Thursday, May 29, 2014

1,000 Weekends

A few years back, I read an article that said the average 63-year-old man had 20 or so years to live, a number of significance to me because I was 63 at the time.

I quickly calculated that I had about 1,000 weekends of life expectancy, a number that while quite substantial had a finiteness about it that caught my attention.

I realized that it was time for me to make some fundamental decisions about the quality of life I wanted to have during those thousand weekends, not to mention the other days of the week.

Rather than being depressing, this awareness sharpened by my focus on ensuring to the best of my ability that I use whatever time remained - however limited or long it may be - in ways that are aligned with my values and goals.

Being, not doing

Interestingly, my new-found appreciation of the finiteness of life did not lead me to list things I wanted to do (for instance, a "bucket list"), but rather to determine how I wanted to be. As a result, I found myself jotting down terms like these:
  • Gratitude: I wanted to be conscious throughout the day of the many things for which I am thankful.
  • Compassion: I wanted to be sensitive to the suffering of others and to do what I could to alleviate it.
  • Learning: My life is most satisfying when I am intellectually challenged through activities that stretch my mind and expand my perspective.
  • Contribution and service: I am happiest when I am more focused on others than on myself.
  • Mindfulness: The everyday moments of my life contain many riches that I can only appreciate if I experience them one by one.
None of us, of course, no matter our age, know if we will enjoy the satisfactions of 1,000 weekends or even just one.

Pondering these things recently, I decided it was time to update my longevity status, so I used the Social Security "Actuarial Life Table" to determine that I had a life expectancy of about 15.5 more years, which means I have just over 800 weekends remaining.

The clock is clearly ticking, as it is for each of us. To mix metaphors, I can hear the bell tolling in the far distance, but hopefully not yet for me.

What are the implications for you of acknowledging at a deep level that your life is finite, whatever its length may be? Does it affect the way you choose to live today?

This blog post was written by Dennis Sparks, Arbor Hospice Volunteer. You may contact Dennis by commenting below or emailing him at

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