Thursday, September 29, 2016

Count the Cost

Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
(Psalm 90:12)

I understand some people on the autism spectrum have a compulsion to count. While I haven’t been diagnosed on the spectrum, I wondered what it might be like to number how many different items I touched to prepare my daily breakfast (26). Then it expanded to include the multiple times I touched each item and finally the end list of counting each individual action right through to clean up (74):

1. Open the fridge
2. Pull out blueberries
3. raspberries
4. coconut milk
5. and gluten-free bread
6. close the fridge
7. Put two slices in the toaster
8. Open the cupboard
9. Get a bowl
10. and a plate
11. close the cupboard
12. open the drawer
13. get a spoon
14. and a knife
15. set the plate and knife by the toaster
16. set the bowl and spoon on the island
17. open the pantry
18. pull out granola
19. and raisins
20. close the pantry
21. to the bowl, add granola
22. add raisins
23. add blueberries
24. add raspberries
25. add coconut milk
26. open the fridge
27. return the coconut milk and berries
28. close fridge
29. open another cupboard
30. get a mug 
31. close the cupboard
32. put mug on the kuerig
33. open the brew compartment
34. remove the used coffee k-cup 
35. put it in the k-cup recycling box
36. insert a fresh k-cup
37. close the brew compartment
38. get a pitcher
39. fill it with water from the fridge dispenser
40. refill the kuerig water reservoir
41. choose cup size to brew
42. push the brew button
43. open the pantry
44. put away the granola and raisins
45. close the pantry
46. take the toasted bread out of the toaster
47. put it on the plate
48. take the lid off the butter
49. use the knife to butter the toast
50. put the lid back on the butter
51. open the honey
52. use the knife to add it to one slice of toast
53. close the honey
54. cut the toast slices diagonally
55. pick up the plate
56. the bowl
57. the coffee
58. set it all on the table 
59. sit down in the chair 
60. and eat
61. collect the bowl & spoon
62. the plate
63. the knife from by the toaster 
64. set on counter
65. open dishwasher
66. put dishes in dishwasher
67. close dishwasher
68. pick up the dishcloth
69. turn on the faucet
70. wet the dishcloth
71. wipe the counters
72. rinse the dishcloth
73. wring it out
74. drape it to dry on the sink

I realize these are the privileges of a first-world, middle-class, retired woman. I am generally healthy, can move easily and have the financial resources to enjoy fruit even when it is out of season. I’ve lived 58 years and never before “counted” this type of daily ritual. I likely never will again. 

These simple actions are difficult or impossible for someone crippled by pain or injury. The ability to list them may be beyond the reach of someone with short term memory loss or mental illness. A depressed individual might not even be able to get out of bed. A homeless person wouldn’t have means to store perishables or to clean and store the dishes. A person with a demanding job might not have time to sit and eat in peace and certainly wouldn’t be mulling the idea of counting how many motions it takes to prepare breakfast. 

The request that God would teach us to number our days is from Psalm 90 – which also includes this beautiful appeal – one that has comforted me during times of very significant heartbreak:

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
    that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    for as many years as we have seen trouble.
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
    establish the work of our hands for us—
    yes, establish the work of our hands.

So what is the point?

I have just listed numerous things for which I can be grateful. I am teaching myself not to take the simple things for granted. I am numbering my motions so that I can number my moments and my hours and my days so that I can be wise in how many ways I expend my energy: serving myself, serving others. This is one way the work of my hands is established.

Some people knit or craft, I prefer to think philosophically and write. I am learning to never stop learning. To never take life, food, mobility, comfort, privilege (or even coffee) for granted. To be grateful. And to keep on doing what really counts.

Tomorrow, I go help clean the home of someone who can’t clean for themselves because they are planning a family member’s funeral. 

I won’t be counting anything but my blessings. I am wiser every time I do that.

What have you counted that has made you wiser?

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