I jot down quotes wherever I am: notebooks, calendars, post-its, scraps of paper that get tucked into the most random of places. I find myself reading lots of Arthur Brooks’ columns. This afternoon, while passing time while E colored at his little table, I found a quote I’d scribbled that came from Brooks’ “To Be Happier, Start Thinking More About Your Death.” I’d written down some key points, with this particular question standing alone on its own bit of white space between Monday and Wednesday: “Am I making the most use of my scarce and precious life?”
Long story short, Brooks says to think about what you would choose to do if you only had one year left to live. For everything, to ask yourself if that thing would pass the one-year test. If not, don’t do it. And be ruthless with not doing it.
I think I read that article around the start of 2016, when I was gaining an incredible amount of clarity about what and how I want to live my life. I know what’s important to me: E, family, friends, education, experiences. Not stuff.
This one-year measuring stick makes living life so easy–sorta. It’s also made me not feel a lick of guilt for spending my days as I do, particularly the weekends. It also causes a bit of anxiety every now and then, but I’m working on that part.
Today, we had a play date and afterwards E took a two-hour nap (cue angels singing). When he got up, he contented himself playing with his cars, coloring, singing (is there absolutely nothing better than both singing with and hearing a little boy sing?!), and having dinner together. I often find myself watching him go about his life and am taken with how absorbed he becomes when he plays: full-out, immersed, completely attuned to his moment.
Then, of course, there are seconds immediately following that one where he throws everything on the floor in a moment of frustration, reaches both of his arms up to me, insistent, demanding “pick up.” I settle him on my hip and he rips my glasses off, giggling. After my own sharp intake of breath, a reminder that “it’s not an emergency” (thank you, Dr. Laura Markham), I settle us both on the couch and let the moment pass over and through us. When E decides he’s ready to return to whatever he was doing, he slides down.
I ask: E, who loves you the most? (Because I need to be reassured as much as I know what the answer is going to be.)
Mama! he replies, tilting his head to just the right angle and whirring away.
The most. The absolute most.