Big life moments always mark the passage of time. They make us stop in the middle of our obligations and habits and say “oh, things are changing and they’re never gonna be the same.”
I had a few of them happen in quick succession recently. The first was a good one. My daughter went to her friend’s quinceañera. There were a group of girls who had been friends since kindergarten through Girl Scouts and now they were all in high school.
Next was my uncle’s death. Richie was a tall, strong, vigorous man who was always active and never slowed down. We used to call him Richie the whale (not a size thing) because he would swim back and forth beyond the breakers at the beach for long periods of time. This year, he descended quickly into dementia before a stroke put him in the hospital. My theory is that in the beginning of the year, when his mind started to decline, he also had a stroke that no one noticed. It makes sense but there’s nothing to be done about it either way.
Two people my age died within weeks of each other. One was a former co-worker whose obituary asked for donations to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. The other was a high school friend who had a skinny build but didn’t eat right or exercise. Heart attack in his 40s.
Unfortunately, it’s the bad life moments that make us reflect more. Maybe I’m just past the age of going to weddings and baby showers, and death is the only life moment left. Is retirement a life moment? For those lucky enough to do so, I guess it is.
Life moments are usually followed by motivation. I’m going to eat better. Exercise. Take up that hobby I’ve always meant to. No one comes home from a funeral and thinks “I’m going to spend more time on my phone.”
Obviously, we don’t know when our time is going to come. I don’t want to write this with the idea that you have to be maximally operational 110% of the time. I struggle with anxiety so I always have to tamp down any motivation or else I’m going to be buzzing around like a fly stuck in a car for the rest of the day.
The problem with motivation is that it comes with guilt if you don’t accomplish your goals. If you haven’t stuck to your New Year’s Resolution by the time February rolls around, you beat yourself up over it. After a few missed goals, you stop making any at all.
I have a friend who always tells me I need to waste more time. Play a video game for an hour. Watch a stupid movie. He’s right, of course.
Is it possible to push yourself to relax? It seems an impossible goal, but one to strive for. Those life moments are going to hit you, whether you want them to or not. Might as well enjoy the ride.
Time isn’t on our side and it’s never going to let us win. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t play.