It was recently called to my attention how long it has been since I have written a blog post and until that reminder, I did not realize how much time had passed. Ironically, now that I am inspired to blog again, I am writing about the ever so fleeting construct of time. More specifically, I have been grappling with time as it relates to death and loss. Perhaps it’s a morbid topic, but that is just a judgment – my judgment and perhaps your judgment too. Many cultures actually embrace and celebrate death. Here in Mexico where I currently reside, there is a huge celebration every November called Day of the Dead. The multi-day holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey. So why is death an idea that many of us refuse to confront? Why am I so afraid to face the reality that this life is a precious gift and I have no idea when it will end? A friend recently sent me a quote that sums up my thoughts:
“Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don’t know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life. It’s that terrible precision that we hate so much. But because we don’t know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s 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. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”
—Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky
Sometimes I feel like time flies by, and other times I feel as if it just won’t move quickly enough. Ultimately, time is just a human construct and every individual is a unique observer of his or her own experience of it. What is considered fast for one person, may seem slow to another. But the clincher is that we never really know how much we have. I wonder, if we all knew how long our lives would last would we perceive the passing of time differently and make alternate choices about how we spend it? There is nothing like unexpectedly losing someone you love to jolt you back into the reality that there are no guarantees of any future moments other than the one you are living. And yet, I feel it is so hard to stay present and appreciate those moments. Cliché, I know. So why do I still take life for granted and even, on too many occasions, perceive it as mundane or unexciting?
One of my favorite new lessons from a movie I recently watched called The Peaceful Warrior, is that there is always something going on, even when everything around us seems dull and boring. It’s actually kind of mind blowing to contemplate. When I take myself out of my ego-driven mindset – recognizing that I am not the center of the universe – there are an infinite number of things happening simultaneously (and who knows, maybe even in parallel time frames) resulting in a constant, perfect exchange of energy.
Time is one of the few (maybe only) measurable “things” that cannot be bought, and yet I know I live so often as though I can. I am hurrying toward a future of which I am uncertain, and for what? As I have learned in the last few months and am still trying to incorporate, the future is overrated. Perhaps I am missing the full moon and it’s the last one I will ever see. We spend so much time mourning people that we lose (understandably so), but why don’t we mourn the precious moments that passed us by while we were not even paying attention? The multi-color sunset, the vastness of the ocean, or the missed interaction with a new friend or life partner – in a flash we miss it all because the future was for some reason a more valuable preoccupation?
I am sad, angry, scared, and overwhelmed by the recent loss of such dear people in my life, but I am also so grateful for the reminder of the value of now. Even now is hard to measure because it is so fleeting, but it’s always there – until it’s not. I am glad I do not have psychic powers to know when my time is up, because all that matters is knowing that I have now and it will always only be now. I look backwards with fond memories of people that I have loved and lost, but only because I built relationships with them over the course of time being present together. A compilation of incredible minutes, hours and days shared led to an even better now, and even though those people are gone in a physical sense, I have to feel comforted by all of the endless possibilities for beautiful moments to come, if I just stay present in this one.
Dedicated to Greg Weister, Kathy Weister and Johanna Gordin