The Sun Experiment

I’ve been doing this experiment. I didn’t mean to do it, it just sort of happened, and I can’t make a positive correlation exactly, but it’s been interesting.

I’ve been watching sunrise and sunset.

If you’ve been on social media with friends or family in the Phoenix area recently, or if you live here yourself, you may have noticed a surge in photos of our breathtaking sunrises and sunsets lately. I don’t know what’s been causing them, but man, they’ve really been amazing this past week.

Taking just one minute or two minutes in the middle of the morning rush and the evening rush to stop and look at these ‘rises and ‘sets may have changed how my day goes.

This past weekend, my wife said, “This has been a really good week. What’s different?”

She didn’t intend the question to be a referendum on weeks past, necessarily . . . except it kind of was. Rightfully so. I have not been having a good couple months. Actually, the whole of 2015 has been more shitty than not shitty for our little family, barring a couple of Abrams-lens-flare bright spots like our trip to Germany. Mostly, though? Yeah. Not very good, and the vast majority of that not-goodness has been on me.

But she was right; this week had been different. Why?

Two things. Maybe they will help you, too.

  • I began asking myself in the morning how I wanted to feel when I went to bed. What sorts of things did I want to accomplish, what kind of mood did I want to be in, how did I want my mind and body to feel? Then as the hours of each day went past and night came, before going to bed, I’d run a quick recap and do a systems check: Is everyone safe and healthy? Yep. Did we have a roof, food, and clothes? Yep. So far so good. Did I have a good time with my wife and son, did I get to write, did I get to check some things off on my list? Yep. Did I absolutely lose my shit when the garage door wouldn’t open? No. Okay, then. That’s a good day.

Just running through these little checklists seem to have helped put things into priority for me. Planning ahead to feel good at night seems to have made a world of difference.


  • I started noticing sunrise and sunset. Just opening the front blinds to look at the incredible cloud formations we’ve had lately, and the prismatic glow of reds and oranges and purples reflected in them. Call it “mindfulness” or “prayer” or “Zen” or whatever, but I just stood and breathed and looked and thought, “That is very, very pretty, and I am fortunate to see it.” That’s all. I’d do the same in the evening. Again, I can’t prove this exercise has changed how my days go, I just know that my days have been better since starting to take that time. One or two minutes, that’s it.

In his last filmed interview, Brandon Lee said:

“Because we do not know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. And yet everything happens only a certain number of times. And a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood? An afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more? Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”

He’s right, of course. I now enjoy taking that minute to see the sun rise because the reality is, I might not see that day’s sunset.

Does that sound grim? SaIMG_1286d? Depressing? Morbid? I used to think so. It’s one of our great failings of American culture that while we fetishize death in all of our entertainment (including the entertainment I provide in my novels), we don’t really talk about it, we don’t really think about it, and we certainly don’t really think it’s going to happen to us.

I had to embrace it. If I didn’t, I’d be a lot more angry today than I am. I have never been a proponent of “living each day like it’s your last,” because then the world would shut down. No, it’s more a matter of this nightly routine I have now: Am I happy with how I feel at the end of this day? If not, what can I do differently tomorrow, if I’m lucky enough to have one?

I don’t know if any of this will help you, but I hope it does.

Enjoy your sunrise.




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