Nothing lives forever. And while we are aware of this, many of us still live as if we are granted tomorrow. We allow words to go unspoken. We bury hopes and dreams in the coffin of someday and use excuses to stifle the nudging of our soul. But if you stop and take a moment to quiet the noise and remove yourself from the busyness of life, what is important? What do you desire?
As I lay in bed last night, quietly meditating, my soul spoke to my heart.
The time is now, it whispered.
We live in a world of “right now” and “instant gratification.” Yet, paradoxically, due to these standards, we often delay the truly important things in order to keep up with the day-to-day of what it takes to survive in a world based upon obtaining things.
“Sorry, can’t play right now, Mommy has to finish this piece to afford Christmas. It’s right around the corner, you know.”
“Dad, I wish we could afford to fly over but by the time everything is said and done — that’s almost $8K for us. The truck is barely making it. We are in the middle of a pandemic. You know how it goes. Maybe next year, okay?”
And well, you know how the story goes…there’s always a next year or tomorrow. But the truth of the matter is we are only fooling ourselves. We aren’t guaranteed next year, let alone our next breath. Yet it’s a phrase we say, time and time again. On the flipside, we can’t just toss out our responsibilities and chase our every whim. There are consequences. Bills & mortgages left unpaid equal no heat, no electricity, or no home at all. Relationships left unnurtured could result in regret, guilt, and shame. All of our choices have consequences.
Saying the time is now and integrating it is the equivalent of me deciding to live on pizza for the rest of my life. At some point the reality of my situation is going to catch up with me.
Balance, young grasshopper. Life is balance.
How To Find Out What You Value Most
Let’s take things one step at a time. Before we can fully immerse ourselves in the present and make time for the things we love, we must figure out what these things are.
So how do you know what’s important to you? How do know what you truly value or desire? It’s easy to become confused when we live in a world that inundates us with messages that tell us what will make us happier. “Buy this. Do that. You are successful if…” And instant gratification is right there to fill our receptors with pleasure-based dopamine to reinforce our beliefs that things provide us with happiness.
This may sound counterintuitive but one of the ways to find out what you value most is to pay attention to what things cause you the most grief when you lose them.
What have you lost that has caused you the deepest amount of pain? What do you fear losing the most? What couldn’t you live without?
Paying attention to our reactions when we lose something can teach us invaluable information about ourselves. Moreover, you will begin to gain an understanding as to your own hierarchy. Let me demonstrate this for you.
I always thought that having my PhD was my ultimate goal. I was somebody if I earned my PhD. As a kid who grew up as trailer park trash, I was determined to escape any part of life that reminded me of the dead end street I lived on. Obtaining my doctorate equated a perceived status of overcoming my upbringing of drugs, alcoholism, domestic violence, abuse, and prison careers.
And then I miscarried my first child. Suddenly, I was thrown into a world of confusion where the idea that I might not be able to have children overrode my dream to earn my PhD. In that moment, I realized that what I truly desired wasn’t a fancy degree, it was to change the future of my legacy; to love someone in the way that I never was and to give them hope that a future exists beyond the greyness that I survived.
Loss teaches us what is important to us.
The Value of Time
It also teaches us the value of time. It’s amazing how many “somedays” we manage to tuck in our back pockets yet never make something a priority until the threat of losing it comes along.
“Your dad has cancer.”
Just months earlier, before the “C” word was ever part of our vocabulary, we explained why we couldn’t make the trip to Ireland to come see him. Money. Kids. Work. The excuses were endless.
Yet, when faced with the potential of loss — suddenly, nothing else mattered in that moment. Covid-19, travel restrictions, complexities, arguments, annoyances, bitterness— none of it mattered. Previous financial worries get reframed to “we’ll throw it on the credit card” as the present threat of loss takes precedence.
In that moment, all there is, is a desire to take in what time you have left; to soak up the precious present with the ones you love. The thought of losing someone or something you love makes you realize what you truly value.
Life Goes On
Around us the world continues.
When the man I knew as my dad slowly lost his fight to sepsis, it was as if two worlds existed. The moment I entered his hospital room, time dissolved into experience. Every breath, every sound, every struggle was a reminder to me of one more moment I had with him. No one else existed in this space. I wasn’t a mom. I wasn’t a wife. I was a girl praying for more time.
Yet, the moment I stepped back out of the room, it was as if someone hit play and life continued on as if I had never left. To everyone else, I was a reflection of them in the form of another car on the road, another shopper in line, or another employee ready to take their money.
For those who recognized my loss, life paused for a brief moment. Sympathy cards were mailed, hugs were given, meals were made, and condolences were offered. And then pause is released and the world determines that it’s time for you to move on.
If only grief knew the world’s time frame.
There was a lesson nestled in the world’s moving on; the time to act is now. Just as I never saw sepsis taking my dad’s life, I never expected to get the news that my friend John was found dead or that I had Crohn’s disease in my large intestine. While all of these circumstances were outside my control, my ability to fully experience life was within my grasp.
The Time is Now
Here’s the truth: There is nothing you can do to stop loss.
Life is filled with loss. Life is filled with pain. Life is filled with suffering.
No amount of playing it safe, saving up for a rainy day, or investing in the perfect retirement plan will protect you when death shows up at your door. What is meant for you will happen whether you want it to or not.
But this knowledge is a gift.
It allows you to recognize that while the cycle of human “life” continues on, you get a choice in how you experience it. The world will try to convince you that you must play by the rules in order to obtain fulfillment. And while there are certain rules we have to abide by in order to survive, know that you have the power to make time for what’s important to you.
Joseph Campbell, an American literature professor best known for his work on mythology, encouraged us to follow our bliss. In doing so, he proposed, “you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” Knowing what you value and making the conscious choice to make it a priority in your life increases happiness with a deep satisfaction that cannot be fulfilled in any other way.
As I lay in bed that night, the reality that a tragic accident could happen at any moment occurred to me. I thought about the day’s events and how I had been dismissive with my son who wanted to play outside with me.
“We’ll play tomorrow,” I said.
I thought about my father-in-law’s cancer diagnosis and the loss of relationships. I thought about the fragility of life compared to the indescribable fulfillment of love.
For me, my bliss — my purpose, is found in relationships.
Each interaction is an opportunity for me to express love in the form of compassion, forgiveness, and healing. My soul is complete when I am running in the yard chasing after my boys and tickling them until they fall to the ground. My soul spreads its wings when I am smiling at a stranger, fully taking in the moment, to recognize the beauty I am surrounded by.
Loss has helped me understand that all the money in the world pales in comparison to the feeling I get when I tell someone I love them.
I don’t want to be that mom that cries at her son’s funeral wishing she would’ve taken the time to stop and play. I don’t want to be the woman who looks around at the writing world and gives up before she’s begun. And I don’t want to be the person who made a million excuses to pursue my dreams because I was too busy trying to appease society.
Here before us is a life ready to be lived!
Dreams and ideas are nudging you to grasp them before it’s too late. Love is asking you to take a risk even though you’ve been hurt before. If you knew you only had a limited time left, what would you do differently? The time is now because the truth is: your time is limited. Allow that message to fully sink in and then put it into action. Grab hold of your bliss while you still can.
The time to live is now~