Numbering Our Days
I am writing this on a Friday and have abruptly realized that, perhaps for the first time in my professional life, I count down to Friday and the weekend’s arrival. Surely, this is partly because I have fewer regular commitments on weekends during the COVID season. I simply long for weekends. And I am hearing the same longing from students, faculty, and other colleagues. We yearn for home, rest, unmasked, off the computer, outside in the yard, time without strenuous demands.
Living with the stress levels of the COVID world is exhausting. We are constantly on high alert, considering every move before we make it, thinking about distances between other people and myself, washing longer and harder. Being conscious of so much that used to be automatic is brain draining. Keeping our distance, refraining from social contact the ways we used to blithely enjoy, takes real energy. The extroverts among us are languishing from fewer social contacts and encounters. The lack of contact drains and we have to refill our cups in new ways. Better and more conscious rest is necessary for our physical and spiritual survival. The ways we care for ourselves are more important than ever before.
I have a dear colleague who is counting the days to the end of the semester. They remind me that today, we have 80 days to the end of the term. And, consequently, we have made it through 21 days already. 21 healthy enough successes. 21 fully packed experiences of learning, teaching, independence. 21 new days that will never be the same.
The Psalmist says to God, ”teach us to number our days that we may gain a wise heart” (Psalm 90:12, NRSV). It’s clear that when our days, even our lifespan, is limited, we value them more. Days are precious when numbered, when we see their merit, when we aim not to miss them or take them for granted, when we live fully as much as we are able, marking days, being grateful in the midst of them. Gratitude may be key to helping to number our days, to our wisdom in these days.
I have a spiritual exercise each evening that I commend to you. At the end of the day, I write in a small notebook by my bed three words that represent three gratitudes, three moments of success, engagements that mattered, ways I felt good about my life, three blessings or moments in which I saw the Holy Presence in my work. I commend it to you as a way of numbering your days, claiming your success, noticing graces through the stress. It will, I believe, fill your cup at the end of a day, and will help you rest better. It doesn’t matter if you can ready your scribble later, because the gratitude matters more, although when read later, there are patterns to learn from. These are hard days, but let us not miss them. Let us take stock of what we are learning, how we are experiencing grace and love and blessings.
Counting the days--forward or backward--is not to demean or miss them, though it could happen if we refuse to pay attention each day. Counting the days can help us appreciate and admire them, live within each of them fully, which is what we are after. Let us number the days so that they bless us, so that we claim the abundance and success of our lives, knowing that we are limited and loving even our limitations, so that we can come renewed to each new day with its great blessings.
Jan Fuller has been the University Chaplain at Elon since 2011. She is an Episcopal priest and deeply invested in helping students to find their own spiritual paths while interacting with others in differing paths with appreciation and respect. Raised in Beirut Lebanon for the first half of her life, Jan is the daughter of Southern Baptist missionaries to the Arab peoples of the Middle East. Jan’s education includes a Doctor of Ministry from Wesley Theological Seminary, a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, and a B.A. in English and French from Hollins University. Jan describes herself as a “war-zone survivor,” who retains a sense of humor and love of gentleness. She loves Arab art and food, and all kinds of music. She intends to find the gift in every day and to live her life as a way of giving thanks. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org