"How's it goin'?" "Oh, you know. just another day."
How many times have you heard that? Or said it? Or some variation thereof? If you are like me, probably too many to count! But stop and think about that simple little statement.....just another day. Three little words, and yet, next to "I love you", probably have more meaning than any others.
We are born, we live, and we move on, but we have a limited number of days on this ball of dirt to get things done. The more ambitious of us want to "make their mark" and have our names echo down throughout history, while for others, just being remembered by your great grand-kids would be enough. and the simple fact is that nobody is remembered forever. Not even the Gods. But either way, there are a limited number of days in which to do whatever you are trying to do.
When we are young, it seems as if the number of days are endless, and the future is a hazy far-off thing which may or may not appear. In fact, we have no concept of "future", just an eternal "now"! Our future is when the Sun comes up again and we can pick right back up where we left off, but it is one long endless day, with occasional breaks scattered throughout it. We play until exhausted, eat occasionally, and sleep when we can't stay up any longer. But then a funny thing happens. Those days.....those endless days of carefree existence, pass by us. And we never notice them go.
One day, we wake up and realize we have something new in our lives-a schedule. A novelty at first, we fail to notice how it is gradually slipping its noose around us until, without realizing it, we now order our lives with it. We get up at a certain time, to get dressed and get to school by a different time, to learn certain thing in a certain way and in a "structured environment" at certain times, to come home and watch our favorite TV shows at their scheduled times or to go out and play.....and try to pretend that everything is the same way it was before we had to be home at a certain time. Before we had a schedule.
While this is going on though, our sense of tomorrow has slowly and gradually been getting extended. It is no longer an endless day, full of adventure and the excitement which comes with innocence. No, now there are definite markers which clearly break things up. There is still excitement and wonder, but now it is ordered. We still have fun, but now we realize that it eventually has to end, and we have to move on to the next day or thing in our schedule. And so the day pass, and turn into months, and then years.
As we exit our teens and enter our 20's, we often still have that sense of wonder and excitement, but now it is scheduled and planned for. We go on outings or make dates or plan parties. We take vacations, or hope our schedules allow for weekends off at least once in a while. The schedule reigns supreme! And yet, while we clearly recognize the days as passing by, it never really registers that they are passing by.......that it is just another day. Each day, each hour, is scheduled or planned or alloted somehow or to someone or for something, but the future, those days that are just on the other side of far away, remains hazy and nebulous. It is almost as if we somehow unconsciously-or subconsciously-know that our time is limited, but if we ignore it, those limits will somehow pass us by, like danger will pass by an ostrich when it sticks its head in the sand. We live each day it its fullest and at its fastest without ever acknowledging our mortality. After all, the days really ARE just endless, right?
More time passes, more days roll by. "Summers and Winters are scattered like splinters, and 20 more years slips away", as a favorite song of mine says. The manacles of the schedule has been replaced long ago by shackles of routine, but by this time, it is impossible to even tell they exist because they hide themselves so well. "It's my life" as some say, or "It's what I do". It's just another day. Just another endless day.
There comes a time when you realize that you are beginning to be aware of the limits on your available days. It can come upon you slowly and sneakily, with no notice at all, just one day.....BANG! You realize that there really is an end in sight, far off though it may seem. Or it might happen all of a sudden, perhaps as the result of a climactic event of some sort, or as some sort of spiritual or philosophical awakening. But regardless of HOW it happens, it WILL happen.....and to each and every one of us, sooner or later. The impression of invincibility lingers around for awhile, depending on the type of person you might be, and it may even be replaced by a logical calculation of risk and reward and extended for a considerable period of time, but eventually you will come to realize that each day is NOT just another day-it is a valuable resource and should be used to it's fullest in order to get the best and greatest benefit from it.
Finally, you can deny it no longer. Regardless of how you calculate it, regardless of how you manipulate the numbers, you realize that you have, in all likelihood, spent more than you have left. That it is, as they say, all downhill from here. Your days are no longer only a valuable resource, but now they are a dwindling one as well. At this point, a couple of different things can happen. For some, it might be the classic condition of engaging in dangerous events or activities in an attempt to "prove" you are still an individual worthy of admiration and respect. For others, it might take the opposite direction of crippling depression and a sense of not accomplishing anything, so "why continue to try", or giving up.
But for most of us, it is somewhere in-between. Growing up, admitting your mortality, or whatever you want to call it, the fact remains that it is a shock, and one that many of us consciously put off for as long as possible. This is the story of when I came to the realization that, not only was it NOT just another day, but it was one of a rapidly dwindling number I had left.
For me, I think it was more of a sudden realization. I was in the Arizona State Prison, starting my last year of a multi-year deal, and I got into a fight. This was not an ordinary fight either, although I did not realize that at the time. Now, I had been in fights before, but not many. My theory was that one should take every pain to avoid trouble like that, watch your mouth and your actions, mind your own business and not everyone else's, but when you cannot avoid the issue.....be as brutal as possible and do not get off the other guy until you are pulled off. It is actually an excellent method of prison life, you very rapidly develop the reputation of a quiet person who it is best to leave alone because while you don't want trouble, you are vicious when cornered or pressed. In the beginning, I had five fights in the first six months I was there. Four went to the hospital and I was pulled off of the other guy before he was seriously hurt. It was 18 months before I had to fight again, and I hurt him bad. Another 2 1/2 years go by, and this guy I know from the street shows up. I greet him amiably because we never had any issues with each other on the outside, tell him if he needs anything to look me up, and go on my way. About 2 weeks later, the guy who runs our building comes up and wants to know what I have going on with the Mexicans. I tell him I don't know what he is talking about, and he tells me this Mexican is saying that I snitched him out. I tell him I still don't have a clue, and then he tells me this guys name. I laugh and say that the dude is not Mexican, he is as white as me and you, but regardless, I don't have anything to do with him or why he is here. In fact, the same person who snitched me off originally did him as well, and I had paperwork to prove it! Long story short, my story checks out and his doesn't, but I was pissed by this time, so we decided to settle it in the time-honored tradition of taking it to the bathroom.
They say the shot that hurts you the most is the one you never see coming. I was pounding this guy and all of a sudden, I am turtled up on the floor getting my head kicked in. Somehow we separated, and I remember someone stopping it over me saying that I was still standing, so come the fuck on! Prison bravado, pure and simple, because I was fucked up. Come to find out, this guy only had a couple of weeks left on his bit, and he was just run off another yard because of some other shit, and he thought I would be going back to our local town and telling about him being a snitch and all the other crap he was involved in, so he thought that by accusing me, he could divert attention away from himself. He hadn't been there long enough to discover that I was going to Colorado and leaving Arizona for good, and his lack of research cost him, because his own people got wind of his actions and seriously fucked him up before he left-he was literally released from the Tucson hospital!
Anyway, losing a brutal fight in a very bloody fashion changed me. Maybe it was just because it was my first loss and I didn't kow how to process it yet, but It drove home what I had been doing to others, regardless of how valid I thought my reasons were. It made me realize that I was fucking old for this kind of shit, and that led to the realization that, had he been more like me, I would have been very, very badly hurt. Needless to say, I kept all of this inside until I was released, and then freedom took over my thoughts, and I put it out of my mind.
Or so I thought. I started dealing with conditions which had never been treated properly and led to chronic pain. then I started dealing with the addiction to the pain meds, and recovery. And more meds, more addiction.....and more recovery. Somewhere during this torture I was putting myself through, the thought that I had buried came to the surface and crystallized-there had to be a better way because I just didn't have many days left. In 12 days, I will turn 51. Officially over the half-way mark and starting on the downhill run. I just got done with major surgery, have other health issues, one kid graduating school this year and one next year, and I'm tired. My son and his family moved up here from Arizona and they have not been able to find a place of their own, so they have been living here with us for the last six months. I will do anything in the world for them, but I want them to go to THEIR house at the end of the day! I want to sit on my couch and hold hands with the wife and just be alone with my best friend-the woman I fell in love with years ago-and not have to listen to the grandkids tearing up the place or fighting.
I want to spend the days i have left with her.....my best friend, my lover, my wife. With spending my energy making sure that she never has to say that it was Just Another Day. Which in and of itself is a perfect example of the quantum change which has occurred as the endless string of days gets shorter and shorter! In the past, we were always "on the go", doing things with other people, with the family, etc. and we always had someone around us. Now, while we still go places and do things, our focus.....MY focus is concentrated on her, and us, rather than what and who is around us. We can enter this exciting new future together and make the most of the days that are left-she is my world and I don't really care about anyone else, or what they may think or do. I am old enough to want the old-school happy ending now, the one I always kind of laughed about before. A little house with a white picket fence, a porch swing with a fat dog at our feet, and a perfect star-lit night, swinging slowly and holding hands.
They call it "fantasy" for a reason, but I believe that with sufficient will and enough time, the line between fantasy and reality can be blurred, and magical things can be done. I have more than enough will, all I need now is.....just another day.