The passage of Time…and how to fight back!
Clarissa Vaughn: “I remember one morning getting up at dawn, there was such a sense of possibility. You know, that feeling? And I remember thinking to myself: So, this is the beginning of happiness. This is where it starts. And of course there will always be more. It never occurred to me it wasn’t the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment. Right then.”
This is probably one of my all time favorite quotes, from “The Hours”, the book by Michael Cunningham and the movie directed by Stephen Daldry. At the risk of exposing some very intimate thoughts and feelings, every time I read this quote, a bizarre mixture of emotions, mostly sad, overcomes me. My brain freezes slightly. It touches directly a raw nerve, probably my biggest and most ongoing source of anxiety and concern: The passing of Time.
Some people are anxious about how they look. Frankly, I think I look great 😀 even with the extra 13 kgs that I always say I must lose.
Some people are anxious about their careers and about being successful at what they do. I have generally over the years adopted the conviction that while I liked exceling at anything I do, I do not need continuous work to feel satisfied..work is not what my life is predominantly about.
Some people are anxious about making a lot of money. I have discovered the point at which I am making enough money to be living the sort of life I want to live, and am convinced that making more than that would require sacrifices in my quality of life that I am not prepared to make.
Some are anxious about having the nicest home. I think my relatively small apartment probably has more character and charm with minimal effort than some homes that have cost millions.
But Time…the passage of Time…how fast it goes…how powerless we are to stop it..
How little time we have to enjoy being with the ones we love…how little time we have to do all the things we want to do…
How suddenly we are middle aged, when we still feel like we’re at the beginning of our lives…
How we are always thinking there will be more of what we want tomorrow, when in fact now could be the most we might ever have.
How all we have is NOW! Right now..and how if only we let that really sink it, it would change what we are doing this very moment.
I do not think of myself as a pessimist. I do not dwell much on the past, and I have overcome most issues that humans have to overcome to become comfortable with themselves.
And yet, I cannot think of myself as an optimist either. This unbearable sense of the unstoppable flow of time, this feeling of the impermanence of everything and anything, is such a double-edged sword that I have still to resolve. On the one hand, it encourages us to focus on the now, the present moment..to not worry about what has passed because it is gone, and to not worry too much about what will come because we don’t really have much control over it, no matter what we like to think. I might get a heart attach as I write this right now…and this focus on this moment, and trying to make the best of it, to strip it of anxiety, anger, fear, and jealousy and just live it in joy and gratitude, is something that should give us inner peace, a sense of quietude.
And yet it is this exact same idea, the other side of the same coin, that highlights the uselessness of everything..everything will pass, everything will change, everything will disappear. And how depressing is that?! How can one invest in anything with passion and emotion, whether a project or a love affair or a friendship, when there is such a sense of futility and impermanence to it all?
One can easily succumb to this super depressing thought. It is so easy to say “Screw it, there is no value to anything…we will grow old, we will become unhealthy, we will slowly lose those we love, we will become unable to enjoy anything.” Pushed to the extreme, this can surely lead to suicidal thoughts.
But we have the choice to push back, to defend ourselves. From the heart of this depressing thought that nothing is permanent, we snatch our defence mechanism and we build our fort as best we can. I have not found a final answer yet, but so far my thinking has led to the answer that the solution lies in stripping all the fake layers we have accumulated around us and focusing on what’s essential. Delete all the unnecessary stresses and thoughts. It’s all going away anyway so why worry about it?
If you are blessed with good or OK health, you have more than enough to be thankful for. In fact I do think having the right attitude contributes to good health anyway.
Overcome the need to impress people or live up to anyone’s expectations (including sometimes our own!)
Appreciate those around you whom you love, and try (because it is not always easy) to let them know you love them!
Surround yourself by a group of people you admire, respect and have fun with to share some good food and drink!
Take a trip every now and then, alone, to refresh your spirit. It could simply be to a nearby park or a natural reserve.
And finally, engage in doing something good beyond yourself, just to give back, just to feel connected to something bigger. And really that’s it. We do not need more, and no one deserves less. The rest is just layers, for the most part totally useless.
Of course we can still have all the layers…..but as long as we see them as layers, as things that can come and go, as add-ons we can put on or take off like a t-shirt while the inside stays the same…as long as we deal with them with the right attitude of detachment, then we stand a chance of making the best out of an overall pretty shitty situation (if you want my frank opinion )
We do our part, and hope that some day, in some future lifetime maybe, we will find some meaning to it all.
For now, we enjoy each moment, moment to moment, with the essentials. It is easy: focus on those simplest of pleasures, and do some good to someone…and forget that there was a before and that there will be an after!