remind myself of those seconds trickling past. Do I appreciate them? Do I use them?

All of the foregoing has been written, of course, with the knowledge of the latest mass-shooting tragedy in our country which took place a week ago yesterday. I don’t feel qualified to do more than nibble around the edges of that subject. Many survivors have spoken eloquently of their faith and their expectation of seeing their loved ones again. In the meantime, though, they have the same seconds to get through as the rest of us who haven’t just experienced an unimaginable horror. They can’t just fold their hands and wait for that day of reunion, whenever that is. Surely their burden of grief can be at least somewhat lightened if they can say that they truly appreciated and loved their time with the person who is now gone. The loss is hard enough without the additional pain of regret.

So I want to do better about making the effort now to love and appreciate what I have, to cultivate gratitude and awareness. Now is the time, when things are going well, to form those habits of mind and heart.

How about you? Are you aware of those seconds ticking by?

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