Who are these people who believe that life is short? Life is a long ass time. Name one other activity that you might do that could be categorized as short, if it lasted as long as an average lifespan does. Think about it.
“Mom, I’m going out to ride my bike.”
“When will you be home?”
“Uh, in about 72 years.”
“Take a sweater!”
And you’d never hear this conversation, for that matter:
“Honey, my parents are coming to stay with us.”
“For how long?”
“Just a short visit—maybe a year or two.”
“I’m going for a bike ride.”
A movie is short. A red light is short. A marriage is sometimes even short, and in many cases, not short enough. But life? Life is not short, unless it ends prematurely. That is, before you’ve had a chance to burn your diary. A normal lifespan of between 65 and 80 years is not a short amount of time, unless you’re sitting on life’s bench, watching it being played without you. And don’t try and tell me “length is relative.” People who think length is relative ought to get out more. Short is short, long is long, and size matters.
My point is that there is plenty of time to do plenty of things. In fact, life is so long, there is even enough time to balance out the bad times with good times. Today sucks? Don’t look now, but it’s almost tomorrow. Week from hell getting you down? Next week’s coming, baby. Having a bad month? Flip to the next page of the calendar. See the big box with the number “1” in it? Have a better month starting on that day! Make a list of all the crap that didn’t work for you this month and implement some changes. Was last year a total bummer? Get ready, because more than likely, you’re about to get—wait for it—a brand new year!
Shitty childhood? Don’t look now…but you get adulthood! Unpack those bags and be a grown up!
I’m not suggesting that life can be undone. I’m merely pointing out that for virtually any increment of time, there is still enough time for a do-over. Until, of course, we get to The End. That’s when you’re either looking back and saying, “What? But I didn’t….and I forgot….and I was afraid to….” Or, you’re marveling at the epic nature of your 50, 60, 70 or 80 years with your mouth hanging open, wondering, “Wow. I did a lot of shit!”
There’s a business principle that originated in Japan that’s called Kaizen. It’s about continuous improvement and it involves the practice of examining one’s processes and systems and making incremental adjustments, or “good change” at all levels of an organization. It works for individuals, too. Be on the lookout for the energy and productivity dams clogging up your world. If it’s a simple letting go, then as my kids say, “Build a bridge and get over it.” Note: Some bridges are a wooden plank thrown down between two creek banks. Don’t over-complicate it. Other bridges take engineering, sweat and toil. Or if it’s a little more complex than that, if there is something that needs to not just be “gotten over,” but changed, then face it. What didn’t work today? Last month? This year? Kaizen it right out of existence, baby. But you have to be willing to look—continuously. You have to be able to face what isn’t working and make a change for the better, no matter how small of an issue it is. In fact, sometimes, the smaller the better. All those small changes add up to big changes.
Getting back to time, and how we perceive it, I’m also not plugging into the “my kids are growing up so fast” mindset. They’re growing up, period. I did, you did, and now they get to. Be present in each moment (wine optional) and you’ll be surprised at how long they seem to last. I am, however, bracing for the day my kids leave by reminding myself of all the fun I’ll have while they’re out in the world having all the fun they can have. My fun will be a little different than theirs, because I’ve already had the kind of fun they’ll be having, and it made me tired. My fun will be napping, and reading, and eating without interruption, and traveling at a moment’s notice, like I did when I was 20. Jumping into the car and just going. I’ll clean something, and it will stay that way until I decide it’s time to mess it up with my own stuff.
When my son was nine, I felt a startling sadness because I realized that my time with him was half over. It kind of freaked me out. I don’t like being freaked out. Now, at 15, he’s just a few years away from not living under the same roof with me. If I cling to that, feeling like it’s almost over, I’ll go crazy.
Instead, I’m trying to look at it like this: I get three more years with him. I get four to five more years with my other children. I can’t think of anything else I’d want to do for that long. Not even this:
“Honey, I’m going to make love to you.”
“For how long?”
“Want to go to happy hour?”
“Sure. What time does it end?”
See what I mean? Life is a really long time.