Sober Chronicles | If today was your last day

By Marc Lee Shannon

I will admit that lately, I have felt less than myself. 

The loss of dear loved ones, bandmates, long-term friendships and the chronic and cumulative stress and sense of sadness from the pandemic have finally taken a toll. I’m not feeling okay, and it’s best to say so. But, I think things are going to get better. After all, like I have been told, this too will pass. This time I really think so.

Living life is a very precious experience, and we are all confronted with our mortality when we lose someone close to us. Such is the case with my friend Michael Stanley. I am not ready to write or talk about this chasm of emptiness in my heart just yet. Maybe I won’t ever mention it here in this monthly column, but I can tell you that the waves of grief and sadness have been overwhelming to me. This is kicking my ass.

What if the years of our life were a collection of coins in our pocket, and each day represented the spending of those coins. How many do we have in our pockets? Is it full? Is there a jangle-jingle like my grandfather’s front pocket of his vintage trousers pulled high at the waist? I remember that there seemed to be an endless amount of coins that he would constantly toss when nervous or impatient. How many coins do we have, and are we carelessly spending them without thought? Is our life-coin spending like some absent-minded online shopping moment when bored on a rainy day? What are we doing with the finite amount of time represented by those coins in our pocket?

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Looking back or forward is against my desire to live in the present moment. Always be here, now. I guess, though, there is a benefit to a review or a pause before moving forward. I am most certainly in that place as I write today. When life happens, we sometimes need that break or hesitation to get our bearings. Which way forward? What is important now? What is meaningful at this stage of my life. What do I want? These questions seem to be running through my being, and I will admit I do not have a clear path on the trail right now. I do, however, know what I do not want. Here comes another list (as if you didn’t see that coming!):

  1. I do not want to waste any more time. Unless, of course, that is the most productive thing to do. Sometimes killing a few hours is paramount. Rest, refocus, reframe. Dig?
  2. I do not want to spend my time-coins on people that are energy stealers or who will NOT be loving. You are off the list. 
  3. I do not want to take my daily health for granted. Whatever is stopping me from living longer, better, or more happily, I want to toss away. I think we all know what this means to each of us deep down, and I bet you are thinking of your stuff right now. Huh, right?  Hear that voice talking? Shake my virtual outstretched hand, and let’s agree that we will be more mindful and just do the next right thing. Do a bit better. 
  4. I do not want to isolate myself. This is my version of smoking. My super-carb-diet killing-I know-better-sugar snack. A wake up the next day and ‘what was I thinking?’- lost night of debauchery. My downfall. I need to get up and out of my poopy diaper when I have worn the same clothes for four days and hardly recognize that bearded dude in the mirror. If you see me doing this, you have implied permission to call me out—bang on my door. Martin, my dog, will be relieved to see you. 
  5. Last, but undoubtedly the most significant. I do not want to keep doubting the trail I am on perpetually. Listen, I am here because I have trudged this life over hills and valleys through the snow, sleet, rain, and other pseudo crap storms of my life. I need to trust that I have arrived at precisely the place I need to be at exactly the right time. Now. Flow and follow the current of the stream. Do it. 

I don’t know. Sometimes I just don’t know what it all means, this life I live, and the people I cross on this road that I have been tracking for the past xx years. (I just whispered a number, BTW). I like to think that there is meaning in it all, especially after this past year of pandemic, pissed off politics and poisoned personalities.

Maybe the best thing we can all do is just count the coins. Reach into our pockets and count how many we have left. Oh man, if only we could.

What if you knew that the coins in your pocket were down to the last few cents? What changes would you make? Today. How would you see the world you live in?

Would you eat the cake or take a walk? Call that person that just crossed your mind? Put down the smokes? Get that guitar out of the case? Take the sketchpad out, and gently sharpen the pencils, then let your hand go? Read the book or lace up the hiking boots? 

Find your meaning at this moment by pursuing your own unique joy. 

Do me a favor. Write down your birthday and then a dash and then today’s date. If this day was your last day on earth, what would be the one “looking back” secret wish that you would find in your front pocket? When you look at that piece of bunched-up scrap paper, what would be the message?

More love, maybe? More kindness? More patience and tolerance? More kisses?

Do it now.

Steady on. 

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