Carpe Jugulum

The Never Too Late at Nick’s Cove on Tomales Bay.

I wanted to speak more about a life trap I fell into and many others do too. The trap is to think that you have a good chance of living into your eighties. When I turned 40, I remember thinking, “well at least I have a whole second half of life to live.” Turns out my clock almost got punched just 6 years later. And in hindsight, 6 years now feels like a full lifetime to me once I came to terms with 6 months might be all I get. And yet in 4 months this year I had more profound, deeply human, meaningful conversations with friends that I had in the previous 6 or even 46 years. If you think a conversation with someone may be the last, you explore it with a force that redefines what a normal trivial conversation means.

Is your life that taken for granted that you’re okay wasting a day of it, possibly your last day? Do you want to die with thoughts of regret about what you didn’t do? Do you want to know you lived your life to the fullest even if you don’t get to live a statistically full life?

What got me on this topic was a post by the very insightful and long-term thinker Tim Urban on his Wait But Why blog. In the post he shares how even though you may think living another 50 years is a long time, it means you may have already burned through the majority of your time spent with parents, or old friends or rare treats.

Tim Urban’s message here is at 34 he only has 56 winters left … if he lives to 90. I barely got to this winter.

As meaningful as Tim’s point is - you don’t have as much time left for important experiences as you may think - he falls into the above mentioned trap. He forecasts on the hope he’ll be very lucky and live until he’s 90. He knows he could die any day, but still takes the trap of mapping out a long life.

Why not flip the trap and treat each meaningful experience as maybe the last. Visiting with family, going to a special event, spending time with important friends, going on the perfect hike, listening to a favorite band … treat it all like it may be the last time you get to do it. Frankly it may. You may not slowly become deathly ill, you may get hit by the proverbial truck. You may not live to 80. You may not live to the end of the year. You may not live through tomorrow. So why expect anything otherwise? Is your life that taken for granted that you’re okay wasting a day of it, possibly your last day? Do you want to die with thoughts of regret about what you didn’t do? Do you want to know you lived your life to the fullest even if you don’t get to live a statistically full life?

A repeat cancer survivor, Kate Stone Matheson, advised me to carpe jugulum and I have fully assumed the mantra. Seize life by the neck with both hands and don’t let it go. What have you got to lose?

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