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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Work From Where You Are

“In human life, if you feel that you have made a mistake, you don’t try to undo the past or the present, but you just accept where you are and work from there. Tremendous openness as to where you are is necessary.”

— Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Transcending Madness

For a long time now I have been trying to move beyond this blog and into writing that is more challenging and more rewarding too. I’ve had a few opportunities, but they’ve all fizzled out. Some of them I missed, some I messed up, some simply faded away, and now I’m beginning to feel discouraged. I’m unsure of where I want to go and wholly ignorant of how to get there even if I did.

All of this has snowballed, and these last few weeks I’ve gotten worse. I am distracted, lost, and honestly, afraid.

I’m watching other people more and more. Other writers who are moving on, finding jobs and a following and I’m trying to puzzle out how they got there. I’m trying to figure out the formula to progress and telling myself that it eludes me, but that is a lie. I know how to get there, but I just can’t move. I’d rather spin my wheels instead because it feels safe. You can’t fail if you never start, right? That’s another lie. I am failing every day that I do nothing, but I want to stop. I want to let go.

This week I watched my girlfriend start from nothing, a hobby, something to do for fun, and suddenly she was on a path forward. Things happened for her, and I am jealous, but instead of letting my jealousy further hold me back, I’m trying to learn something from watching her.

She started by making birthday cards for fun using watercolor paints and paper. Then she made some for our mothers on Mother’s day, then Father’s day, then one for my cousin’s daughter’s dance recital.  That cousin took the card to work to show off to co-workers, and soon my girlfriend got a text asking if she could make five congratulatory cards each for a new baby and a new home.

She worked all week to get those ten cards done not once stopping to worry about whether they would be liked or what would happen after. She focused on right now. She used what she had and simply started.

We’re not sure what will happen yet, but even when I bring up future possibilities, she hushes me. She isn’t on that step yet she tells me. She is simply having fun and seeing where it leads. She is simply doing the work without worry.

I want so badly to be like that. To just do it without caring what other people will think. I don’t want to freeze up because I am comparing myself to others or doubting my own talent. I want to just do what feels good, what is fun, what interests me and share it with others, the same as her. I’m not positive that this way will work for me, but I do know that what I have been doing isn’t getting me anywhere. What I’ve been doing has been holding me back.

What I’ve been doing is a lot more consuming than producing. What I have been doing is trying to find what it is that other people have that I don’t. What I have been doing is making a whole lot of plans and taking almost no action. What I have been doing is talking the talk and standing completely still. I have been failing by refusing to act. I have made a mistake by doing nothing because I thought I could only do something very little, and stupid, and uninteresting, and ugly…That was a lie too.

So, I have accepted where I am, and I have beat myself up enough for it. Now it’s time to start again, again. This isn’t the first time I have admitted to being frozen by self-hate and fear, but the difference is, I have seen first hand what just working and worrying about nothing more than this day and this task can do.

I am incredibly proud of my girlfriend and a bit jealous that she could do so easily what I am struggling with week after week, but again, I have to let that go and move forward on my own path.

If you have been like me, unsure not only of which road to take but which road you are worthy of walking, take some time to look around, admit your mistake, and take stock of your options. Then take a breath, forgive yourself, and take your eyes off the horizon. Stop looking at the people around you. Stop looking at where you wish you were. Stop looking at where you messed up and missed out. Just look down.

Look down until you can only see the next step you must take. Focus on what you want to do today, not next week, not five years from now. Focus on what you want to do right now because it feels good and right.

Remember why you started in the first place. You didn’t start because you thought you would be perfect or the best, or because you thought you would be popular, go viral, or get rich. You started because this is simply what you enjoy doing. So, just enjoy doing it.

Take it one step at a time and let your feet and your passion lead you where you want to go.

***

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Featured image via Unsplash

May Your Terror Make You Brave

Hello, and happy Tuesday friends! I hope you all got to enjoy the holiday and are starting your work week a whole day later. Three-day weekends can be nice, but sometimes the worst kinds of Mondays are the ones that land on a Tuesday. You wind up more tired, less motivated, and more aware of everything you don’t like about your life. All you want to do is crawl back into bed, I know.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s think of think of today as a fresh start, a reset of sorts. Let’s take this opportunity to do it differently. Let’s make the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world, okay?

“may I never lose
that terror
that keeps me brave”

— Audre Lorde, The Black Unicorn: Poems “Solstice”

The world is getting to be a scarier and scarier place. Every day I wake up and turn on the news, despite my anxiety, and hear nothing but war and death and instability. These things used to happen elsewhere and to other people. I used to feel safe in my city and in my little bubble, but the bad things are creeping closer and closer, and I’m having to really confront what kind of person I will be in this new world.

I’ll be honest, sometimes I am afraid to go places. I am afraid of events that draw big crowds and attention. I am afraid that a day out with my girlfriend will end in tragedy. I am afraid of the hatred all around me.

I know it isn’t people who are the enemy but ideas and ideas can lurk in any skin, age, and gender. Unlike those who only see the danger from the other side, I see it everywhere. I feel the tension all around me, and I am terrified to become a casualty of it.

I want to hide away, but I am trying hard not to let my fear win, but there is a new terror now. I am afraid of how I will act if tragedy does hit close to me.

I’m not just talking about guns and bombs either. Every day there are new videos posted online of fights, assaults, and harassment based on race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation and in nearly everyone there are bystanders in the background watching it all happening and doing nothing. The hateful know that the natural tendency of the general public is to keep silent and keep to themselves. No one wants to get involved, no one wants to get hurt.

I never want to be one of those people. In my eyes, they are almost as guilty as the perpetrator. I want to be one of the ones who stands up for what is right.

But then, last week, two men were killed and another injured for doing just that. They stood up to a man ranting and directing hatred at two young women, and they were attacked for it. I won’t lie, that has me terrified now too.

There was a time when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, lately, it seems there is no end to the way people can terrorize one another and no end in sight for the war happening in secret all around us. So, what can I do when I feel too afraid to leave the house and too afraid to let those who want to keep me there win?

I try to remember the worst case scenario. Not the hatred, not the violence, not even the prospect of losing my life. No, the worst case scenario is to become something I’m not. To become a part of the problem. To let my fear control me, or worse, turn me into someone filled with hatred and willing to do anything to feel safe again.

This week, when the world all around you feels on the verge of violence, and you worry you might be the next victim, remember that there are worse things than death and that there are ways to live and die that are preferable to others.

What I am really afraid of is living my life cooped up and alone, cut off from humanity. I love people. I love experiencing life alongside other people. I want to feel like I am part of a community. I want to feel joy, and wonder, and curiosity with others. I want to feel connected to the rest of the world. That is a big part of what makes life worth living. Other people!

We should be able to go out and be with each other without feeling so afraid. Human beings are social creatures. Human beings are also rare creatures in this universe. We should be treating each other better than we are and we should be helping each other learn how.

What we all should be afraid of is being part of the reason everything keeps falling apart. What we should be terrified of is becoming more and more disconnected from one another. What should be keeping us up at night is the prospect of losing our humanity and of becoming something dark, and lonely, and mean.

We should be afraid of becoming ruled by fear. We should be afraid of succumbing to evil ideas about who deserves to eat, to work, to live. We should be afraid of succumbing to ideas about when we should act and when we should speak up.

I don’t want to be too afraid to be human. I don’t want to live my life cowering inside, or holding back, or keeping quiet when I see people being hurt. The terror of what I might become is what will keep me brave.

How about you?

***

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Featured image via Unsplash

Tired of Wandering

Tired of wandering through fog and forest, I stop, and
swing my ax wide to satisfying thunk and thud. There,
one leg off at the knee, one left to go.

***

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Written in response to Ink in Third’s Three Line Thursday Prompt: Clearing

Featured image via Unsplash

 

If We Were Having Coffee // East of Eden and Conquering My Fears

Hello, dear readers! Happy Sunday morning to you all. Thank you for stopping by for a quick cup of Joe and a quick catching up. I have a date in a couple of hours with my beautiful lady. We heading to our favorite movie theater for some brunch a screening of Breakfast at Tiffany’s—one of my favorite movies ever!—and afterward, we are visiting my father to celebrate his birthday.

But I normally ramble on so much I am sure you could use the break.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I had a pretty good week! My complaints about work last week have gotten a little better. The driver I’m working with has laid off the preaching and lecturing, although she is still a terrible driver. The student has warmed to me. She is nonverbal and typically pays those around her no mind, but every once in awhile she will hold my arm and squeeze it or take off her shoes and laugh as I put them back on her over and over again.

She did hit me once, but it wasn’t personal, just another game to her and a reminder to me not to drop my guard again.

My girlfriend isn’t having such a good time at work. Where I just ride along on my little route, she over the years has risen through promotion after promotion to become the one in charge of making all the routes. She has a team but as their manager, she handles all the big problems and the angry parents. The beginning of a school year is her busiest and most stressful time. She’s working close to 12 hours a day, and I every day worry about her a little more.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I have a pen pal! An email pen pal, or more specifically an “Awl Pal”.

The Awl is an online publication with the motto “Be Less Stupid”. They are pretty awesome, and they have a pretty awesome newsletter that “changes in theme, format, and frequency every week “. A few newsletters ago they asked subscribers to send in some info, and they would pair them off into “Awl Pals.”

I was paired up with Jeff, who I won’t tell you anything about because he is a “Google-able” person. We’ve started emailing back and forth, and it’s been fun to learn about someone who I have never met and live clear across the country.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I have finally conquered Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. It was a hard read, but that doesn’t mean it was bad. Quite the opposite, it was one of the most amazing books I have ever read. It was funny, and emotional, and confusing, and it had some important things to say about men and war. The characters really got to me too. I’ve been dreaming about them, and I am sad and frustrated by what they went through.

I started reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck this week, and I am positive it will be another one of my favorites too. From the very first page I was hooked. I love the way he writes his descriptions of the land and the references to biblical stories is very interesting. I expect I’ll finish it soon since I can’t put the damn thing down.

***

If we were having coffee, I would very quickly tell you that tomorrow is the big day! The day I take my first adult driving class. For those of you who might not know, I have a very strong phobia of driving and so, at 31 years old, I still don’t have a license. Unfortunately, Denver isn’t the kind of city that is easy to get around without a car, and I have to find a way to get over this fear as soon as possible.

I did a little research and because the fear of driving is not entirely irrational it is very hard to get over. Know one can tell me that I will be safe because I know that people get into accidents and even die every day in cars. But one thing I can do is get instruction from a certified instructor. My girlfriend has been trying to teach me, and although she is very good, I worry she may be forgetting something or not telling me something in a way I can fully understand. Taking a class will make me feel more at ease and more confident, hopefully.

Wish me luck!

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I have to get going now. We’ll be heading to the theater soon, and I still have laundry to do. I really hope you had a great week, and I hope your weekend has been a relaxing and rejuvenating one.

Please, drop a note in the comments and let me know how you have been. This evening, after I’ve made it back home, I’ll check up on you all.

Until next time :)

***

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Because I Always Feel Like Running

I always feel like running.

I always feel tense, no matter where I am, or who I am with. Sometimes it is only a little, like when I am only hyper-aware of my surroundings. Sometimes it is worse, my hands are balled into fists, my jaw in cycles between clenched and unclenched, and my shoulders are raised. When it is really bad I start to twitch, first my right eye, then my shoulder, then the muscles in my thighs. I feel trapped, I feel surrounded, I feel as if I am on my way toward the danger even as I sit here perfectly still. I am in a constant state of worry, of fear, of fight or flight from death, and I need to get away.

But where do you run to escape the dangers around every corner. Cover and safety are illusions, do not be fooled. You cannot hide from Death, the only question is, is it running at you as fast as it can, or is it slowly stalking you, getting ever nearer, wearing you down for easier prey? Death could come in any form, a slip, a fall, an unknown heart condition. It could come in the form of a stray bullet, a four-car pile-up, or a burglar in the night. Death is approaching, of that, there is no doubt. No matter where you run, no matter where you hide, it is keeping pace. It watches always and it never rests.

Now I am tired. My heart beats hard, and I get the feeling it may stop. I cannot focus and I cannot just be. My mind races with all the things that can go wrong and even in my sleep I dream of being chased and threatened with violence and harm.

I am told to relax, to take it easy, to put my mind to work on other things, but it isn’t so easy. Can’t people see that staying put is what is dangerous? Can’t people see that through running I can save my life? Why does no one else run? Maybe no one sees the dangers that I do. Maybe the danger is in my head and no one else’s?

No one really cares when you are scared. You must always be strong and you must always appear relaxed. You can’t talk about it, you can’t look like it, and you definitely can’t act on it. So I sit here, tense and twitching, scared and worried, watchful and anxious, waiting for the danger I know is coming. I will sit here and plan and plot to escape and wait for a reason to run.

Because I always feel like running.

***

Inspired by the poem Running by the late, great Gil Scott-Heron.

Featured image by D Sharon Pruitt , CC BY 2.0, via Wikipedia

Sleep Paralysis(?)

What horror is this?

Are you are awake?
   (maybe)
Are you sleeping still?
   (not likely)
Is this hell?
   (Oh my God)

Your mind is sharp
but your body,
it seems to have lost touch
   try to move
   try to see
   try to scream
      (all in vain)

Your chest
pressed tight
   your heart
   beats rapidly
      your eyes
      fixed shut

You focus in your terror
   (Is something in here with you?)
You strain to make sense of it
   (Is something breathing against you?)
You remember the old stories
   (Are the demons truly real?)
There is no doubt
   (You must be dead!)

Suddenly!
With a gasp!
Mind and body reconnect,
   you sit up
   you see nothing
   you laugh
   you are fine
It was only,
after all,
a bit of sleep paralysis!

   (Or was it?)

*************

Written in response to Blogging U. course Writing 101: A Poem a Day assignment, Sleep.

Featured image: The Nightmare by John Henry Fuseli

The Nightmare The early meaning of “nightmare” included the sleeper’s experience of weight on the chest combined with sleep paralysis, dyspnea, or a feeling of dread. The painting incorporates a variety of imagery associated with these ideas, depicting a mare’s head and a demon crouched atop the woman.