When I was in elementary school, teachers still employed the disciplinary method of behavioral re-conditioning through repetitive written statements. I will not chew gum in school at any time. As if the very act of writing this sentence over and over again across a board or piece of lined looseleaf would eventually modify the thought pattern behind the behavior. I'm not sure if it truly worked, but it did create an understanding of causal relation. If you do something bad, you will have to repent by writing you will not repeat that behavior until your hand is ready to fall off.
In this new era of education, there are barely any blackboards being used and in some cases even lined paper. Yet the practice of focusing on the negative of an action versus the positive is still fairly common. This doesn’t just apply to human error, but even to human fear. Take for example, my fear of dying. When I talk myself through it, I often use statements like “don’t be afraid” “don’t focus on that thought” and have to make conscious efforts to change my language into one of positive action.
One of the times that I was wrestling with this fear, I had to call a friend to help me process my feelings.
Me: I am afraid I’m going to die.
Friend: So what will happen if you die?
Me: I will be dead.
Friend: So what are you afraid of then?
I realized at that moment that what I was truly afraid of was not having lived my life, because in my imaginings of dying there is a split-second where you get to see your life flash before your eyes. I am sure I am not the only person in this city that has a fear of death or dying, or any fear for that matter. I am also pretty sure that I am not the only one who wants to live a full life.
Yet everyone needs a reminder every now and again. I found mine recently on an exterior wall to a construction site in Brooklyn on Washington Avenue in Prospect Heights. Scribbled along the wall were fill-in-the-blank statements starting with B.I.D….Before I Die….I had seen this before in a barber shop in the Village where all the walls were chalkboard painted and B.I.D. was written line after line, just like those old-fashioned school boards. It had stopped me in my tracks, a physical pause to really ask myself the question before going back in the direction I had been walking.
Whether good or bad, there really is something transformative about the repetition of writing. What you write can become a mantra. Words can become embodied. And with a wall of statements about action, the shared experience of the writer and reader can be doubled in power. The walls become a living text, a dialogue of transformation.
During the summer, the season of relaxation and rejuvenation, we walk a bit slower through the streets enjoying the weather and the sights that come along with it. Summer is also when people tend to check off a box or two from their adventure list. So whether you have a life list, bucket list, or a B.I.D. List, maybe you can just stop for a moment to think of how you're making your life fuller. With 8 weeks of summer left, this is my reminder to go and do something for yourself just (B.E.Y.D.) Before the End of Your Day. Go try some blackberry ice cream, visit a new beach, watch a movie outdoors, tell someone you love them, finish the letter to your friend, enjoy the sunset from the Highline, or find the nearest B.I.D. List and write something on it…
For more on B.I.D. and the story behind that particular wall, go to http://beforeidie.cc