Twelve words in a Bill Bryson book changed my friend Ann's life.
Ann was 40, living in her native England, and bored by her job as an office manager for a government contractor. Then she read Bryson’s book on the origins of the universe, A Short History of Nearly Everything. On page two of the introduction, Bryson makes a startling statement: “Even a long human life,” he writes, “adds up to only about 650,000 hours.”
That number shook her. And she had a workplace epiphany.
This is my first Christmas without my mother. Mom died suddenly in mid-September, three months before her 75th birthday. For Mom, the holidays were less about Santa than stress. The yuletide anxieties began around Labor Day, when she’d fret about finding the perfect gift, and finding the time to find the perfect gift, and whether she’d bought enough perfect gifts. This quest for a flawless Christmas probably stemmed from an impoverished childhood, but anxieties ruled her life. When Mom wasn’t worried, it would worry her, because she knew she should be worried about something.
We discussed it before the holidays last year. Mom was suffering her usual bout of pre-Christmas, do-you-fear-what-I-fear nerves.