I’ve been writing this blog since October of 2011. Two deaths in August of that year caused me to think differently about my own life. Beyond the sadness, the grief, and the horrible sense of loss, there was selfish fear of death, and – worse – of life un-lived, to contend with.
My sister, Sheila, was four years younger than me. The loss of a sibling is always a somber reminder of our own mortality; when the sibling is younger, the message comes with an extra jolt. My mother was barely twenty years older than me. She probably took much better care of herself than I have. If I were going to live as long as she did, that meant I had about seven thousand days left.
What to do with seven thousand days? What had I done with the more than twenty-one thousand days I’d already spent? There were a few memorable events, sure, and some wonderful memories, but not enough. How many sunsets did I fail to see? How many times did I let distractions deprive me of precious moments with my children, now grown? Or with other loved ones, now gone? How many hours did I waste when I could have been paying attention? I had to admit that much of that time had skittered by without my notice. That had to change!
First, I bought a camera. I’d gone from the beloved and much-used Instamatic camera that I received for my 15th birthday, to a cheap Polaroid, to a used 35mm camera that I never quite mastered. When photography went digital, I was far behind. The one I purchased was just a simple “point and shoot” model. Nothing fancy, but something to record the seasons as they sped past. It is a means of collecting, and saving for future reference, some moments in time.
Next, I started writing this blog. I had no particular theme in mind. My main purpose was to write regularly as a means of being more aware of my life. Not only the big, memorable things, but also the mundane, everyday happenings. And not only current events, but my recollections of people, places and events.
Since I started this practice almost eight years ago, I have published more than a thousand essays. Sometimes I worry that I have nothing new to say, that I’ve already told all the stories I have to tell. But then, life continues on, and, boom, there is something else to write about. I worry that my essays have quit being entertaining, but then I remind myself that my purpose was not to entertain.
The purpose of writing this blog was to make me more aware; I think it does what I hoped it would do. When I pin a scene down through the lens of a camera, I become more tuned in to each aspect of the view. When I know I’ll be sitting down to write, I pay closer attention to the events of each day. For that reason, I continue to write. And for what I gain, it is worth it.