X marks the days of our life

Marking off the days on a wall calendar is something you do in anticipation of an upcoming event, like a reunion or vacation.

When he was starting out as a young comic, Jerry Seinfeld had a big wall calendar that he would mark with a red X on every day he spent time writing jokes. His goal was to get better at joke writing by not breaking the chain.

As a person living with metastatic breast cancer, I have adopted the calendar X tactic in yet another way—as a reminder to reflect back on the day. How much time did I invest in doing things that matter and bring personal meaning? How much time did I waste on matters or activities that don’t matter, like surfing the web?

But really, it’s a daily reminder that my days are limited and to give thanks for each precious one, because other than a movie with Bill Murray, we cannot live that day again.

This exercise may be too difficult for some people dealing with stage 4 cancer, and in some cases, it may be wholly inappropriate, At some point, it’s enough and only possible to simply be—to focus every waking, lucid moment on loved ones, to make whatever amends you can make, to get happiness from whatever simple pleasures you have available to you, to prepare yourself in any way that brings peace.

In my case, undergoing effective treatment for metastatic breast cancer and keeping cancer at bay, this daily exercise makes me feel good. Even on days where I’ve wasted a lot of time, I’ve been able to reassure myself that it’s okay, that I can and will do better.

I’m a firm believer in moderation in all things, and that includes scheduling our time. It seems that many people are overscheduled, and that includes children! We can all benefit from some open and unplanned downtime to relax and recharge by giving our body and mind a break.

As for wasting time versus spending time wisely and meaningfully, that is a very personal choice and decision. I just know that for me, the daily calendar checkmark has helped eliminate activities that I realize I don’t value. They don’t spark joy or a sense of accomplishment. In fact, upon reflection, they are activities that spark sadness.

As someone wise once said, how we spend our days is how we spend our lives. Perhaps you want to think about trying this tactic yourself, as a reminder to pause in a moment of reflection and gratitude.