Count Each Separate Day as a Separate Life
The words in the title were written by Seneca some two thousand years ago, translated by Robert Gummere more than one hundred years ago, and they still resonate.
Seneca meant them as an aspiration to live in the present. Death can strike at any moment. We know for sure it will strike, but we don’t know when. This fact is fear-inducing. For Seneca, the only way to fight the fear is to live each day as if it was the last one. Don’t postpone things, he says, balance your life’s accounts every day, he advises.
Each day should be a life in itself. And come to the end of the day, we should feel content. We shouldn’t be waiting for the next day to be a better one. We shouldn’t plan on making it up next week or next month, because they might not arrive. We should put the finishing touches to our lives daily.
Here are three finishing touches I wish I were doing every day. So far, it has proven to be too ambitious a goal. Instead, I do them often enough to be happy with the result.
A message a day keeps the love in the air
We’re social animals. Social connections are among the best predictors of a happy life. For some, it comes easy, but for others, like me, a conscious effort is needed to develop and maintain our “human networks”.
I particularly enjoy the surprise of a postcard in my mailbox. The best is to discover a real one in between invoices and credit card statements. But a virtual one will do.
I can’t reach out to everybody every day, but if I knew I had one week left to live, that’s for sure something I would aim to achieve. So, instead of waiting for this one week to come, I follow Seneca’s words and write a short message to a close one every day.
The only constraint is that it has to be longer than a tweet. That’s more or less two sentences. Maybe three, if you’re going for short ones.
The messages take different forms:
- A postcard left in the mailbox for your partner to find sometime later. Sometimes, several days later!
- A postcard you’ll send in the following days — and will arrive who knows when.
- Any electronic message in any app, as long as it is written for only one person and sent privately.
And once in a while, I send a message to myself. I use the delay sending functionality from my email provider and program it for a month later. Plenty of time to forget about the text!
Time to hit the stairs
If I could decide on my last day’s schedule, it would include some time for myself — spent only with myself. That wouldn’t be the largest chunk of the day, but that wouldn’t be negotiable either.
Since I didn’t receive the invitation yet, and since I’m not sure when the last day will come, I take some me-time every day, just in case.
Naps are a close second, but, currently, my favorite me-time is staircase meditation. Meditation is good for the soul, but it can be boring as hell sometimes. Some say it’s part of the game. I say it’s too static, and my body needs more movement. Going down and up the stairs is a good compromise.
- There’s movement.
- It’s not too fast.
- And with the eyes closed, it becomes a meditation.
It sounds strange, but try it before you dismiss it. Going up the stairs with your eyes closed is difficult enough to put your brain under tension and is easy enough to stay manageable.
To me, it’s almost a guarantee to be for a few minutes in the sweet spot where my brain and bodies are in tune. They’re focused and relaxed at the same time.
A baby in the morning, an old man in the evening
I like this image of living each day as a separate life because I feel it in my bones. On the good days, I wake up in the morning fully rested and ready to conquer the world! And at the end of the day, more often than not, I find myself low on energy, not able to do anything but go to bed.
Even going to bed can be difficult. Sometimes, it’s easier to act like a braindead zombie and passively watch TV or swipe down the rabbit hole.
But I don’t want to finish my life passively; I want to play my part till the end. I want to be the main actor in my life’s play.
Before going to bed, the one finishing touch that shows you’re the main actor in your life’s play looks like this:
- Write a few words in a journal
- Do five push-ups
- Hug your pet for a minute
- Drink a glass of water pretending it’s a magic potion
- Whatever you decide, as long as it’s an active choice.
Words of optimism
There’s another side to counting each separate day as a separate life. There’s a positive twist to these words. Each day we wake up and have the chance to make it a new beginning. Each day we can reinvent ourselves.
We cannot erase the past, but we don’t have to live in it either. We have the right, and maybe as well the duty, to strive for a better life every day. Practice makes perfect!