“Only four more Mondays until school is out.”
That’s how I greeted my son last week as he sat at the breakfast bar, eating his pancakes with the typical scowl. I was hoping he’d smile and engage in conversation with me, but he grunted. He does that a lot—grunts. Lately I’ve been wishing he would enjoy his life more than he does, but in that moment, as I was encouraging him with my countdown, I realized if I want him to enjoy his life more, maybe I need to be a better example of what it looks like to enjoy life.
It feels harder and harder these days to enjoy myself. Days that go on forever, work that never seems to end, conflicts, and emotions I’d rather not deal with are pretty much the bricks and mortar that make up my life right now. Why wouldn’t I count down the days until I get to something better? Why not make it to the end of the day and feel the pleasure of checking another box in a long progression of boxes? Oh yeah. Because there’s a finite number of boxes that can be checked.
I always thought one of the great joys in life came from living each day to the fullest. Each day is a gift! An adventure! A promise! Except I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. In fact, each day I get up a little later than the day before. Like I said, life hasn’t been very fun lately. But is it supposed to be?
Lately, as I consider all the checked boxes that I’ve piled up in the past, hoarded like I might be able to use them one again day, I realize those boxes arefull. Some days are heavy with pain, some are packed to the brim with uncertainty, others have illness, sadness, and grief, and yes…plenty of them have happiness. But they are full. The promise of a full life doesn’t mean there’s no negative emotion. Just the opposite. A full life means I’ve felt it…ALL of it.
Maybe I need to stop looking at my life as a succession of hoarded days that are piling up in the corner and crowding up my past to the point that I can’t maneuver through my present. Because that’s the thing—life is lived inside those boxes. And a new box opens every day, and it might be full of something beautiful or something grotesque, or a mixture of the two, and I won’t really know until I open it. And then, when the day is over, and the box has been unpacked, I don’t get to keep it. I won’t be able to use it again. Ever. Because it will be gone.
Or maybe I’ll recycle it for my Goodwill donation. Either way, it’s not mine to keep.