MLN-FrontPorch-14On the hot, summer afternoon I learned a novel way to keep priorities straight.  I was playing marbles in the front while Daddy’s mother and a couple of my aunts sat talking the front porch. One of my aunts remarked, “Seeing those kids play marbles reminds me of what Mrs. Viola said when I asked how she managed to stay so tranquil and happy while others found it hard to cope.  She told me it was because she had a unique way of keeping track of what is important in life.”

“Wow! I wish I knew that secret.” Another aunt remarked.

Grandma interjected, “Her secret is losing your marbles.”

Another one exclaimed, “What are you saying – that she doesn’t have all her marbles?”

Grandma mused, “I never looked at it that way before.  But, I reckon that’s what I mean.”

But, hold your tongue and let me explain. Life is full of demands in varying degrees of importance and they all compete for our time and attention.  Some are necessary to survival.  Others are important, but not vital.  And when you take the time to evaluate them, many are actually trivial.  Marbles can help you remember this.”

Then, grandma proceeded to explain the method using marbles to keep priorities straight.  This method works as well today as it did – way back when I was a little girl:

Assume the average person lives about eighty years.  (Before anyone calls me out on this: I’m aware that the quoted life expectancy of a person alive today will vary depending on which industry or government data you choose to accept.  But, this is my column and I like the number 80 – so I choose to use it). So, on average, folks live about 80 years.   

Multiply 80 by 52 and you will come up with 4,160, which is the number of weeks that the average person has in their lifetime. Determine how many weeks you have already used up and subtract that number form 4,160.  That is how many weeks you have left, assuming you live an average lifetime.  Now, buy that exact number of marbles.  Place them inside large, clear container and place the container where it can be easily seen on a daily basis. 

Once a week, take one marble out and throw it away.  Yes, throw it away – dispose of it.   Don’t save it or hide it.  Ensure that it is irretrievably lost to you.  As you throw it away, think of how you used your time during the week gone by.

Noticing the marbles in your clear container diminish, helps you focus on the really important things in life.  There’s nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight.  When you can clearly see time passing and your marbles leaving forever, hopefully you will be motivated to keep you priorities straight. 

Betty Freeman Haines, an author, lives in Mesquite, NV.  Her books/e-books, Reluctant Hero and Grieving Sucks or Does It, can be ordered from  Share your thoughts and opinions with her at