Three hundred fifty-four.
If my math is correct, that’s the total number of days left before the end of the Mayan calendar, which some believe foretells the end of the world…at least as we know it.
This number isn’t something I’d ordinarily keep in my head, but my husband keeps repeating the count-down, using it for whatever purposes might suit our will of the moment.
Want to buy something we can’t afford? Pull out the credit card! In a mere 354 days, we’ll be debt free!
Is that bag of chips calling our names? Dig in! The fat clogging our arteries will take far more than 354 days to completely close the pathways to our hearts.
Those aren’t real examples, of course. (Buying what we can’t afford and eating what we shouldn’t are pretty much everyday activities in my house!) And I don’t necessarily believe that a calendar created several thousand years ago (for its specific timekeeping purposes) is a prediction of the end of times.
Still, the whole discussion does make me stop and think. It does make me wonder…
What if the ancient Mayans were on to something? After all, they obviously had that logical thought process, that long-term-planning gene that I so woefully lack. What if we all only have 354 days to complete our bucket lists, to right the wrongs in our lives, to take a first steps toward goals that require journeys through uncomfortable, or downright scary, territories? What if today is the first day not of the rest of our lives, but of the end of our lives? How creepy is that?
Suddenly the lyrics to country songs start filtering into my head. Songs like Live Like You Were Dying. Or I Hope You Dance, and My List. Each was a mega hit for the artist, its message speaking to millions of us, urging us to grab for what’s important, what’s special in life…before it’s too late. Literature is full of stories that tell us to make each day and each minute count, even (or especially) if it’s something as basic as finding joy wherever possible in all the good and bad of life that teems around us each day. (You know, that whole “stop to smell the roses” thing.)
But let’s be real. We’re busy. Our lives are stressful, filled to the brim with “stuff” that keeps our focus on the mundane, or the predictable. Yet each minute, each situation, does provide us an opportunity if not to enjoy, at least to learn, about ourselves and others. Each moment does provide us a chance to love in some way. Each day is a chance to live in every sense of the word.
I realize those are easy words to embrace for someone, like me, who faces no major physical or emotional challenges. In fact, they might sound pretentious, maybe naïve, or downright cruel, to those who slog through each day in drudgery, who hunger for physical or spiritual nourishment, or who live in fear or pain. Or worse, to those who mourn. And those people would be right.
At this moment in time on the second day of January in 2012, my life is blessed. I have food, shelter, and a livelihood to sustain my physical needs. I am surrounded by a family/extended family who fill my emotional needs. But I know that all of it could be gone by the time I post this message.
The thought fills me with a sense of urgency to heed the advice of the prophets and lyricists. Suddenly I’m seeing the hours before me in a whole new light. Hurry! Hurry! I hear inside my head. Make this minute count. Make your time here on earth mean something, hopefully something good.
Last week I wrote about resolutions, how I don’t make them. This week’s epiphany hasn’t caused me to reconsider. (Yes, I hate planning just that much!) What it did, though, is force me to focus on what is important in my life. It made me think about what I might want to accomplish before December 21st of this year. It made me consider what brings me joy, and what I would miss if my ability to do it were taken away. It made me face the calendar not just as a tool for tracking time, but as a visual reminder (if I’m lucky!) of the hundreds of days, the thousands of minutes and probably zillions of seconds at my disposal at this moment in time.
So I dedicate the remainder of this year, however many seconds are left, to living with passion. That means locking myself in my figurative cocoon each day and transferring all the words and stories floating around in my head to “paper.” It means leaving the comfort of that cocoon from time to time to lose myself in a book and talk about it with others, to sing, to laugh and cry at TV and movies. In short, I’m dedicating my time to enjoying the blessings I’ve been given, each minute of each day.
I hope the same for each of you.