You should buy yourself a random gift on your birthday. I did that today. My fifty-fourth birthday. I packed up the husband and the college freshman (home on spring break) and drove to the desert. We live in one of those pleasant states where in one day you can go from city to beach to mountains to desert. Today, for one night only, we chose the desert. You might think: nice gift. I should do something like that for my next birthday. But that wasn’t the gift I gave myself.
In a small coffee shop, I found the most curious of books. Small coffee table books graphically designed, numbered one through ten. The title of number Seven stood out to me: How Many Days of the Week Can Be Extraordinary?
It’s a question I ask myself in one form or another every morning when I wake up. How will this day stand out from yesterday, or from the day that follows it? It really begs the question, “What the hell am I doing with my life?”
I felt maybe I might find an answer in the pages of this book. I’m a reader first and foremost. I believe in the power of words. And I really do believe, outside of all the gifts you are given on your birthday (the gift of travel, the gift of family, a good cake) you should honor yourself. I bought Number Seven.
Two extraordinary things happened upon checking into our room with my new book. I tossed the book onto the hotel bed. It opened to a quote from Annie Dillard: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” A statement that sounds incredibly obvious. But dissect it for a moment.
How do we measure a life? One day at a time. Today, I was with my family. We talked for two hours in the car. We laughed. A lot. We broke bread. A lot. Way more than is good for you in one day. How would I measure this day? Extraordinary.
I sat down on the patio with the book when the second extraordinary thing occurred. This is what I read on the first page of my birthday book: “30,000 mornings, give or take, is all we’re given. If you’re 26, you still have 20,000 left. If you’re 54, you still have 10,000.”
Do you see that? If not, go back and re-read the first paragraph of this essay.
Okay, I’ll just tell you. It’s my birthday. Today I turned 54 years old.
The freshman believes there are no coincidences in life; that things happen for a reason if you are open to finding the connections.
It was bashert that this book found me.
On some level, starting Fiftiness last year was my way of acknowledging I was down to my last 10,000 mornings, give or take a few. And not in a way that shouts Oh Woe is Me. Time Is Running Out! On the contrary. I had hidden behind my age for so long it was time to own it, step in front of it. Do something with it.
What do I mean by that? Take my writing, or not writing, for example. There was so much I had once started to write and stopped myself from finishing because I wasn’t an expert on anything. I certainly couldn’t write about nursing, I had mostly failed even with the supplemental nursing apparatus! I wasn’t an expert on parenting – I fought with my then teenaged son all the time. I cried when my daughter struggled. Weight loss? I saw it as a constant fight, not something I had battled and overcome. Love? Does twenty-seven years of marriage give me the creds to write about it?
Umm? Yes. Yes, it does.
In fact, I probably had the creds to write about any of those things along they way. It took turning fifty, and fifty two, and now fifty-four to see it. And the quotes in my birthday book, they were just words strung together to make a powerful argument for getting to it now, wherever you are in the countdown of mornings left.
This website scares me every day. I know it’s probably not good business acumen to admit to my readers that I start with fear. Yet, how else do you understand to live a fearless second, better half, if you don’t see fear being swept, (okay maybe some days pushed and kicked), to the side?
There is a quote in my birthday book from Jim Valvano, college basketball coach from his ESPY Awards speech. He says there are three things you should do every day: laugh, think, and let your emotions move you to tears. “But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”
How do we make a day extraordinary? We live it fearlessly, with laughter, thought and tears. We live it in action for as many mornings as we have left.
Editors Note: Bashart: noun, any good or fortuitous match, Word Origin: Yiddish ‘destiny, fate’ from Dictionary.com