It just so happens that I (the Reverend) am writing this blog on my birthday. I am 54 years-old today. I remember that when I turned 50, it leveled me, which surprised me. Because 40 was nothing to me and 30 was a mere blip on the screen…but 50 left me reeling. In fact, if I am going to be even more candid, it left me in an emotionally languid place for a few days.
It wasn’t the age that bothered me. I wasn’t trapped in melancholy about getting old and life passing me by. It was the stunning realization that I had buried a lot of friends in their 50’s. And of course, to be expected, I had buried an even higher number of friends in their 60s. So suddenly I was so keenly aware that the clock was ticking for me. I remember thinking to myself, “I might live to be 90 but I also might live to be 60.” And the existential questions that we tuck away during the hurly burly of daily living pushed their way to the surface of my heart and mind.
How do I spend my days?
What is my purpose?
How do I make my life count?
Even those of us who spend our lives helping others thoughtfully and prayerfully engage with these questions, and must keep these questions in front of ourselves.
Pulitzer-prize-winning author, Annie Dillard once famously observed in her book, The Writing Life, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.”
I know I will never fully arrive at a place where I perfect this practice but here’s how I try to spend my days and my hours. These are the healthiest practices for my soul:
Be Present—attentive, aware, awake, listening more than speaking, not listing forward into what is next, moving slowly, watching carefully, touching, tasting. Being fully present to God, to others and to the world.
Be Grateful—responding to what I see and hear and experience each day with gratitude. To be present is only Step 1. To respond with gratitude is the essential Step 2 for our emotional and spiritual well-being. When tethered, they are a powerful couplet to light up our interior life. Be Loving/Giving/Serving. I hope I spend every day I have left on the planet pouring myself out for others—so that I can be an instrument of peace and kindness and reflect my faith but also because I know that this is the path that leads to life.
Be Remembering. Don’t forget that you are loved. This is one of the most important gifts of our faith. To wake up every morning knowing that you are beloved and that life itself in all its splendor and infinite displays of beauty and wonder are all expressions of that love. That’s a whole lot of love.
Finally, I like to keep going back to the words of Bob Dylan (I actually like Louisa Johnson’s version the best) and try to remind myself to stay “Forever Young.” There is some profound and timeless wisdom in that song. Here are my favorite lines:
May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
And may you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you stay forever young
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
And may you stay forever young
May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
And may you stay forever young.
To that I say, “Amen!”
Click here to purchase Rabbi Daniel Cohen’s book, What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?