Be Mindful of Life’s Mile Markers

The Secret to Intentional Living

Monday’s solar eclipse got me thinking about the special event mile markers in our lives. Specifically, think about the things that happen so infrequently that we remember the exact place, the exact time, and the exact people who shared them with us.

Now think about that in terms of these quadrants.

Quadrant A

Good / Personal occasions are specific to you like your birthdays, graduations, weddings, and first days. These are dates where most everyone else was just going about their lives, but that day was a major milestone date for you.

Like how did you spend your 21st birthday? Who celebrated with you? Where were you? (I bet we can all guess what you were doing, and perhaps how the night ended.)

Mine fell on Sunday, April 9th, 2000.

For you that Saturday night…turned Stacy’s birthday…is probably unmarked with a special occasion, and therefore most likely forgettable.

But for me…I was waiting for the clock to strike midnight in front of Hogs & Heifers in New York City.

I was fresh off a one-way plane trip from the farmlands of Kansas, still building up the courage to conquer Manhattan.

 

giphy

(Intimidating, isn’t it?! Now imagine seeing it through the wide-eyed pupils of a girl from Kansas whose hometown didn’t even have a stoplight!)

But on April 9, 2000, I was looking for liquid courage to conquer Manhattan…at this fine establishment.

Hogs & Heifers in NYC
(RIP 1992 — 2015)

Oddly, that night I was surrounded by strangers, both other patrons & the young women who celebrated the milestone with me.

A nanny job was responsible for my “GREAT KANSAS ESCAPE OF 1999”. And at the time, my only friends were acquaintances from a local coffee shop, au pairs and recovering alcoholics & narcotics.

Needless to say, only the au pair crowd took me up on my 21st birthday invitation. Most of them had also just landed in New York, and were new to both the English language & dancing on bars.

I can’t recall their names now. And the Hogs & Heifers of that night were far different than the livestock on a Kansas farm. Nonetheless, my 21st was a Good / Personal mile marker specific to my birthdate.

Sure, many people may have been celebrating a birthday that day like Dennis Quaid who turned 51, Kristen Stewart who turned 10, and Hugh Hefner who turned 74. But fewer turned 21 on that night, actually the only other person I am aware of is Kesha Knight Pulliam.

(Just to be clear, Ms. Knight Pulliam did not celebrate her 21st at Hogs & Heifers with us.)

 

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Another example of a date that falls into Quadrant A for me is: Monday, October 18, 2004 — my wedding date.

Now this was a date I had dreamed of my whole life! Only in my childhood dreams the faces, destination, and date were TBA.

As it turns out, my groom would be Steven Joseph Cassio and the wedding would take place at Disney World (without Mickey — his RSVP would have cost us $6K! Umm…no thank you, Mr. Mouse!)

(Not many people are willing to get married on a Monday so Disney gives you quite a discount to do so.)

It was the event of my dreams, my own personal fairytale…minus the uninvited wedding guest who strolled into the Wedding Pavilion … halfway through the ceremony … in a red bikini.

She was a random vacationer. One of many at Disney World that day, but the only one who attended our wedding in a red bikini!

 

What mile marker events fall into your Quadrant A?

 

Who were the folks that marked them with you? Why were they milestones for you? Where were you?…while the rest of the world moseyed around completely unaware in our red bikinis?

 

Quadrant B


Good / Public mile markers are positive occasions that are also celebrated by others. Examples can be holidays, historical milestones, legislation wins, some cultural events, and of course Monday’s solar eclipse.

Another example is Friday, April 29, 2011 — the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. My wedding was a fairytale for me, but the Royal Wedding was the world’s fairytale.

It’s estimated that 45% of the world watched that day. Women were twice as likely to watch than men. It still holds the record for the “Most Live Streams for a Single Event” at 72 million.

Coverage of the Big Day began at 4am in the States that Friday. My neighbor Miss Jenny, an 86 year-old woman, was up at 3:45 because she did not want to miss a minute. It was her lifetime’s solar eclipse.

Miss Jenny, my neighbor and date to the Royal Wedding

She was still watching when I brought her the mail at around 6pm. She invited me over the next evening to re-watch the entire ceremony together.

We re-watched on Saturday, April 30, 2011 snuggled up like two besties. Of course these BFFs were drinking white wine rather than Capri Suns, but still totally captivated by the pomp, circumstance, romance of the event.

Miss Jenny’s legacy is a reoccurring character in a lot of my Quadrant A events, but on that day we shared Quadrant B with the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge and an estimated 2 BILLION with their closest friends.

What mile marker events fall into your Quadrant B? 

What public celebrations are etched into your memories? Who was your Miss Jenny? Why did the event touch you so greatly?

 

Quadrant C


Perhaps the most life-changing milestones live in Quadrant C. These are dates that are impressed upon us because of a personal tragedy, loss, or painful situations. These dates may be completely ordinary to everyone else, but you walked away with a scar.

 

My sisters, brother, and I spent nearly every other weekend of our childhoods at “Grandma & Grandpa Pigs”. (No relation to the Hogs of my 21st birthday.)

The Four of Us with “Grandma Pigs”

We called them “Grandma & Grandpa Pigs” because they were the set of grandparents who lived on a farm, and that farm was paradise to our childhood imaginations. My grandparents are the gatekeepers to every mystical, magical memory the farm ever delivered. (Ref. Quadrant A).

My Grandpa passed on Monday, May 10, 1999. He took a piece of my Grandma with him that day, but she physically passed on Saturday, December 5, 2009. Both are dates live in my Quadrant C.

But actually it was the date of her funeral, Wednesday, December 9, 2009that caused me to pause and rethink my adult choices.

On that date, I was living in North Carolina. Grandma had been a sick, and in & out of the hospital multiple times. Each hospital visit brought a revolving door of family members to her bedside. My heart was there with them in Kansas, but I was physically tied down in North Carolina to adult responsibilities.

Because I left Kansas at age 19, I have celebrated a lot of my family’s Quadrant A events via photo, phone, and most recently Facetime.

It’s never gotten easier.

And as that choice has turned into decades, I have also missed a lot of the tough stuff too — like surgeries, health scares, and deaths.

But Wednesday, December 9, 2009 was the first time I missed a mile marker funeral.

Adult responsibilities kept me from saying good-bye, and a massive Midwestern blizzard kept me from sending her off.

Both are regrettable.

What mile marker events live your Quadrant C? 

I find most of my regrets live in Quadrant C.

How about you? What are the dates that haunt you? What are the life-altering events that changed you? And more importantly, why?

Quadrant D


These mile markers are the days that foster a world of resiliency and empathy. They are the national tragedies, catastrophic weather events, or even celebrity deaths that cause us to pause & reflect, or in the most meaningful ways, come together.

The most obvious example of a Quadrant D event in my lifetime is Tuesday, September 11, 2001. We all know where we were when we heard about 9/11.

I was newly engaged, and had left my nanny job to be a receptionist for an insurance investigation company in White Plains, NY.

It was good time in my life, full of Quadrant A events. We celebrated Saturday, September 8, 2001 at a restaurant called “Windows on the World” located on the 107th floor of the Wold Trade Center.

I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman that night.

Like Vivian Ward, I was instructed me to wear a cocktail dress.

Now, I had arrived from Kansas with only two suitcases, and heart full memories of good times and loved ones…I did not OWN any such attire! Much less know what it was?! Or how to find one?!

But I did, and also learned which silverware to use, and how to order a glass of White Zinfandel…(I hated the sweetness, but it was the only wine I could pronounce)…and got ready my date with Prince Charming.

Everything about that night was perfect. The food, company, and stunning views enchanted this wide-eyed girl from Kansas. It was one of the most amazing nights in my life. And tragically, the only time I spent in the World Trade Center.

Now, that destination lives in Quadrant D…for the entire World.

Putting It All Together

We used to collect all Quadrant A & B moments in photo albums. Books full of captured birthdays, holidays, vacations, and first days. Later, we advanced to video recording of those moments.

My Grandma (town Grandma, not pigs Grandma) used to pull out a giant camcorder from under her bed each holiday. For whatever reason, the battery was always dead. So she would have to plug it into the wall, prop it up on her shoulder, and scream, “Kids! Kids! Come over here and show Grandma how big you are, and what you got for Christmas.” One-by-one we would parade our Quadrant A moments over to her.

Photo albums, VHS tape…those days are way behind us.

Because now, we carry a photo-taking, video-recording, and moment-capturing & sharing device in our pockets!

Think about the last concert or sporting event you attended. We pay hundreds of dollars for tickets to watch a mile marker through the screens of our camera phones.

Perhaps we have gotten so wrapped up in the capture and sharing of our mile markers that we have forgotten to live them.

When I shared the quadrant theory with a dear friend, he declared “I fundamentally disagree! It’s nonsense, Stacy!”

He went on to explain that it’s not the quadrants he had a problem with, but rather the frequency. He believes that if you live on autopilot while waiting for a “big event”, you are wasting your life.

He has a point.

After all, wouldn’t a happy life be the sum of the mile markers in the left quadrants?

What if we live every day intentionally looking for positive mile markers?

Being mindful and empathetic of those around you.

Looking for events that fill the left quadrants, until it looks like this.

So when you look up in the sky on Monday to see the solar eclipse:

  1. Put your phone down. Besides it will be dark and the millions of others will be capturing & sharing it.
  2. Rather look around, and live in the moment. Be mindful of those sharing the mile marker, and mentally place this once-in-a-lifetime event in Quadrant B.

Then, wake up on Tuesday and do the same.

We only get one life, folks. The mile markers come as frequently, or infrequently, as we choose.

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Stacy Cassio is a Midwestern daughter, turned high-energy New Yorker, and now resides mindfully in South Carolina. She is also the Founder of the Pink Mentor Network, which shares the professional experiences of accomplished women to benefit young women looking to accomplish.

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