A few years ago, I attended a conference at which the motivational speaker mentioned making our dash count. What he was referring to is the years that come between our birthdate and our death, the two all important dates found on most headstones. As he said, shouldn't the most important be the days in between and the way the person lived those days? When I saw this book, Live Your Dash by Linda Ellis at our local library, I thought back to that conference and wondered how this perspective matched up. Come to find out, Linda Ellis wrote a poem called The Dash, and it is her poem that has inspired other motivational speakers/writers to use that term to describe our life.
As Linda explains, some people might expect that she has written a self-help book with the typical approach of narrowing a complex topic (isn't living your life complex?) into a numbered set of simple steps. But her book is quite different. To me, it read like a series of short essays, each one reminding of different ways our lives can be richer, more dimensional, and more meaningful. She reflects on the benefits of self-reflection, how to recognize success in our lives, and how to feel gratitude in each day. Other essays propose ways to appreciate the present, rather than grasping the past or wishing for the future. Each section is accompanied by a poem. Some I liked, others I felt fell flat.
This book was an easy one to read in small snippets. Much of what she wrote, you've heard elsewhere -- to make our lives matter, to care about others, to see our small blessings as the great gifts they truly are -- but we need reminders of all these things. Now think of a loved one you have lost, or even a historical figure you've admired. For some of us, that birthdate or deathdate are forever remembered, but most of us remember instead the dash. We remember how they approached life, the legacy of memories they've left behind, and in many cases, what we remember is a collage of actions and feelings. My grandfather died when I was about 4 or 5; preparations for his funeral are among some of my earliest concrete memories. Unless I grab a copy of the family tree or go to the cemetary I certainly don't remember either his birthdate or day of passing. However, I can close my eyes and remember him sitting in a chair, and my younger cousin and myself running over to him and begging to have him lock us into his legs, a game of horsey. We would do that over and over. A tiny piece of the present when it happened, but that silly game has become for me part of his legacy, an important part of his dash. Add in stories from my mother that it was my grandpa that rocked me and soothed me for hours when I had whooping cough at six months and nearly died, and I have a wonderful picture of a man who made moments matter. His wealth, or lack of it; his educational level, his ambition - none of that matters now, but those moments do still matter to me.
Did you make the moments of today matter?