A few months ago, I installed a new app on my phone. Time Until, I think it’s called. I downloaded it for one purpose only; to count down the days until I retire. And when I first got it, I wrote down that number on my whiteboard in the studio where I teach guitar, and would gleefully change the number each day. My students didn’t quite understand my joy. The number was well over a thousand days when I started. It’s down to about 800 now. My husband even got into the spirit of it all and sent me flowers on day 1000.
It’s funny how we humans are obsessed with measuring and counting things. From the pencil marks on the bedroom walls of our children as they grow (do people still do that?), to the number of steps we’ve taken in a day using our Fitbits, we never tire of keeping track. Countdowns are especially popular. There’s the countdown every time a rocket launches. That number we quietly count down to our next vacation or weekend off. We even teach our children to count down to their next birthday, measuring in “sleeps”.
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Sometimes it’s the end of something we’re actually counting down to. Only six weeks before getting back to normal after that surgery. Ten more minutes on the treadmill. Two hours until my work day ends. Our most stressful times usually happen when we don’t know when something is going to end. There’s no way to measure it, to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The need for answers is in our human DNA. But sometimes we just can’t know.
For instance, in spite of the “models” and all sorts of calculations by the experts, none of us really knows when COVID-19 will end. Or even what the “end” will look like. Because most of us have never experienced anything like this in our lifetime. We can look back to the past when there were world wars and Spanish flu’s, when the stock market collapsed and the Great Depression began. All of those difficult times eventually passed. But only a very, very few souls left on this earth actually lived through them to their end.
The reality is that, just as all good things come to an end, so do bad things. We are in a constant state of impermanence. Lately, my focus has changed from counting down the days to my retirement, to counting other things. Good things, just like 99-year old WWII vet Captain Tom Moore, who counted 100 laps in his garden using his walker, and ended up raising millions for healthcare in the UK. I like counting down to 7pm every evening when I join my neighbours out on our front steps, banging our pots and blowing our horns for the health care workers coming off their long shifts. And keeping track of the millions of dollars the Rapid Relief Fund has raised for emergency relief here on Vancouver Island. And lately I’ve taken to counting my blessings; I have so much to be grateful for and that becomes even more evident these days. Those are the best things to count.
I try really hard not to count other things. Like the pounds I’ve gained, or how many bottles of wine I have left. Or how many people come too close to me when I’m out on my daily walk. For pete’s sake, every Canadian should know the LENGTH OF A MOOSE!!
Okay, okay. Take a deep breath, Irene, and count to ten.