In the Scheme of Things: Guilty

My husband gave me a card at the beginning of 2018 that’s been standing on my dresser ever since. I see its message when I wake up or wander into the bedroom. There’s a picture of an early sunrise on a distant horizon, its light spreading across an ocean with no land in sight. A figure on the deck of a sailboat watches the emerging colors in the sky.

Across the card, in large elegant font, are these words — simplistic on one level; profound on another — “Every day is a gift.” The card serves as a reminder and a nudge to me: a reminder of no promised tomorrows for any of us, and a nudge to consciously use well the time I have.

I do want to live that way. Most mornings I read the words, deciding that, yes, every day is a gift and my best use of this day should reflect that gratitude and understanding. Yet, more often than I’d like, that’s not what happens.

I’m guilty of losing perspective or numbing out to the preciousness of these non-renewable days, until something tragic, or frightening, or significant happens to shake me awake for a time. I’m guilty of routinely applying habits for getting things done, or getting caught up in the “doing,” without self-awareness about what I’m doing or who I’m “becoming” or “being” in the process. And I’m guilty of planning tomorrows or waiting for the “right” time to arrive before moving from a comfort zone, or engaging fully with the life I have right now.

While every day is, on one level, a profound gift, I acknowledge I don’t always like the “gifts” I get. It’s easy to appreciate gift-days of love, connection, wonder, contribution, and learning; but what about those of despair, grief, anger, or disappointment? And for some, persistence days and years of war, famine, or unimagined hardship fall beyond the comprehension of those of us who only glimpse occasional images on screens.

I was thinking about the card’s day-as-a-gift message when I ran across a Pinterest pin saved by a friend who lost her husband tragically a few years ago. The pin she posted read: “Don’t ever save anything for a special occasion. Being alive is the special occasion.”

Once again, I’m guilty. I do save things for special occasions; everything from clothes and shoes to jewelry and dishes. I’m guilty of “saving” them because I don’t want to ruin them, allowing instead for something to sit unused in a closet until the perfect occasion arises. I’m guilty of saying “no” when I’m unsure instead of going with a “yes,” and I’m guilty of sitting on life’s bleachers, at times, when I could be dancing to life’s music.

Author Eckhart Tolle wrote, “Life is an adventure, it’s not a package tour.” He’s right. And adventures require different mindsets. For me, that begins with not saving things to use only on special occasions. In the scheme of things, I’ve come to realize I’ve been guilty of seeing some days as more special than others; better than others, more worthy of my engagement than others. But my friend is right, being alive is, itself, a special occasion — a daily gift with adventure.

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