Friday, March 22, 2013

Crossing off the Days

I've always been a calendar person.  Even with outlook and i-phones and google apps and God knows what else is out there, I still have an old fashioned hard copy calendar.

For as long as I remember, I was a crosser offer of days.  With each day's end, I would proudly put a big fat "X" through the calendar box.  Typically I would do this because I was counting down to something.  In high school, it was usually a countdown to some school break.  In college, it was getting to the end of a semester, or taking a trip with friends.  When I lived in London, it was a countdown to get through the workweek so I could head out to whatever European destination it was I was traveling to that weekend.  For a long time, I was consistently looking forward, and I was anxious to get there.  An "X" on the calendar just meant I was one day closer.

As I got older, and progressed through my career, the X's took a slightly darker turn.  Instead of using them to mark the progress towards something exciting, they started representing the proximity of an escape from something I didn't necessarily like.  X number of days left in discovery hell, X number of weeks left until a filing deadline, X number of days until the end of a billable hours cycle, or X number of months until I could take a few days off.  I began wishing the days away towards a goal of something ending, rather than beginning.  I did this for years.

But the last time I really obsessed over the calendar was in 2008, when I was pregnant with Braden, my first son.  At 24 weeks, I was put on bed rest, which is its own form of subtle torture. Not only was I yearning to move around like a normal person, but I was also petrified about pregnancy complications.  I wanted to hibernate for 16 weeks and wake up, at 40 weeks pregnant, with a healthy baby.  During this time I obsessed over the calendar to an unhealthy degree, and put in each X carefully and boldly as the days passed.  In the end, I didn't hibernate, but I did end up with a perfect little boy.

It's the last time I have ever put X's on a calendar.

Initially it wasn't a conscious decision.  Perhaps it's just because I was busy with a newborn and work and a new life.  But eventually, I realized it was deliberate.  I no longer wanted something to end, or something better to come.  I was happy exactly where I was.  I still kept a calendar, but its boxes remained untouched.  They still do.

I always thought the whole "living in the moment" thing was a bunch of bunk.  I mean, it's impossible to really live in the moment.  It's irresponsible!  What about being healthy, what about bills, what about financial planning for the future?  Living in the future is a necessity if one wants to be adequately prepared for a multitude of scenarios.  Sure, I'd love to just worry about today and play hookie from work and go shopping and eat pizza and drink a bottle of wine, but it probably wouldn't be the healthiest, or most prudent thing to do.

But since I've had kids, living in the moment has taken on a different meaning.  Because kids truly do live in the moment.  They have no serious regrets, and they don't live with guilt.  They feel joy and happiness without worrying about what will happen next.   They express anger, sadness, and frustration as it comes, and just as quickly as it comes, it is over.  There is no dwelling on the past, or the future.  They live in the now.  What was, was.  What is, is.  And what will be, will be.

I can't say that I live in the moment to this extent.  I do have regrets, I do have guilt, and I do have fears.  But instead of letting it consumer me, I have been working on simply acknowledging it. Yes, that happened.  Yes, that could happen. That's unfortunate.  But there's nothing I can do about it now.  

This is more of a philosophy than a practice.  But, I've found that it has made me enjoy each day more.  Because each day, taken in its own sense, without looking backward or forward on the calendar, is pretty awesome.  Each day I wake up next to my husband, in a bedroom next to the two most amazing human beings I've ever met.  That has not always been the case, and it may not always be the case.  But today, it is.  And isn't that enough?

Thinking this way allows me to take more pleasure in my morning coffee.  To appreciate each and every hug.  To relish my quiet time.  To enjoy the amazing interactions between my two boys.  To take it in stride when the interactions aren't so nice, and when nightly when dinners go awry.  To be a bit more at peace with the unexpected.  To feel joy in the mundane.  To smile, and laugh, with true sincerity.  And most of all, to be fully present - to take in these moments without being distracted by thoughts of past or future.

I'll never be as present as my kids are, but I'm trying to get as close as I can.  Because when I'm not present - when I allow myself to be consumed by stress and worry and fear - I'm not only cheating my children.  I'm cheating myself.

No more X's on the calendar.

We had a conference with Braden's teachers last week, and one thing they told us to work on with him is the idea of him getting control of his own schedule.  They suggested we get him a calendar to put in his room, and (you guessed it), cross off the days as they go by, so he can better understand the concept of time and days/weeks/months.

Of course I'll do it, but it pains me in a weird way.  Perhaps because it's a sign that sometime soon, Braden, like all children, will start to exit this land of the here and now.  He will start to count down days to exciting events, or count down the days until something is over.  He will start to have more fears, more anxieties, more regrets...  Like I did.  Like we all do.

It's just part of life.

But we can all still live in the moment a little.  And for his sake, I hope that someday Braden is inspired by someone to get back to that a bit.

Maybe by someone, someday, just like him.


  1. Yes, and it will likely be you, because he will have watched you make the necessary plans, then live and enjoy the present moment without anxiety.

    I think you're really getting the hang of this mothering thing....


  2. So funny the difference perspective makes. I have one more for you. I do cross off the days--not so much looking forward to something but rather a reminder that I am running out of time before various deadlines for papers, exams, applications . . .

    So, that is sort of living in the moment, in a hypervigilant awareness of the fleetingness of the moments. :)

  3. Forget your legal career. You are an inspired writer!

  4. I never did the X's thing. But I do love having a real calendar because I love filling up the days with fun events. Maybe you can plan some fun family outings then when you cross off the days, you have something to look forward to!

  5. I have to say, I really don't get why you should work with a four (I mean 4!) years old so that he get control of his own schedule... "Control" and "Schedule" just don't fit with being a child. What's the point? Did you ask the teacher? As you say, we spend most of our life crossing off days because we need to, why should someone who has no need to it, start doing that? Isn't it enough the "how many times do I have to sleep before Christmas, birthday, holiday or whatever" (and if it's more than three times, it is just sooooooo long too far away and just not interesting) anymore? If it pains you in a weird way, you know better, believe me. Costanza


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