X months to live

What would you do if you knew you had X months to live?

This mental exercise yields varied answers that often follow a similar theme: Quit my job and travel the world. I’ve probably given some version of that answer myself.

But as some of my family members have recently landed in the hospital with heart trouble, liver problems, and a rare cancer, the theoretical has become more concrete—and feels more complicated.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m recognizing that for me, the stereotypical answer (quit everything and see the world) is less about a bucket list and more about a desire to experience the wonder and appreciation that life is always calling for.

Though I do love travel, I can have that wonder anywhere, everywhere.

I can sit on a metal bench and marvel at my small daughter who’s determined to master the backstroke during her swim lesson, though she’s terrified of water splashing in her eyes. I can hear my husband say the two syllables of my name and feel all our history in them. I can sit down at my desk and recognize the miracle people I work with who make things together. I can look a stranger in the eye and see the clues of a story I’ll never fully hear. I can stretch right now and pay attention to the pull of my muscles and bones.

I have X months, X years, however many they may be.

And today (though this may sound cliché) is my only day available for living them.

Today, whether I visit the Taj Mahal or the office supply store to pick up my daughter’s school supplies, I get to choose whether I walk around glassy-eyed and absent or full of present delight at being alive.