When you go to a cemetery, you see on a headstone, under the deceased’s name, something like “1943 – 2022.” Let’s focus on the dash between the dates.
Basically, the tombstone is clear and specific about the year when you were born and the year you died. Everything in between – your whole life full of events, from baby life to childhood, school, marriage(s), children, career, honors, losses . . .. I’ll stop the list now, as you know what I mean. But somehow all of that gets summarized as a dash. That’s it: a dash.
I imagine that a thousand years from now when our lives as individuals melt into the soup of time, that dash will be about right. But for us, now, it seems a bit brief. Rushed.
The word “dash” has a lot of different meanings. I won’t go into all of the ways the punctuation mark can be used – suffice it to say, it’s informal. One of my professors or colleagues referred to it as “the debutante dash” – his way of saying it was not suited for serious writing. (I’ve been using it a lot ever since I heard that.) None of the definitions of “dash” that I found in my brief search quite fit its use in “1943 – 2022.” This leaves me free to explore some options.
I think of the “dash” as a very fast run, as in the 100-yard dash or a dash to catch a bus. But if that dash somehow summarizes what happened between 1943 and 2022, then perhaps it’s time to examine the quality of your life-experience. Are you spending your time dashing from one thing to another – catching a plane, getting a job done, getting to work on time, working through a long to-do list, meeting your various commitments? One advantage of being retired is that there is quite a bit less dashing about. We don’t even have to dash home to catch a favorite television program. It is probably no coincidence that all that dashing about often leads to having your hopes dashed? Yes, there is a feeling of achievement, but still . . ..
I found this from Ellen Goodman:
Normal is . . . getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car, and especially, the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it.
Also: “Why are you beating your head against the wall?”
“Because it feels so good when I stop.”
Then, there is the “dash of salt” or some other spice to add an appealing new flavor to a recipe. It may be that one way to keep from dashing the quality of your life is to stop dashing about and take in a dash of some new flavor to the recipe of your life. Easily said, I know, and I’m not very good at novelty (I’m not very dashing), but fortunately I have a dash of Kim to spice things up.