June 26 – “Each day comes with its own gifts. Untie the ribbons.” (Ruth Ann Schabacker)
At dawn on a summer morning, with birds chirping just outside my window and the promise of blue skies ahead, this quote is very easy to believe. When skies are grey, when thunderheads are gathering or when there is snow piling up, it is much harder.
On a vacation day, when my agenda is full of nothing more than relaxation or enjoyment with friends and relatives, I can get my head completely around this quote. When the day ahead includes difficult meetings at work, or unpleasant tasks at home, convincing myself to look for the ribbons is a challenge in itself.
The truth is that every day does come with its own gifts. The problem for me is remembering that they are there and to enjoy them.
I work on a large scale program for my company. There are hundreds of people working on our same goal. It has been going on for 4 years now. Along the way team members have gotten married, had babies, finished advanced degrees, and encountered many other high points in their lives. Sadly there have also been people who have had deaths in their families, injuries to themselves, and long term illnesses. When one of the fun, positive, exciting things happens we all celebrate with that person, and when one of the more tragic events occur we even grieve together some.
One of the things that will be said anytime there is a tragedy is that “this puts things into perspective”. We all will take a pause and realize that the things we worry about on a daily basis at work, and the things we sometimes argue about, are of little consequence in the reality of life. That isn’t to say that the work we do isn’t important, because our work is important. But the level of stress that we sometimes allow into our lives over the work can be excessive. I know this is most definitely true for me.
I have gone through periods where I have laid awake at night, bathed in sweat, worrying about a budget meeting, or a difficult report that I need to give to management. I will lay there, knowing that I have done all that I can to prepare, and have gathered all the right data, but still will be unable to find sleep. On those mornings I will wake up to the same sound of birds outside my window, but I will be unable to hear them because my mind is focused solely on the work at hand. I shower, dress and leave for work feeling miserable. Most of the time the meeting occurs and the outcomes are relatively positive. I feel instantly relieved and can enjoy life again. But in those hours of preparation and waiting, I am miserable.
It is on those days that the truth of this quote eludes me. I cannot even begin to consider that there are gifts in the day, let alone take the time to look for them.
Recently a friend of mine passed away quite suddenly. This past weekend his wife came to visit my wife and me on our camping trip. She arrived with a smile on her face, and over the course of the afternoon and evening that smile mostly stayed with her. I cannot imagine the pain of losing my wife, and I pray that it doesn’t happen for another 35 years or more. And I know this friend aches inside. But, she also finds joy in her days. She told us of her activities, her visits with family and friends, her upcoming vacation, all with a bit of a gleam in her eye. In the midst of her tragedy, while feeling the devastating pain of loss in her life, she is still finding joy. And I lose sleep over budget meetings.
The truth, of course, is that life is far too short to waste time on trivialities. Of course budget meetings are important, and the other things at work that can sometimes make me nuts are as well. But their importance is not so great that it should ruin my day.
If I live until my 90th birthday, that is the number of mornings and days I will have over the course of my entire life. Each of those days is a gift in itself, and within each of those days more gifts are packed like Russian nesting dolls. My job is to unpack those gifts and enjoy them, no matter what life is throwing at me.