Every time I notice the school bus pulling up in front of our house to pick up the neighbor kid, I stop. I stop, and I watch it until it's out of sight.
It reminds me how quickly life is whooshing by. I don't want to miss it.
"You can go about your business," someone once said, "as long as you remember that death is taking care of his."
Your grandparents and their grandparents were once where you are now, thinking they had all the time in the world. But you don't. It's running out, and you don't want to miss it (1) slaving away at someone else's idea of what you should be doing, or (2) worrying that time is running out.
Better to be aware of the passage of time, and oblivious to it, at once.
I've stumbled on three things that help.
1. Stop More Often.
Find triggers to remind you to do that.
I stop at the top of our stairs just before I go to sleep. The picture window frames a breathtaking view of the starry sky.
I stop when I see sunlit or moonlit diamonds on the snow, which is constantly -- because I live in Minnesota. I stop whenever I see sunlight or moonlight on the water, in the summer -- which is constantly, because we live next to a lake.
I stop when I'm in the car, because my husband's driving and I've declared the car a work-free zone.
I stop when someone's talking to me, just to listen -- because it's polite, and because it's easier to learn something when you aren't busy deciding what to say when it's your turn to talk.
Then I get back to work, refreshed from drinking in the beauty of an ordinary day.
2. Reframe the Routines That Frame Your Day.
That's what Gary Larson, creator of The Far Side, reportedly told his mother on the second day of kindergarten.
I can relate at least a dozen times a day, whether making beds or washing dishes or working out: "What, again?"
Matthew Sanford in his book, Waking, calls this a quiet death. The day we realize, for example, adult life is deeply repetitive.
Maybe that's why they call it the grind.
The grind is a series of decisions, and the most important decision you'll make is your attitude about what you're doing right now.
When I remember to approach, say, making a bed the way an artist approaches a canvas -- to really get into it for the sake of that and nothing else -- my brain goes out to play. What's fun for my brain is solving problems, apparently. Because by the time I'm finished I have the answer to something I've been wrestling with. Maybe it's the subtitle for a new book. Maybe it's what to make -- er, assemble -- for dinner.
Whatever it is, it reminds me housework is as much meditation as anything else. It's a lovely frame for the rest of life -- disguised as a mindless, boring task that was always anything but.
3. Noodle around more.
I'm a sucker for competitive brevity. That's why Twitter called. But as usual, there's the trip you plan and the trip you take -- and Twitter's become a great way to expand my horizons. You don't want to get trapped in the same old thinking, do you? The same routines, the same reads, the same whatever it is that made me think I needed to have three phrases in this sentence instead of the two that came easily?
If I attributed everything I mentioned in this blog it would be only attributions. Lawyers, there's your disclaimer. If I don't link to the source and you're curious, go to @TheCareerClinic and look at the people I follow. One of them is probably responsible. "Oh, good," I can almost hear you say. "A treasure hunt!"
Life is a treasure hunt. The happiest people I know don't use a map to find their pot of gold or even a rainbow. They just noodle around and make like little children, stepping in every puddle between here and the playground -- and snitching cookie dough at every opportunity.
As you travel on through time, do yourself a favor and look up once in a while. Keeping your eyes fixed on the road too closely will leave you blind to the possibilities at the next exit, that detour, or even a supposedly dead end.
We're all racing toward that finish line. And when we get there? It won't be the trip you planned that matters. It'll be the trip you took -- paved with joy, or not.