I was at a funeral the other day of a dear friend’s daughter and child. After many tears, the clergy stood to read us the eulogy. He told us of a poem by Linda Ellis called “The Dash”. He spoke of the date of birth and the date of death, then mentioned that little dash in between those dates. He went on to tell us that the dash, so often overlooked, was really the most important thing about our lives. The little dash mark in-between represented the whole of a person’s existence – how they treated people, how they lived their lives, whom they loved, and what they did and didn’t accomplish. He went on to say that we never know if our dash is half up, or almost over, or just beginning. He mentioned, too, how fleeting life is, and how we need to grab hold of it and live our dash.
I had never thought of that before. The tiny line between the two heart-stopping dates that we normally fixate on – the date they were brought into the world and the date they were taken from us, often tragically too early. No one really ever thinks of that little dash in-between.
I started pondering my dash. My little life in the big stream of the world. Who thinks about that when they are trying to wade through the storm of life? Hoping just to get to the end of the day in one piece. One of my favorite quotes by David Mitchell says, “Only as you gasp your dying breath shall you understand, your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean! What is any ocean but a multitude of drops?” In the big tapestry of life, we often get hung up on our one little thread of life. When in reality, if we could step back and see the whole tapestry, we would be amazed at the glittering threads wrapping around us to unfold and create our lives.
What would my Dash look like? How much longer do I have left of my little Dash? If it all were over tomorrow, would I be happy with my life? What satisfies my soul and my life in my Dash? It isn’t money, nor houses, nor cars that make my Dash uniquely mine. It’s how I act and treat others, as well as how authentic I am with myself. So I began to ponder: Am I living my life the way I’m truly meant to be, or am I just going through the motions and doing what I have to do?
I know, we all say we would like to do something different with our lives, be it with work or relationships, but this is what we have to do to survive. I think, sometimes we use that as a cop-out. It’s easy just to go with the flow and let life happen to us: pay the bills, go to work, eat, sleep and repeat. But this… this is your life, your one chance to do it right – your one opportunity to be happy and fulfilled the way you deserve to be. Sure, you can roll over and let the world tell you what to do. Or we can all grab hold, climb up off our knees and claim our dash.
How, you ask, do I do that? It’s really very simple. Ask yourself what’s important to you. I don’t mean like you need to have air conditioning. I’m talking deep down, soul- shaking importance. What won’t you give up? What do you need to make you who you are and who you want to be? I like to call it your top ten list. Take a few minutes, think about it, and write it down. You will be amazed at what you find on that list. You won’t find that jacket you desperately needed to buy or those cool boots you thought you couldn’t live without. What you will find is the recipe for your soul. From there, you can sit back and take note of where your life is going, and what you need to do to make things change.
I know for me, when I was younger, it was all about moving up – Bigger job, better house, cooler car… up, up and up. The costs go higher; you work more hours, and suddenly all you’re doing is working to pay the bills. A few years back my husband and I decided we’d rather pair down and be together more, rather than work ourselves to death. Now we are even looking to take that one step further, go completely green and off the grid, and build our container home out in the middle of nowhere. I know, not everyone’s dream – but it’s ours. Thankfully, both of our jobs can be done remotely, so where we live is not essential. What is important to us is that we get to be together to enjoy each other and our time in our dash.
So tell me, what are your top ten things? What do you need to make your soul happy? Here are my ten things – things I can’t live without:
Family, freedom to be whom I want to be, quiet time, love, escapism, joy, acceptance, friends, peace, music.
Take a moment now to think about your list, do you feel like you are living your Dash to the fullest? Is your Dash almost done? Are you half way through your dash? We don’t know when this life is ending, so now is the time to claim your dash. This is not a dress rehearsal; this is it… show time. Your life – your dash. Are you going to make the most of your dash or just make it through the day?
Live your dash your way. For you are the only one who can change your world, your life and create the world you want to live in. Make that little squiggle of a line that before today, you thought of as insignificant to the fullest. Live for today, tomorrow and most importantly YOU!
If you would like to read the original poem, “The Dash” by Linda Ellis, it’s available on her website.