One of the main suggestions I’ve received (and mainly followed) for dealing with a terminal illness is to be more mindful, to live in the moment, to focus on what can be done NOW rather than looking back or looking ahead too much. For those of us who are usually the planners in the family, this adjustment can be really really hard. Living in the scan, treat, repeat experience where we literally hold our breath in three (3) month intervals as we live until the next scan can be excruciatingly hard.
And then when the ordinary takes over, this idea of making every moment or day truly count, becomes something different and can take on different weight. How do we make every moment count when we have to do laundry and feed children and pack lunches and discipline our children and clean up? The ordinary feels … ordinary.
Paul Theroux, an American ironist, may have been the one to use the term, “the tyranny of the ordinary” to greatest effect, referencing his ejection from Africa during an uprising, and referencing his addiction to adrenaline and desire to always roam the earth for the next big thing. Another term for someone like this is an “adrenaline junkie,” but the point is that if your life, your ordinary life, doesn’t hold your attention, you are forced seek that which does. This restlessness to seek out new experiences or to travel from high to high does wreak havoc on relationships and doesn’t translate well to parenting and the needs of children.
Is that what making every day count really means? To seek out emotional highs and to continually seek the mountain top experience?
The flip side is to celebrate every breath, every beat of our hearts, every single step.
It is that flip side that I think is what is mean by making every day count. The samurais in the movie, the Last Samurai, demonstrate this. Each task they complete, no matter how ordinary, is completed as if it is the most important thing in that moment. That discipline, that habit, that consistency means that when they are called to complete larger things, they have built up that perspective, that focus, and are able to answer the call.
I’m far from a samurai and while I’ve tried to emulate this idea, there just isn’t enough focus or energy in my post-chemo body at times. Then, when I’m not able to apply my hard earned perspective to the ordinary, I feel as though I have failed. This pressure or the desire to be more and more intentional becomes almost stifling at times and it is easy to feel as though pieces of my worthiness as a human being are affected.
We have the choice, no matter the pressure or desire or perspective of anyone else, to choose in THIS moment what to focus on. The last moment doesn’t count and the next moment hasn’t come. What we have is now.
And so, despite the pressure or the perspective of others, my choices, my desires, my habits in THIS moment is what is important. Even if what is going on RIGHT NOW is that I’ve lost my keys, this moment is what is important.