She shouts 'Daddy, daddy, look'. We're sitting outside on a warm summer evening and our five year old daughter is trying to hula-hoop. She's making great advances, progressing from quarter rotations, to half, to full and beyond. She's wiggling her little hips and shaking her arms. The hips I think are playing an important role but the arms are moving on their own, like the rest of her body is so focused on the hoop movement that there isn't any attention left for the arms so they just move like long sea grasses spiked by occasional jerks.
After hula-hooping for a while and as the sun begins to slouch down the horizon like it does on lazy summer days, we prepare for the main event, the firefly hunt. Our daughters have never found and caught fireflies before and were promised that this would be the night. We prepare by finding a container with air holes and letting them fill it with things fireflies might like to eat. Grass, leaves, and two marshmallows were deposited with the care a newborn parent might show when readying a nursery. Then begins the arduous wait for our tenants.
During the wait I thought about my kids (Instead of pulling out my cell-phone). That there were these wonderful, almost magical moments where they were so full of life and love and that instead of capturing fireflies I wanted to bottle the feelings and keep them forever. There wasn't much time for nostalgia, the fireflies began signaling us with their brief flashes.
We waded out in the grass, waiting for one to snap its light on and then off again. I caught the first two and put them in their new apartment. Then our three year old caught one with a delicateness and dexterity I had never seen before. She too was able to place it in the container and then all three of us took a break to look at the container and marvel at the contents. We had done it. We had left civilization and forayed into the wild to collect these animal, or something close. After a moment of awe we resumed catching them. We must have caught twenty fireflies that night and most of them made it into the container. More important than fireflies though, I got one Death Bed Point.
I first read about Death Bed Points (DBP) when Buster Benson wrote an article on Medium.com*. In the game you award yourself one point if you spend quality time by yourself, quality time with people you really care about, or get into the flow of working on something you're really interested in. There's no real game but it inspires a mindset shift, as Benson writes
"I don’t take time to myself for granted.I don’t go to work without thinking about how I can do my most meaningful work. I don’t come home without thinking about how I can have the best quality time with my wife and son. I don’t go out with friends without thinking about how I can connect and share with them on a real level."
That's my hope then, that I start to earn some DBP, but they're hard to come by. Like some elusive video game coins or challenge they don't appear everyday and when they to show themselves you have been ready for them. I don't see them at the kitchen table because my mind is to preoccupied with writing or to-do lists or dishes. I don't see it in my daughter hula-hooping because I'm thinking that I've seen everything already (I haven't) and that I've watched her enough that day (I didn't).
Once I became aware of DBP, I started to look for them more often. I earned one catching fireflies, another snorkeling in a pool with my oldest daughter, and another when I wrote a good essay last week. Each time I earn a point I mentally grasp it like Frodo keeping the ring, trying to force my mind to place it somewhere safe for the next fifty years.
My third decade of life on earth has been defined by the power of mindset. That we can choose how we see things, how we react to them, and that these choices are very powerful. Life is all about these choices because if we don't choose to view the world as awesome humans then we're just a bag of bones, a conclusion of biological and chemical reactions.
This week I challenge you to earn five Death Bed Points. They aren't easy to come by. You may hold a door open for an old lady but that's not really something you're going to count. You may visit a family member only to have them bring you down instead of life you up with love.
For me I feel my soul getting warm and an unbreakable smile crossing my face. It's mostly when I'm with my kids but sometimes on my own after a run, or reading something meaningful or writing.
Good luck, earn five points, I'll be out there capturing them too.
This is a (very) rough draft of an essay for a book I’m currently writing. If you’d like to see my progress check the journal I’m keeping.