I was inspired to buy a countdown clock a few months ago from reading Bob Goff’s book, Undistracted: Capture Your Purpose. Rediscover Your Joy. I didn’t know what I was going to countdown to do. I just knew I liked the idea of paying attention to the days and understanding that they are fleeting, that each one matters.
This year I decided to become a hiker. There are lots of different places to hike and lots of different kinds of hikers, but I wanted to start by exploring my own backyard, by falling in love with my home state. Being immobile for most of the year has allowed me the privilege of imagining the kind of hiker I want to be. It’s allowed me to think deeply about the choice to be a hiker and realize it’s about more than moving my feet. It’s about strength and exploration. It’s about whimsy and wisdom.
I want to see beauty where my feet are, rather than be consumed by wanderlust. I decided to be the kind of hiker who is content.
My countdown clock could either work with me or against me in my quest to be content. Sometimes I feel pressure to perform and when Andy saw the countdown clock, he was a little apprehensive. “We don’t need to always be gunning for something,” he said.
“I know. I’m not.”
“What’s the event you’re counting down to?” he asked.
I shrugged. “I’m not sure.”
The more I thought about being a hiker, the more I realized I wanted Andy to hike with me. Andy hasn’t done a very good job of taking care of himself. He’s exceptional at taking care of our family, and has went above and beyond in protecting our family as we’ve navigated unchartered paths of parenting children who had hard, dark starts to life. Yet, a causality of our years of parenting has been Andy’s health. For Andy, becoming a hiker is more involved than simply lacing up a pair of trail runners.
Dreaming of being a hiker, but unable to walk led to lots of forays into documentaries and blog posts and Instagram follows of national parks and hikes and amazing photos of the world. Most days my end of the conversation was about a picture or video I saw of something amazing in the world. One day I asked Andy, “Would you want to be a hiker with me?”
“Sure,” he responded. He didn’t have to think about it; he just knew.
“Yeah, I’d like that. I’ll need some time to get prepared, though.”
“I think we should plan to hike somewhere amazing for our 25th wedding anniversary. That gives you a year to get in shape and a year to get hike ready.”
“Sounds good, but I’m not hiking rim-to-rim,” he winked at me. “It would kill me.”
“Nonsense!” I said. The Grand Canyon had been featured in many of the photos I shared with Andy. It wasn’t a stretch of the imagination to know I wanted to hike rim-to-rim.
“We’ll go somewhere to see a new green. Isn’t that what you want to do? See greens you’ve never seen before?”
I smiled because he listens. “That’s part of it,” I said.
“And see people we love,” he added.
“Yeah, that’s most of it. See the world and connect with people.”
A few days later I knew what to do with my countdown clock. I set it for July 3, 2024 at 1:30 pm. At that moment we will have been married for a quarter of a century. Our kids will have all graduated from high school. We will be on a new leg of our journey.
The unexpected gift of the countdown clock is I get to intentionally live the end of this road with joy. It is not easy to parent teenagers, especially those who have additional baggage from spending their first years bouncing from foster family to foster family. Rather than being ragged, I can look at the countdown clock and know I only have a few moments. This stage is temporal. It will not be forever; it will pass.
And I can choose to live it with joy and gratitude.
Let's Be Email Pals!
Teaching writers doesn't have to drown us.
Enter your information to receive my free eBook, plus weekly tips and encouragement for teaching writers.