Don’t Count the Days. Make the Days Count.

I was barely nine years old when I fell in love with calendars.

Not only did they come with postcard-perfect photos, but they also packaged an entire month into neat little blocks. 

When you flipped the page to a new month, empty days stretched ahead, begging to be filled. Using different colored pens (naturally), I entered my activities with the dedication of a medieval monk illuminating the pages of the Bible.

I come from an organized family where life ran smoothly, but I suspect I received a double dose of the organization gene. Otherwise, why, at such a tender age, were calendars the keystone of my organizational tools. 

Each morning while putting on my school uniform, I consulted my calendar. Then, once that day was over, it gave me an almost equal amount of joy to score a big black X through that block.

Counting down the days, always counting down.

Like most children (and I suppose many adults) I often used phrases like, “I can’t wait until …” “I wish it were already …”

It took a decade (or two) before I realized that wishing away the days just to hasten the arrival of something wonderful was rather silly. What if it was just a bog-standard Tuesday with nothing fabulous planned? It could still be a great day. 

In my haste to rush forward towards all the exciting stuff, I ended up marking time on many other days. Eyes on the clock and the calendar, I was focused on getting to the Big Day—whatever it may entail.

The realization truly hit home with the arrival of our first child. I was so in awe of this tiny being. Once the blur of the initial months settled, I couldn’t believe how she seemed to grow and change almost every single day. Now, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to wish away a single moment.

I became so eager to lock away these precious—and often very ordinary—days that I started a little mental game, I called “snapshot.” When something happened, or we were doing something I wanted to remember, I would stop and take a mental photograph, a snapshot. Despite almost 29 years having passed, I still remember the first snapshot I ever “took.”  

Somehow, I had reached a point where I wasn’t always looking ahead to the next Big Event. I was happy to live my life in the small non-events. 

As my children grew, I heard them say, “I can’t wait for…” or “I wish it were already my birthday / Christmas,” exactly as I had. I would always acknowledge that the upcoming event would be exciting. Then, I gently reminded them that, in fact, they could wait and that they could even enjoy the wait. I urged them not to wish away time. 

I would whole heartedly agree we were all excited for our vacation, but there were months to go, months filled with weeks, and days still to be enjoyed.

I am not sure if they understood the subtleties of what I was saying. However, years later, I overheard my son tell a friend to not “wish away the whole of winter” because there was still “a ton of cool stuff we can do.”

Only when I was in my forties did I hear the phrase, Don’t count the days, make the days count. Wow! This little platitude summed it up so perfectly.  I wrote it out on a notecard and stuck it inside my bathroom cabinet. Every day when I brushed my teeth, I couldn’t help but be reminded of it. 

Then, years later, I decided that the saying could be improved. Why did it start with an admonishment? I decided it should start with the positive. 

My original sign had long since been tossed out, but I sat down and wrote out a new sign.

Make the days count! Don’t count the days. 

This way around, it reminded me to start with what I could do—make each day count, even if it was only to enjoy the small non-events.  And, then the follow-up, the reminder, not to count the days.

I still love calendars. As my family knows, I have one in almost every room, but each morning, I read my sign and remind myself to make that day count for something.

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