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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 3/1/24 – Making the Most of the Dash

How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon. December is here before it's June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” ― Dr. Seuss


Yesterday was a leap day! A February 29th only comes once every four years and was first decreed in 45 BC by Julius Caesar to correct a rounding error. What did you do with the extra day? Yesterday morning, I started out my day by donating blood, and capped it off with a dinner out with Julie at our favorite hangout. It was a good day. So far, I have been gifted around 21,500 days since I first came into this life, around 14,000 of those have been in recovery. I have no idea how many days are left in my deck, but odds are pretty good at the max, not much beyond the 10K range. In 2020, the averaged life expectancy for both men and women were 77.28 years, or precisely 28,226.52 days. Sobering numbers. There is a bit of finality to seeing the potential deck is getting slimer. Truth be told, none beyond this one day is in hand.


I recently saw a movie here the actor was talking about all of our lives ending up being symbolized by a dash. There is our start date, our expiration date and then this uniform dash in between. All our lives are held within a short, dark line midway between two numbers. We have a lot to say about what we do with the dash. We decide what to do with the lives that we are handed. I squandered a bunch of my days until I figured out that the way I was living hurt me and those around me. It was likely to be short and painful. Recovery altered my dash significantly. I have no doubt that my life has been much more rewarding in all ways because of recovery, and it is no doubt already a longer one.


How we value days change from when we measured those behind us in the low thousands, at least for me. I had some great days early on, and one of the gifts of a young life is how endless a day, a week or a month seems! This is in part because our frame of reference is much shorter. Scientists have studied this phenomenon and found that in essence a young brain has way more new experiences to process than an older brain. In essence, we can go on autopilot if we do not have new experiences. As this article notes, days seemed to last longer in your youth because the young mind receives more images during one day than the same mind in old age. To me that seems to highlight that to stay young, we need to seek out new things and new experiences to avoid getting crusty, but that is a topic beyond this post.


I feel that ticking clock in ways I did not in my youth and not in a negative way. Life has provided me with an opportunity to contribute in ways I did not see as remotely possible in my earlier days. I am increasingly asking myself how I will do so, and I feel the investment of time, energy, and trust that so many people have invested in me. They chose a slice of their deck of days to help me. I want to be worthy of their investment. I want to show them I was worthy of their significant effort with their finite time and resources.


Beyond the substantive things on my list for the remainder of my dash, a priority I have are to have some fulfilling experiences. I have a bucket list. I have checked a bunch off, hang gliding, flying a plane, summiting Mt Katahdin and a host of others. One thing on my bucket list is to experience the totality of a solar eclipse. They happen rarely in any geographic location on earth. Eclipses have been recorded through history and have influenced the outcome of wars.


For perspective, over the course of 1,200 years, there are only five times that totality has already or will occur in Philadelphia PA, including July 1st, 1079, August 22nd 1142, July 29th 1478, October 26th, 2144 and April 14th 2200. Fortunately, PA is a big state, and we have one that will cross the other corner of the state in a few weeks, on April 8th, 2024. The partial eclipse will occur in Erie from 2:02 to 4:30 p.m with totality starting at 3:16:24 p.m and lasting 3 minutes 40 seconds. I will be up in that corner of the state as it is most likely my last opportunity to experience something that I have wanted to since I first learned of the phenomena as a child. The wild card is the weather, but it will hopefully cooperate. If you view it, please get ISO rated solar eclipse glasses, they are cheap and your is not.


What else is left in my dash? Hopefully more downtime with Julie and our dogs and time in the woods. The thing about our existence is we do not know what is in our cards. This becomes more apparent as we age. The illusion of permanence gradually erodes with loss. The longer you live, the more one experiences the passage of people they love. The human condition, We can get trapped in grief or celebrate this finite thing called life by making the very most of it.


I am grateful for all of my dash to date. I would not be who and what I am without the sum of experiences of my journey. I hope to put much more in my dash, but perhaps even more importantly, I have found enough healing in my life so that I am not filled with regret on what is in my short line. Grateful for the whole thing, including the ugly and sad bits as they make the joyous moments even sweeter.


What are you grateful for today?  

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