“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away.”
I have been thinking about that particular aphorism lately.
I wonder if our lives really are measured by the number of breaths we take or even by the number of moments that take our breath away. Or are our lives measured by the ordinary days? Are not our lives more about those plain old ordinary days, than about the number of breaths we take, or the number of moments which take our breath away?
The moments which take our breath away are certainly wonderful moments. Moments which take our breath away might be some magnificent milestone or a celebration or some other important events in our lives – like the birth of a child, or falling in love for the first time, or watching a child graduate from college.
They are the smiles and the joys of special moments, frozen in time. The moments which take our breath away are moments that will surely be treasured special memories which we can cherish throughout our lives. But will we really measure our lives by the number of moments that take our breath away?
We spend most of our lives living ordinary days. Those uneventful days which pass from one to the next without fanfare and without us taking much notice of them. It’s Monday and the next thing you know it’s Friday. Those ordinary hours and days pass and we hardly notice them.
These are the normal days of our lives. These are not moments that take our breath away. We work, eat, sleep, raise our children and go about the business of living and we give these ordinary days no special notice: Monday turns into Tuesday and Tuesday to Wednesday and life goes on.
The ordinary days of our lives are the most important. Because those ordinary, typical days define our lives – not the moments that take our breath away. What we do on those “everydays” is the chronicle of our lives. The journal of our journey is mostly written on those days. Most of the days we spend on earth will be typical, routine, even at times boring days. But, they are important, because our lives will be measured by these routine days -and not the few extraordinary days that will come and go as we make our way through life. The routine things we do and the mundane days of our lives make us what we are. We are the sum of all those ordinary days. Ordinary days are the foundation upon which all of our lives are built.
We are not the sum of moments that take our breath away. We are not the sum of the number of breaths we take. We are what we are because of days like just like today.
Let’s look at ordinary days. It seems to me that ordinary days are never really ordinary. There are miracles going on everyday, everywhere:, the sun shining; the flowers growing; the birds singing; the clouds billowing into majestic castles in the sky; the world traveling silently through the cosmos on its tireless journey around the sun- miracles all.
Even on the most ordinary of days, our lives are an integral part of everything going on around us. So however mundane and typical a day may seem, the one thing it is not is an ordinary day. Everyday of our lives, ordinary as they may seem, are special days. We are alive and we are part of the universe. We are all special. Each day of each of our lives is unique and therefore special, no matter how unimportant or ordinary we may think we are. In the grand scheme the greatest king who ever lived is no more important or less important than you.
So it is true that each of us is given the gift of life and that we all are given a finite number of breaths we will take. If we’re lucky we’ll have some wonderful moments that will take our breath away. These treasured moments will become great memories for us and we will look back fondly upon them. But, it is the plain old ordinary days of our lives that are the most precious days. They are the most special. The ordinary becomes extraordinary if you stop and think about how precious each day is.
Today I celebrate the ordinary, and I will savor the extraordinary, and I too, look forward to the moments that take will take my breath away. But, in the end, it will be the ordinary, mundane days that I will remember the most.
Those days long past when the kids came home from school; when I read the paper on the porch on a warm spring Saturday morning; watched a favorite movie on Saturday night; the days I drove to work each morning and home each night; spring and summer days when I mowed the lawn, drank iced tea, took a walk, or read a book.
I’m somehow certain that it will not be the moments that took my breath away that will define my life. It will be the boring and routine, and ordinary days that I will look back upon with the most affection. I know in my heart that when I reach those final days of my life, that it will be the ordinary, typical, even boring days of my life that I will find myself yearning for the most.
I will remember snowy, ordinary winter days when I cursed the cold, wished for warmer days, and hurried in out of the wind. I’ll remember ordinary days when I sat at the dinner table, when my children were young, and watched them grow while my family ate.
I’ll remember walks on beautiful warm spring days and walks on bitterly cold, winter days when the wind stabbed at my face like a thousand tiny icy daggers. I’ll remember taking my children to the park. I’ll remember taking them to movies. I’ll remember coaching Little League baseball in an uncounted number of meaningless games that meant so much to the kids.
I’ll remember taking photographs of the autumn trees blazing under the nitrogen-blue skies of October. And, I’ll remember lying on the warm spring grass taking photographs of tulips and daffodils. Those beautiful, splendidly arrayed icons of spring, never failed to remind me of the miracle of life, and life reborn. These were gentle reminders but they were especially profound after a long, cold, bitter winter.
I’ll remember my friends, my children, and my mistakes. I will, no doubt, have some regrets.
And, I might even remember, in passing, the moments that took my breath away.
But they will not define my life.
When I reach the final days of that final winter of my life, it is not the extraordinary days that I will recall. It will not be those moments that “took my breath away” that I will remember. Instead, ironically, it will be all those wonderful, typical, ordinary, even boring days that were the foundation of all that I was, to wish I will most want to revisit. In the final hours of our lives, of course, we will have no choices but to allow life to proceed to its ultimate end. The plain, old, ordinary days of my life will be the days I will remember as I prepare to leave this world, and not the moments which took my breath away.
Life is precious and even the most ordinary day is anything but ordinary. And, it seems to me that all is as it should be. I wouldn’t think it could ever be any other way.