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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Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

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Do Not Forget Your Frailty

Hello, and happy Monday Dear Reader. I hope your weekend was relaxing, and you feel ready to take on the demands of the work week. I know Monday’s have gotten a bad reputation over the years, but I am aiming to change that. Can you believe that we spend one whole day out of the week feeling bitter and unmotivated? Let’s change that, shall we? Let’s not waste another week starting off on the wrong foot.

Let’s think of Monday’s like a new start, another chance to get it right. Let’s think of Monday’s like the first step to meeting our goals and getting shit done.

For me, this Monday is a hard one. In fact, I beg your forgiveness in the lateness of this post. My baby niece might be on her way to being born today; my dog managed to hurt herself, and my work day has been more draining than usual. Thankfully, I will be heading back home soon.

(How frail the human heart must be —
a throbbing pulse, a trembling thing —
a fragile, shining instrument
of crystal, which can either weep,
or sing.)

Sylvia Plath

Most of the time I encourage people to remember their strengths but this week, I encourage you to remember their fragility. In the body, yes, but more than that, remember your emotional fragility.

When you play a sport or do any intense emotional activity, you wear protective equipment. You wear the right footwear, you wear pads, you wear a mouth guard and a cup. Before you can play you have to practice. You learn how to throw the ball. You learn the plays. You get to know your team. Before every game, you have to warm up. You do all of this so that you can play the game effectively and without injury.

After years of play, though, an injury is just about inevitable. When it happens you carried off the field, you are seen by a doctor who specializes in the part of the body that was hurt. You are looked over, diagnosed, and given instructions to rest and rehabilitate and when your body is ready, you begin therapy.

Bodily injury is talked very seriously but emotional injury isn’t. When you pull an emotional muscle, you do not stop to rest the part of you that is hurt. You do not see a doctor to diagnose the problem and plan your recovery. You tell yourself it isn’t that bad. You go on like the hurt never happened. You do your best to walk it off. This will only result in weakened resistance and susceptibility to further pain.

In any physical activity, you are best served by remembering what the body is capable of and how to do what you do safely. We are given the tools we need to protect ourselves and rely on coaches and teammates to help us along.

In life, we aren’t given the tools we need to protect our hearts. We are never taught what our emotions should and shouldn’t do. We are never encouraged to learn our feeling words, to learn how to express ourselves, and we are not given a safe space to feel our feelings safely.

The emotional self is much more fragile than the body. We are easily injured; sometimes the hurts are big but fewer and farther between. Sometimes they are smaller but frequent, building up over time. The result is the same, though, a breaking down of the mental resistances, like the knee or hip bone, slowly giving out after years of hard hits on a field.

The difference is when our hearts get hurt there is no one to carry us out of the environment that hurts. There is no doctor readily available to diagnose you. There is no time to rest or rehabilitate. Therapy is not encouraged.

So you must do all you can to care for yourself, and the first step is to know and remember your weakness. Remember to protect your most vulnerable parts. Do not make the mistake of thinking you are invincible or impervious to the blows to your soul. The world is often a harsh and hostile place for humans to exist, do your best to make a place within yourself where you can retreat when things become too much.

If you get hurt, give yourself time to rest. Go easy on the parts that have been injured lest they be injured further. Work yourself up to normal activity as slowly as you can.

Rest and rehabilitate.

Therapy is encouraged.

Artists instinctively want to reflect humanity, their own and each other’s, in all its intermittent virtue and vitality, frailty and fallibility.

// Tom Hiddleston

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Image via Unsplash

Written in response to The Daily Post prompt: Frail

Things You Said to Me

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“I Love You”

I met my girlfriend during a really bad time in my life. I had just turned 17 and my mom had kicked me out. I had dropped out of school and moved in with one of my aunts and her two teenage daughters. At about that same time I had decided to come out to my family and the older of the two daughters said she knew the perfect girl for me, her best friend.

We met in May, I had just turned 17 and she had not yet turned 16. That summer felt like something out of a movie. We were young but we took things slow, just going to the movies, talking on the phone, hanging out at lunch, that sort of thing. It was wonderful. I pretty much loved her from the very beginning. That August I got up the courage to ask her, over the phone, in the most awkward way possible, if she would be my girlfriend. She laughed at me and said yes and that was the happiest moment of my life, up until then.

I had been with other girls before her, but nothing like a real grown up relationship. In order to protect our pride we both pretended like this was nothing, we didn’t want love and we did nothing that resembled intimacy. Our feelings got away from us though, and shortly after midnight on New Years Day, 2003, she told me that she loved me. That night we held each other and fell asleep in each other’s arms for the first time.

“I Treat You Like This Because You Let Me”

Fast forward a few years, we’re living together and the stress of bills and the pressure of trying to be grown ups was taking its toll. I wasn’t measuring up to her ideas of what a girlfriend should be. In all honesty I was failing miserably. My emotional crap was coming to the surface and she was taking care of me. Her emotional crap was coming to the surface and she was taking it out on me. Our fights would start over the the smallest, pettiest things and last for hours. She would yell and say mean things she didn’t mean and I would cry and ask her to stop, to just comfort me. She always pushed me further away though, and told me to stop being a victim. Everything changed when one night, during one of our frequent late night fights, I was crying in the doorway of our bedroom, asking her why she was so mean to me, why was she treating me like this? She looked me in the eye and told me she treated me that way because I let her. I changed that night and I decided to start fighting fire with fire.

“I Seem Strong on the Outside, But Deep Down I’m Fragile”

After that I got mean. I stopped caring and said all the mean things I thought every time we fought. This wasn’t me though and  I started to feel so much guilt and I hated who I was becoming. I decided I couldn’t live like that anymore and sat her down one evening to tell her this wasn’t working. She cried and we agreed to take a break but the intention was to work on things and rebuild our relationship. And then the worst thing happened…..a friend of mine started making me feel better then she did. Unknowingly, and unintentionally, I started having an emotional affair. She found out about it and we fought like never before. She told me not to come home….

For over a year after that I felt confused about which direction to head, whether I stay with her or go? And during that time I watched her emotional state deteriorate. She had always been so strong but to see her break down and cry in front of me, I knew there was a side of her that was vulnerable and sad. I loved her so much then….I had thought she didn’t love me, that she didn’t care about me at all, but she did, maybe she just never knew how to show it. I realized that the whole time our relationship had been falling apart I had stood up on my high horse and thought myself the innocent one. I wasn’t though, she needed me to help her too, to show her how to be open and vulnerable because without that we couldn’t truly understand and love each other.

We fought a lot then, almost daily, and one night, both of us sitting on the hallway floor, emotionally exhausted, she told me that all that time she had tried to be so strong, but deep down she was fragile. For her to admit that to me, I knew that she not only loved me very deeply, but that I had also hurt her very deeply. I knew then I wanted to be with her. I wanted to work things out and do everything I could to get us back to where we had been before, young and so in love.

“I Thought You Were Perfect”

I had messed up so much, I thought there was no way I could fix things. Hell I had even made some mistakes more than once! I told her she was the one I wanted, I begged her to take me back and she agreed. It was a hard road though, and I fucked up a lot along the way. She didn’t trust me and nothing I did was right. At first I didn’t understand, if she loved me, why couldn’t things go back to the way they were?

One day we were talking about it and she told me the reason. The years before the break up I had always just been her girl and I had always done the right thing. The years when we were apart, I had hurt her so badly that her whole view of me had changed. I was no longer perfect in her eyes. Hearing that from her hurt so badly, even though I deserved it. Someone had loved me and thought I was the most perfect thing, and I had fucked that all up. I was no longer good and all the bad things I had thought about myself were true. I was a bad person……

“Maybe I’m Not The Right Person For You”

I kept trying though. Working everyday to show her that I really did want her and only her. We talked a lot and we realized that we were both to blame for our relationship falling apart. She saw things from my perspective and knew that she had not treated me well. I was still hurt by things she had said to me during those fights and I was afraid of becoming an emotional punching bag again. When we fought I panicked, thinking she would go back to basically hating me again. I was so scared to upset her that she started to think maybe we could never come back from things we had said to each other. Too much damage had been done.

She ask me again and again if maybe was was not the right person for me. Maybe I did need to go find someone else who would love me the way I needed to be loved. I respond every time by telling her that she is the perfect person for me. See I understand that we had been so young and we had been trying to be what we thought a couple should be and neither of us was happy that way. We needed to just be us. We needed patience and communication and above all, acceptance, and those things take work, everyday.

“I Love You”

Things have been getting better and better and we have been closer than ever. I strive everyday to let her know how much I love her and that I am her partner in everything we do. She does her best to show me that she loves me too and she cares about my feelings and respects me. We are getting back on track and figuring out what we want, not what we should want. As corny as it sounds communication really is key. Lots of talking, lots, and lots of talking. It sounds tiring but the reward is being in a relationship with someone who truly is your best friend. At first it was hard but slowly we both, mostly me, learned to let go of our embarrassment and fear and to just tell the other how we really felt and what we really thought. We both also learned how to listen and accept the other persons feelings. We aren’t perfect and we still slip back into bad ha it’s sometimes but we just keep trying and the effort is enough.

“Yes”

Last spring I began planning to propose. It was hard finding a ring and buying it without her knowing. I worked with an artist on Etsy and ended up with a beautiful, custom ring with an 8 ct. raw sapphire, her favorite. I decided to pop the question on the anniversary of the day I asked her to be my girlfriend, August 18th.

We decided to get a hotel room and spend the weekend downtown. We went to dinner that night and I won’t tell the whole story here but she said yes and it was the happiest moment of my life! Almost 12 years after we first met we are finally getting married but honestly, in my heart I know we have already been married for a long time and we have already loved each other “for better or for worse”.

I think maybe now she might see me more the way she saw me before everything got so messed up. Not perfect, I know I will never be perfect like that to her again, but maybe a different kind of perfect, a more real kind of perfect. Before what she saw of me was an illusion but now she sees all of me and loves all of me, flaws and all. And that, I have learned, is what real love is.

 

 

 

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