Remember the wise old proverb about living between the dashes of the dates on your headstone?
I don’t remember the story behind the proverb but the moral has something to do with the measure, or the width, of our existence, what we do with the years after we’re born and before we die. The dash represents our hopes, dreams and accomplishments as well as our failures. It is the sum of each of our moments and how we’ve chosen to string them together.
I thought about the Dash Story recently when I heard someone express its meaning in a different way. He reminded his audience that the first sentence, which is actually a question, of Step One of Alcoholics Anonymous reads: “Who cares to admit complete defeat?”
As hundreds of heads knowingly nodded, he went on to refresh our memories with the first sentence of Step Twelve which reads, “The joy of living is the theme of AA’s 12th step and action is its key word.”
As I listened to the chorus of ahs around me, I remembered the dash.
A guy I used to know named Jim H. had his dash inscribed this week. Gosh, I hope he is pleased with the way it turned out. Several of his friends are good friends of mine and I envisioned them standing in the parking lot of the funeral home, before they fired up their Harleys, cussing and discussing his dash. For Jim, and for my friends, the dash and the distance between the sentences of Steps One and Twelve are synonymous.
I suppose the dash is the final mile marker on the distance of Jim’s journey’s.
As it is for all of us.
Sometimes, though, I get caught up in a small incremental portion of the dash I’m creating. During those times, I definitely do not want to admit complete defeat and there is definitely no joy in my living. I’ve completely cast aside the key word of action. Typically, I have to be sick and tired of being sick and tired before I holler “uncle!”
I’m ready now, though. It’s been a wearisome few days and if I keep this up, my dash could arrive sooner rather than later. I’m ready to let these days go, to surrender them, and get back to the joy of living. I’m ready to take action. AA can also stand for Awareness and Action.
Like Jim H., when my journey’s distance reaches its end, I want my spirit to smile broadly, knowing that I’ve chosen the joy of living and created a really wide dash.