When Time Slips Away from You Hold Tight to Emotion Instead

“We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts not breaths; in feelings, not in figures on a dial. We should count time by heart throbs.”

— Philip James Bailey, “Festus”

I am one of those people gifted with an acute awareness of my mortality and a near constant anxiety over the amount of time I have left. There is nothing wrong with me—that I know of. I have no reason to think I won’t live to a miserable old age. I have no reason to be so afraid and yet; I suffer from terrible death anxiety. I lay awake most nights staring at the ceiling contemplating what death means and what it means to be a being that will die. The thoughts have begun to seep into the the daytime, stopping me in my tracks and bringing tears to my eyes. I’m obsessed, in the worst way. I’m scared, and I’m angry too, and I don’t know how to stop thinking about the end so that I can finally live.

I want to stop seeing all this time flying by and start seeing all the life I have in and around me instead. I want to be free, but I don’t understand how I can when my life seems so small and death, even if it comes 50 years from now, feels close enough to raise the hairs on the back of my neck. How is everyone else doing it?

When I reach out to tell people how I am feeling and get a little advice and reassurance I get the most puzzling looks and responses. No one seems to be crushed under inevitability the way that I am. No one else seems to be lying awake at night with their heart pounding in their ears wondering when the end might find them and how. No one worries how long it will take to be forgotten by the world and no one is devastated by the unfairness of it all. I don’t understand why I feel time slipping through my hands so painfully and no one else does.

I know I need help, but it’s hard to admit I am so weak and strange. I suppose I believe I’m somewhat beyond help or that there is no help I can be given by another person that I can’t give myself.

Still, I long to talk to people who suffer the way I do. I want to know I am not alone. I want someone to understand that to me the rest of humanity must be walking around blind to be so calm. There has to be someone out there who understand that this life feels like nothing but a death march to me.

I’ve tried to live mindfully, aware of every minute I am alive but I think I only got half the picture and that is why I suffer so now. When I became aware of time passing this way, I wanted to hold onto it, but no matter how hard I tried every moment they keep slipping, slipping, slipping, wasted and irretrievable out of my reach. And that is all I can see of my life now. All I see is how I am always dying. All I see is that I can never go back. I live in near constant panic over all the choices I have left to make, and the ones I won’t get to make before it all goes dark. I am furious over all the life I won’t get to live as the eons pass without me.

Becoming aware of every moment means becoming aware of how few moments there will be. Seeing what you have doesn’t stop you from wishing for what you can’t. Taking control of your life doesn’t stop you from seeing what you can never control. Living doesn’t stop you from dying one day.

So, I guess I need a new perspective. I need to find out what it is I am missing that everyone else has grasped.

I’ve been thinking to myself, rationalizing and trying to make sense of my fear of dying, of leaving my work unfinished, of one day not being, and of being forgotten. I try to remind myself that I have time and that even if I didn’t, even if the end came for me this very moment, I have had a good life. Not the best life, not exactly the life I planned, but a life most people in the world only dream of. I have been loved, and I have been happy more often than not, and maybe that is the answer to my problem.

Maybe instead of looking at what I won’t have, I need to focus on what I could have. Maybe I measure time all wrong, and that is why there seems to be so little of it left. Maybe, for humans, time is best measured in memorable moments, and emotion invoked.

So, what if I stopped counting all those seconds? Most of them were empty anyway and, if I’m honest, I hardly remember them once they are gone. Maybe a richer life isn’t found by hoarding time but in bringing time to life? The seconds that matter are the ones full of wanting and connection, of passion and curiosity, of novelty. I need to stop trying to hold on to every moment, trying to freeze myself and everything I love in place as if I could stay any longer by doing so. I need to move and make things happen.

After all, the only time I am not worrying about when my heart would stop beating is when it was beating out of love, or fear, or excitement. The only time I am not worrying about how much time I have left is when my time is filled up doing something new, fun, or fulfilling. I’ve become stagnant, tightened and tied up, I need to be loose, to laugh more, to let go!

If death is to come either way, if time is going to slip away no matter how tight my grip, I suppose it all ought to make it worth every second. My heart ought to come alive whenever possible. I should be learning, doing, loving, yearning, every day. I have to cling to the right things and measure time in laughter, kisses, candies, fears, and triumphs. I need more good books, good friends, new experiences, and new ways of living.

I don’t even think I need to make any huge changes in my life. I have plenty of love and laughter around me I only need to take the time to notice it and muster the courage to participate in it. In the moments where it doesn’t exist, I can certainly create it and make other lives as rich as they make mine. Even when I am alone, I can at least love myself. I can learn to enjoy my own company and make even the most mundane activities into a joy simply by being grateful and noticing the miracle that my life is.

I have only so much control over the length of my life, but the width and weight of it are up to me. I can have more life by measuring it by heart throbs rather than the ticking of a clock.

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Thanks for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

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If We Were Having Coffee // Stress, Depression, Fear, and Anxiety, Oh My!

Hello, dear readers! I’m so happy you’ve stopped by for a bit of coffee and catching up, it’s been too long since we last caught up and I’ve missed it more than you know.

This past week and the one before were so much busier than I anticipated and I just could find the time to get out of my head and onto the page or screen. But this morning I woke up and told myself that no matter what, no matter how hard or how late I had to work at it, I was going to write something and I wanted to start by catching up with you.

“Where coffee is served there is grace and splendor and friendship and happiness.”

— Sheik Ansari Djezeri Hanball Abd-al-Kadir

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my anxiety has been at an all time high this month.

It all started with my girlfriend. I’ve been so worried about her. She’s been working such long hours that I have to call her in the evenings and tell her to come home, and I made her agree not to work two weekends in a row either.  She’s under a lot of pressure, and she’s dealing with a new boss, an employee shortage, and tense meetings and phones call one after another. On top of all that there were two weeks of interviews and anticipation over a promotion, she was hoping for. Then came the disappointment when she heard she didn’t get it.

My heart is breaking for her, and I’m doing everything I can to pick up the slack at home, cleaning and cooking, the pets and keeping track of event and plans but it isn’t enough. I want to do more, I want to take over her job, or yell at her bosses, or find a way to get rich quick and take her away from all that crap. But I can’t. So, instead I sit at home, alone, and brood and worry and spiral out of control.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you I had quite a work week too. I’ve busier all summer than I anticipated and with the shortage of drivers, I’ve been doing my best to help management out with smaller tasks. I had lots of testing and training to do as well as get my own route figured out.

I may not have had much time for myself during the day, but I’m trying to keep in mind that I’m actually pretty lucky compared to some of my other coworkers. I got the route I wanted with decent schools, decent hours, and the driver I wanted to work with. I have little to stress about, I still have the respect of all my coworkers, and no one is watching me or riding me about anything.

It’s nice, and I’m grateful, but there is also guilt at watching so many of my coworker’s struggle and a feeling of being completely useless.

***

If we were having coffee I would tell you that I’ve made very little progress on overcoming my driving phobia and that is getting to me too. My girlfriend is working too much to work with me. I haven’t given up at all. I’m just thinking of it as a temporary setback, a postponement, that’s all. But I can’t help thinking being so down on myself about it. I feel like a failure. I feel stupid and cowardly. I feel like I am not a real adult or a whole person and I get depressed. Add the anxiety and a sprinkle of loneliness, and you can see why I just couldn’t write anything.

Plus, my death anxiety is getting so much worse. Last week I woke up in the middle of the night in a panic because I couldn’t get the thought out of my head that one day I was going to die and never get to see anyone I love again. I was afraid for my girlfriend and grieving for all the things I would never get to do. I was picturing my funeral and all my family and friends crying over me, and I was hurt knowing that everyone would go on living without me. Ever since then I can’t stop worrying if this is the die I will day and wondering about how it will happen.

I’m considering finally seeking help with this. I can’t go one trying to deal with it all on my own, and I can’t keep burdening my girlfriend. There is simply no comfort she can offer to calm me. I know there is no point in worrying about it and I know there is nothing I can do but live the best life I can, but I still can’t stop agonizing over it.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I haven’t even begun to process what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend. In case you haven’t been online or turned on the TV since Friday, a bunch of white supremacists descended on the city to protest the decision to remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee Saturday morning. In response, a large crowd of counter protesters showed up to challenge them.

From what I understand small street fights broke out, again and again, tear gas was used, rocks and bottles were thrown, and people were beaten with clubs until authorities declared an unlawful assembly and finally attempted to disperse both crowds. Sometime after that, the violence came to ahead when a man drove a vehicle into the counter protesters, killing one and injuring close to 20 others.

It’s so heart breaking that there is still so much hate in the world and frustrated by those who continue to believe racism is no longer a problem in this country. I’m furious that a life was lost while trying to speak up for what is right. That is as far as I have gotten emotionally.

If we were having coffee, I wouldn’t even touch on Trump, North Korea, or the terror of nuclear war hanging over all of us.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that all this stress and depression, fear and anxiety has actually brought my girlfriend and me closer together. In the past we would have been at each other throats, blaming one another for all the problems and questioning our connection but this time we’ve clung to one another.

Every night when my girlfriend comes home, no matter how late, we cook together while we vent and unload the day. Each of us listens and offers support and advice in turn, and afterward, we sit close on the couch to watch TV, share funny videos, and just feel warm and loved.

This week we’ll be celebrating 15 years together. We’ve almost been together longer than we were not together. We wanted to do something big for such milestone, but with work, we haven’t been able to plan. Instead, we’ll go to our favorite restaurant, and instead of gifts, I’ve asked that we make a real effort to start planning our wedding coming up in one year, no matter what!

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’m hoping that a return to a regular schedule and having a little less on my plate will mean that in this coming week there will be more writing, here and elsewhere.

I have a couple of blog post ideas and drafts that need outlining and editing, and I’m thinking about putting something together for Minimal Hero since it’s revamped and under new management. AND I still have to get a couple of writing samples together for the Bitch Media Fellowship for Writers. Time is running out, and I will never forgive myself if I don’t try.

I’m also going to get back to journaling. I’m hoping it will help me get things out and get my mind of off all the things I can’t control. Writing has gotten me through so much hardship in my life, and I have no doubt it can help me deal with all the bad stuff swirling around in my head too.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that as much as I have missed you and want to go one chatting all evening, I have to get going. There is so much to do around the house and so much to get ready for tomorrow, and I want to get it all done before tonight’s episode of Game of Thrones. Thank you so much for stopping by and for taking the time to listen, it means a lot.

I hope you’ve had a good week, and I hope your weekend was relaxing. I hope you were able to make time to take care of yourself, do the things you enjoy, and be with people you love. I hope this coming week will be better than the last and if it isn’t, I hope you that the energy and the strength to get through it.

Until next time…

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If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Written for the weekly Weekend Coffee Share link up hosted by Part-Time Monster

Featured image via reeqhair

Margaret Atwood on Existing in Two Places

Writing, like any art or discipline, takes daily practice and dedication to learning about the craft from those who have come before you. In learning, I like to teach, so each week I will take a piece of advice from the greats, both living and dead, famous and not, and apply their lessons to my own work and share my thoughts and progress with you.

This week I have chosen a quote from the Canadian poet and novelist, Margaret Atwood.

mg_5527Margaret Eleanor Atwood was born on November 18, 1939, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Because of her father’s work and research in forest entomology, Atwood spent much of her childhood in the backwoods of northern Quebec and traveling back and forth between Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, and Toronto. She did not attend school full-time until she was eight years old.

Atwood began writing plays and poems at the age of six and realized she wanted to write professionally by the time she was 16.

In 1957, she began studying at Victoria College in the University of Toronto, where she published poems and articles in Acta Victoriana, the college literary journal. She graduated in 1961 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in philosophy and French.

She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction and is perhaps best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000.

She has also published fifteen books of poetry. Many of her poems have been inspired by myths and fairy tales, which have been interests of hers from an early age. She has also published four collections of stories and three collections of unclassifiable short prose works.

Atwood is also the inventor, and developer, of the LongPen and associated technologies that facilitate the remote robotic writing of documents.

She is a noted humanist, and, in 1987, she was named Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association.

“I exist in two places,
here and where you are.”

— Margaret Atwood

This week I’m thinking a lot about Atwood and her book The Handmaid’s Tale. Of course, because today her book becomes a show, and I’m pretty stoked about that since I recently read it, but I’ve also been thinking about time. I’ve been thinking about what it means to be the writer and the reader, and for time to pass between both. I’ve been wondering what it means for me to exist as I am now, and for me to exist again with you when you read these words. I wonder in what forms I will exist when I am read after I am long gone?

I know that I am a human and I know that all humans are mortal and still my own death seems impossible to me. How can there ever come a time when I will not breathe, or think, or write, or love, or look to the sky and feel small, and here, and so myself and so a part of everything that exists? How can there come a time when my heart stops and with it the thoughts in my head while the world goes on spinning and humans go one warring, inventing, and evolving, doing things I will never witness or be a part of?

This makes no sense, and yet it is a certainty, and it hurts me so every time I remember it.

I am afraid, I admit, not to be anymore. I want to face the fact, but I also want to keep it out of my mind. Why let the inevitable distract me and keep me frozen? Then again, the fear can be a motivating and focusing force until my end comes. If I want to live on after my death, I must remember that I am going to die and use what I have to limit my fading into the nothingness.

When I read the works of other writers they come into me, into my time and place, or some form of them does anyway, and I am happy to give them life again. I suppose I want a bit of that too. I want to know what it feels like to exist again and again and yet still be me, growing and changing here and now.

I want to live in every person and in every time after this one and words are the only way to do that.. It is a selfish thing to want, but I can’t help wanting it either. I am afraid of not being.

I am angry too. To be limited to this body, to this mind, and to this time feels so petty and unfair. One day there may be better ways to circumvent these pesky limitations, but for now, all I have are words. I have the imperfect ability to write down who I am and the improbable hope that in the future, minutes or eons from now, you will read them and remember me.

But who will it be that you remember? By the time this goes out I will be a little different, and the longer the distance between now and then the more the difference between the Lisa that wrote this and the Lisa that exists. So, I suppose no part of me will live on really, only bits of who I was. Only a snapshot in my history. Still, it’s all I have, and I am happy to give it to you.

Because even though I am not that Lisa anymore that does not mean she cannot be of some use. She can be a friend, a comfort, and warning, or a dream for you. She can walk with you when you feel alone, same as she walks within me. She can exist far longer than I. She can travel through space and time and be what I cannot.

And because the Lisa I am now is jealous of where that past me is able to go and where she is able to be, I will send this out and immediately sit sown to write again. I will send myself out to you over and over again, and one day, if all my works, everything from my little notes and journal entries, to the stories I’ve endeavored to tell here, and the books I may one day write, were to be put together it would be the closest a person could come to time travel. To real, complete, existence in another place and time.

I hope it happens for me one day, and that something like magic will allow me to feel what it is like to be here and there, now and then, and me, with you.

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Check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + some of my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Biographical information via Wikipedia and Goodreads

See also: Margaret Atwood on Writing Poetry

Featured image via Unsplash