For the past 7 months I’ve sat in rooms filled with people who are dying. People who have no chance. People on their way out. And I’m not talking about the chemo room. I’m talking about offices and movie theaters and restaurants. Because we’re all dying. Every one of us. I know we don’t like to think about it but last I checked the survival rate of life was pretty low.
I taught a class last week about time management. It was my first time teaching time management since my diagnosis and treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It was awesome. You might say my perspective about time has changed. Then again, I’ve never taught this class in the traditional way. I always teach it differently. Which makes it sort of sound like I teach it while pulling my own teeth or standing on a sawhorse or something. And I don’t. Although a couple weeks ago The Hub and I attended a Cirque du Soleil performance and for at least 4 hours afterwards I was convinced all my classes would be so much better if I spent the first half of each class balancing a bmx bike on top of someone who’s Chinese. Or boneless. Also, a tangent to this tangent, while there I spotted Michael Moloney who was also figuring out how to work a contortionist into his job as a designer on Extreme Home Makeover. When he was leaving we locked eyes for a moment. I smiled and said “Hey.” because, you know, I always can come up with the perfect thing to say in moments like those. And he said “How are you doing?” and I said “Good.” So you can see, we’ve clearly started a beautiful friendship there.
Anyway. Time management class. I started by asking them to picture a timeline of their life. I put my left hand up in the air and said “this hand represents the start of you and your life.” they nodded, “and,” I put up my right hand, “this one represents the end of your life.” They nodded again, they knew what a timeline was. They were smart, this class of business people. Then I asked them to mentally place an X on the time line to represent where they were in their life. “Where’s your x?” I asked. Almost in unison, they answered “In the middle.”
Which I think is where most of us place our Xs. In the middle. Some may place it a little closer to the left hand and some a little closer to the right hand. But pretty much, we all put our X’s in the middle.
Is that accurate? Maybe. The thing is, no matter where we place our X, we have no control of the right hand.
Take a moment if this is the first time you’ve realized that.
Ever since the nice doctor in the ER screamed CANCER up and down the hospital hallways, I’ve been living life like my right hand was right on top of my X. You might think that’s a great way to live. It isn’t. I understand why people say “live day-to-day” but day-to-day can really suck. After all, goals are fun. Planning is exciting. Dreaming, hoping, wondering about the future is motivating. How can I make progress on the bigger goals if I live as if each day were my last? I can’t.
And, of course, I can’t really live like my right hand extends to forever. Like the end is never coming. Because we all know it is. I know it because I have read articles about long-term survival rates of Hodgkin’s patients and you know it because I’m telling you so.
So even though they don’t have a circus for it, this is the real trick of life - managing your behavior, not your time. Pretty tough. But easier than swinging through the air in tight white pants, I think.