I think about my death every day. I know that one day, just as all things living, that I, too, will die. I know it sounds morose, but reflecting on my life as the finite existence that it is keeps me in a constant state of gratitude and appreciation for being alive--knowing every day I am alive is a day closer to death regardless of how long I am blessed to live
Because I am keenly aware of my temporary stay here, I have become much more mindful of how I think about and experience my time on earth. As a result, I strive to remain present in each day. Of course, I lapse and get caught up in our rush culture, even in my awareness. But, I try to catch myself from looking forward to the passage of time in a way that is quite commonplace for most of us—for example, looking forward to the end of the day, the weekend, or an upcoming event. I believe that looking forward in the attempt to "hurry up and get there" only serves to hasten me to my inevitable death.
I know most people don't think of life this way, but how often might you have said on a Wednesday that there are "only two more days to go?" or have you noticed that you dread Mondays because they mean five days of work. Perhaps you found yourself counting down the days to a vacation, or specifically for my fellow educators, to the end of the school year? I used to work with a colleague who knew the number of months, days, and hours left until summer vacation! People would go to him to get the "count" because he always knew exactly what it was.
Along similar lines, a popular question I've overheard many of my fellow educators ask each other is, "how much longer do you have left?" I remember the first time I heard someone ask that question to a colleague. I had no idea what they were referring to, but when the listener responded with, "six more years," I realized he meant until he retired. He then stated the precise number of weeks followed by he "couldn't wait to get the hell outta here." I was a new teacher excited about the profession and remember feeling sad for him. That was a long time ago. As my years in the field have multiplied, I've had. a few people ask me, "how much longer do I have?" I am always a bit put off by that question, so I find a way to change the topic politely without really answering. To me, the question itself implies that I am looking forward to the "end of my sentence" or that I will begin "really living" when I am "set free" from my career. And none of that is true. I am not marking the days in chalk on the walls of my cell, waiting to be released.
We all get about 4,000 weeks to live (give or take), barring an untimely demise. When we blow past the five days of the week to pursue the two days of the weekend, think of how many unhappy, unsatisfactory days we will have spent at the end of our lives? Each day that we mentally dash through, wish away, and tick off as done en route to the weekend, the summer, or retirement are also the days of lives that we are hurrying along.
So how do we add years to our lives? The first step is to stop counting down the ones we have. Friday will get here soon enough. The summer will arrive before we know it. Even retirement will be upon us in the blink of an eye. I am amazed at how long I have served in this profession because life in school years goes by so quickly. Students that I taught in my earlier years are grown!!!
The next step is to live our days mindfully. Don't wait to experience whatever you believe will be different or better on Saturday or any other day that isn't this one. We can choose to experience contentment, satisfaction, purpose, or peace each day. If a thought or feeling prevents us from doing so, let's work on getting around it, over it, or through it so that the peace of the present moment isn't delayed by the tempting promise of its arrival in the future.
We must be mindful of the miracle in each moment and seek joy every day—Monday through Sunday. Even during our challenges. The only day we exist in is this day. It is only ever today. It is never tomorrow. When we count down to the future, we are forfeiting the current opportunity to be content with the hope of being happier or satisfied whenever a designated "better" time arrives. The best time is already here. It's right now.
Suppose the way we are spending our days is so unpleasant that we are compelled to count them down, speed them up and race to the end of our lives. In that case, we should consider a change of circumstances or engage in the thought work and mindfulness practices that will make us more joyful in our current circumstances. Life really is too short to spend doing what we don't find meaningful, satisfying, or worthwhile.
Let's not hurry towards our inevitable end when all we truly want is to feel better now. We can do that. I'd be happy to show you how.
Interested in finding out more on how? Contact me for a free coaching session. I'd love to work with you!