What's in the dash?

by Helene Louise  

About a year ago, I had an interesting conversation about life in general with someone who astutely summed up what we were talking about by saying something along the lines of, “...On your tombstone, it will show the year you were born and the year you died. The dash in-between will represent your entire life. So, the question we need to ask ourselves is...What’s in the dash?”  A year later, I still find that interesting to think about.

First of all, it’s jarring to think that for all of us, the entirety of our lives will eventually be represented by a tiny in-between symbol. And, since “dash” can also mean “to destroy” as in dashing someone’s hopes, or “being hasty” as in dashing off to a meeting, there could also be an underlying negative connotation to the whole thing.

In my case, however, consistent with my ongoing focus on the importance of celebrating the tiniest of triumphs in the context of my daughter’s rehabilitation after a childhood stroke (as I’ve written about in my book and throughout these posts), I prefer the idea of “dash” in terms of “a small amount of something”—as in a dash of salt. In that context, I truly believe that it’s been our ongoing recognition and appreciation of the little dashes of hope here, and the little dashes of encouragement there, over many years, that has fuelled much of our perseverance and therefore, much of my daughter’s progress to overcome the effects of the stroke as much as possible.

And more generally, despite the frustrations of everyday life, I think that consciously trying to add dashes of gratitude into the mix of my daily thoughts is a major contributor to my overall wellbeing. There is, actually, always something to be grateful for. I’m grateful my daughters still choose to have dinner with me most evenings and talk to me about their lives as the young adults they are becoming. Over dinner, I can pass the salt and still add a dash of motherly encouragement here and there to the extent that it’s still welcome. I’m grateful for the love and support of my partner, and my family. I’m grateful for every single expression of interest in this project from close to home and far away. I’m grateful for having had the opportunity again this year to be a guest lecturer at McGill University's School of Physical and Occupational Therapy.  I’m grateful for the questions and comments from the students, all of which give me so much hope for the future.

So, a year later, I’m still reflecting on the question of What’s in the dash? But, maybe my answer would be that in my dash so far, there are many little dashes of this and that, all of which absolutely must be appreciated in the here and now.

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