The mid-morning sun streamed brightly through the picture window, hitting me in the face. I rolled over lazily to see Luke still fast asleep. I shimmied closer, laying my head on his warm chest. I looked up and noticed the faint movement of the pulse in his neck. I counted my blessings.
Death has occupied a large percentage of my mental capacity lately, which is new and uncomfortable territory. I prefer to live in an insulated bubble, but cold, hard reality has found its way in. One of my best friends lost her Mom to a sudden heart attack last month. She was only 57 – younger than my parents. A more distant friend just lost her husband, who was also a former coworker of mine. A sudden seizure led to a three-year battle against cancer. Aaron passed away last week, not before writing a hilariously touching obituary that went viral.
While we were all hopeful that Aaron and Nora could grow old together, she knew better. Nora tattooed the word “Now” on her wrist as a reminder to live in the moment. As a result, she and Aaron lived four years of their lives like most live 40. Toward the end, Nora mentioned several times that she and Aaron lived a good life together and had no regrets. How many of us will be able to do the same?
Unfortunately, the “live like we’re dying” mentality is more closely associated with a drunken night at the club than everyday life. We tend to think we’ll each get roughly 100 years on this Earth to work with, but that time is certainly not guaranteed. Trying to live your life around this level of instability is unnerving and overwhelming. How do we satisfy the dreamer and realist that reside within us?
The simple truth of the matter is no one has the right answer. Most of us have to spend a majority of our existence operating in the mundane. We go to work, wash the dishes, chase after the cat, and treat ourselves to a few episodes of Californication before going to bed an hour past bedtime. Then you’re going to tell us what little time and energy remains should be dedicated to pursuing our dreams? Most would settle for a nap.
But the bitch of the matter is this behavior keeps us standing still while time passes on by. Without some form of reality check to rattle our cage, we’ll always be relegated to fulfilling our immediate needs without advancing forward. For years, I whined that my day job was preventing me from becoming a writer. One day I had the simple, but profound realization that in order to be a writer, I had to actually write. I had the time to whine, but I didn’t make the time to write? Nonsense. By shifting around a few priorities (like, cutting out TV), I was able to carve out focused time every single day to actively pursue my dream. Do you know how empowering it feels to take control of your future one hour at a time? It goes from being nebulous to being real. What’s real is attainable. Suddenly, the future is not so big and scary.
Nora and Aaron were forced to focus on the here and now because their future wasn’t guaranteed. The same goes for all of us, it simply isn’t as tangible. I think we should take this opportunity to mourn the loss of our loved ones while thanking them for the reminder that life is temporary, and we need to realign our priorities accordingly. Never confuse fear with practicality. People are always more important than things. And don’t forget to pop your head out from under your heap of reality and dare to daydream about a better future. It’s yours for the taking, if you choose to go after it. Why hold back? In the end, there’s really nothing to lose.