It seems to me that we Americans have never learned to live one day at a time. We're always stretching out, reaching for tomorrow.
We don't get through Christmas before we start reaching for New Year's and the day after. And in the end, we are always wondering why time seems to pass us by.
We constantly hear ourselves saying how our children grew up overnight. One day we looked up and they were entering school for the first time, and then the next thing we knew they were graduating and going off to college. But what really happened to all those days and nights that went in between? We know what happened, of course. All along the way we were never satisfied to experience the course of the day we were in. We were too busy anticipating the next day.
We live from holiday to holiday. Always looking for something to celebrate. So much of the time we spend together, we waste, waiting for something spectacular to happen. We don't consider just sitting together, sharing thoughts and dreams, as anything important. But sometimes, years later, we remember those times and feel good about them.
I was thinking about this the other day when I was reading an old aunt's diary. This woman was cheerful and kind, and she always made me feel good when I was in her presence. She was always on the go. She told wonderful stories and never seemed to run out of them. In any case, she kept her journal up until the end of her life.
The first time I read this woman's diary several years ago, I admit, I was fascinated by it. It seemed she was always sitting on the verge of adventure. She had hundreds of friends whose activities kept her involved in some mission all the time. It seemed she worked day and night to help solve problems in the community.
Edged in between the issues of each day were projects having to do with her own family. She had two daughters; one busied herself with sports and the other with music. The woman kept a running log of wins and losses for her daughter's soccer, basketball and volleyball teams. There were concerts and other vocal performances for her other daughter. And there was news of her quilt club, her whist club and her political activities.
In addition to family activities, every week or so she would be drawn into a fight for a new stop sign on one of the streets in the neighborhood or a petition to fill in a pothole on a nearby street or somebody's campaign for membership on one of the town's boards or agencies. She worked at being a full-time citizen, neighbor and friend.
Looking at my aunt's life through the pages of her journal, I realized that though she had a busy schedule filled with all kinds of activities, most of the events that occupied her time were actually pretty ordinary. The activities that made up the substance of her life were not particularly noteworthy. What made these events, activities and projects special was the time, energy and spirit she invested in them.
It was as if she called attention every day to the fact that this was her life, and she worked to make it unique and extraordinary. It was as if she understood that her life would never be special unless she made it that way. And she made an effort to draw her lines in primary colors, so everyone she met would know hers was a special life.
Nowadays, whenever I sit down to read my aunt's journal I make it a point to only read one day at a time. I do that because I think that's the way she meant it to be read. And sure enough, as I read, I discover the activities of that day, when thought out and digested, were sufficient to that particular day. One day, no more.
And, I remember, one day at a time.
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