“Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?”
– Thornton Wilder, Our Town
I was in New York City the other night because a family friend of ours, who also happens to be a Broadway producer, invited me to see a preview of Ann, a play that hasn’t yet opened. She also got me tickets to Once, which was AMAZING. While we were walking through a crowded Times Square from one show to the other, my friend shared a profound observation that I want to preserve, about a journal she keeps to record what she’s coined as “Our Town Days.”
For anyone who hasn’t read Our Town, it’s a seemingly innocuous play about two families living in the sleepy (fictional) town of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, at the turn of the 20th century. The families go through their normal routines – sending the kids off to school, tending to their gardens, choir practice at the church, a marriage between the daughter of one family, Emily, and the son of the other, George. In the third act, though, the play takes a dark turn as we watch Emily, who has died in childbirth, reminisce from the afterlife. She is given the opportunity to visit one day of her life, and she decides to travel back to her twelfth birthday, a particularly happy day for her.
But as she is reliving the day, she gets discouraged and wants to return to the afterlife, where she laments that people don’t really understand how precious life is while they’re living it.
One of the major points of the play is to observe life in it’s most normal state, because our instincts tell us to remember grandiose moments – the wonderful, the terrible, the horrifying, the profound – so much so that we lose track of the little joys that happen every day: waking up to the smell of coffee, watering a plant, eating spaghetti, taking a warm shower, getting in the car, visiting a friend, etc.
My friend’s “Our Town Days” journal reflects this idea. Her aim is to record events that are not monumental but normal, so that she doesn’t take those moments for granted.
I absolutely love this idea and hope that you do, too. I think it’s the one gift that cancer has given me that I don’t want to lose sight of: thankfulness for each moment that passes, not because something amazing has happened, but because it is simply amazing to be alive.
Today, as I sit at home battling a nasty cold, I’m thankful for time off from work, tissues, the fluffy clouds and blue sky that I can see out the window next to my computer, the hum and thud of the trash truck that’s hauling away our refuse, the melodic tapping of my fingers on the keyboard, and WordPress, for giving me a free blog where I can record these simple observations that make life worth living.