Value the Dash
February 3, 2021
I was recently reminded of the obvious, or at least it should be obvious.
Life is not easy. If it is easy, be careful for the skies to change.
I’m not being negative. I haven’t signed up for the Murphy’s Law Fan Club. I’m being candidly honest. There are athletes who count their body fat in ounces, not percentages. Some of these men and women have a better relationship with the gym manager than their spouse.
Maybe not. But the point is the obsession makes them what people might call the perfect specimen. However, that same person could twist an ankle during a morning run, uncover a degenerative issue during a routine workout, acquire an illness that completely changes the perfect physique.
We have to live with the perspective of putting as much value into each moment we can. We need to recognize we aren’t promised forever in this existence. Years ago I heard an illustration based on a cemetery headstone. There is the birth date, and the date of death, with a dash in the middle. The question we each need to ask ourselves is what are we going to do with the dash. What is between the bookends of life?
The dash can be literally a few moments or it can be decades. The end of the dash can happen in a flash, or like watching a prairie flood overtake the pasture.
Think of the people who work a long career in something they have only a nominal interest in… but it pays well. The goal of some of these people includes retiring so they can have time for their hobbies, take trips, write the great American novel or whatever else has risen to the top of their bucket list.
So, there are people who spend their lives in what Thoreau would call quiet desperation, to earn that time in life when they can do things on their terms. The challenge is what if you wait until retirement to travel, to spend time at the gym, to visit family, start a new hobby… just to develop health issues that prevent enjoying your interest.
What if the real life of regret is waiting too long to do the little things in life that cause enjoyment? What if we don’t know when the dash between dates runs out of ink? What if fast-forwarding past the uncomfortable times in life also removed the blessings?
I say view from the handlebars because it is an activity that can be modified to time, terrain and physical ability. I’ve had to consider each of these at various times. But even then, even when life has me waking up to two flat tires, the journey is more important as the certificates on the wall.
Sometimes it is a Dr. Seuss book, unsure where I will go but can’t wait to get there. Other rides, it is time for some outdoor therapy; therapy where I can take my mind off of other things and just watch the road.
What it isn’t is an activity I can plan for the perfect day. In reality, perfect days are a reflection of how you feel after it is done. It is looking back and saying “Yeah, the wind was crazy, and the cracks in the highway almost bent a rim, but it was good to be out.” I read somewhere that if you wait for the perfect day, you’ll never get out of the house.
The same goes with life. Sometimes we need to accept the storm clouds as just another part of life, and anticipate the days when the sun is brighter than the clouds were dark.
Take a walk in the storm, even dance in the rain. Practice the coffee cup philosophy of dancing, or singing, like no one is watching. Make the dash between dates so full there are no regrets.