Living fully on borrowed time

It might have been somewhere between my fourth and fifth solemn swear to get off of Facebook and start writing my overdue guest post that I got a chill up the back of my neck.

“This is how I am choosing to spend my time. My precious time, away from my kids, away from my writing that could help hundreds, even thousands of people. Life is finite, my time here on earth is finite. Is this really how I want to spend it?”

Do you ever have those moments?

Amidst either the frantic rushing between breakfast, school drop-offs, calls, emails, and deadlines, or after a stretch of mindless television or internet surfing, you suddenly realize that time is slipping by.

Some events can jolt you into the present, like hearing from my friend Patti Digh that her husband has cancer, or losing my Bonus Dad, or my dear friend Carlos.

Just yesterday, well after I had decided on the topic for this newsletter, I learned that a close friend’s daughter is critically ill.

I felt sick. And overwhelmed.

What do you do when you are confronted with the realization that your life is finite? And that the way you are spending today really matters in the big scheme of things?

You can choose to panic. Or, you can choose to be grateful for the lesson.

And, you can change.

Read through some of these scenarios and see if they fit.

If you are not motivated to do something, try reminding yourself why it is important.

What is at the root of the task at hand? Why will doing it benefit you, those you care about and the world at large? How will this help you reach longer-term goals that are important to you?

This applies to spending an entire hour playing “I’m the Mama and you’re the baby” with your five year old, or writing a proposal.

If you are not making progress, try changing up your pattern.

I always know when I am going through a significant growth stage because I revert to mind-numbing activities to quell the fear. I read People magazine, spend too much time sharing motivational quotes on Facebook, or watch really bad television. When the pattern starts to drag on for a few days, it is important to change up the pattern.

Find a new way to approach a scary task. Break it into tiny little bits. Work from a totally different location. Ask someone to talk you through an idea so you gain a new perspective and get out of your own head. Go for a walk. Draw a picture of the solution, instead of trying to write about it. Dance wildly to AC/DC or Jay Z instead of listening to your favorite classical music. Anything that will stop the unproductive pattern from repeating.

If you don’t feel joy in the goals you have set for yourself, try changing your goals.

Are you tired of striving for accolades, promotions, or respect in your field? Do you pour yourself into each endeavor with great focus, only to feel kind of hollow when you succeed? Do you chair every PTA committee, go to Lego building marathons with your kids, bake your own gluten-free bread and still feel like a crappy parent?

Maybe you need to go chase fireflies.

“What is life? It is the flash of fireflies in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow that runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”

-Crowfoot, Blackfoot warrior and orator

If you are waiting for the perfect time to lose weight, write a book, start a business or find a mate, try starting.

It will never be the perfect time to do anything. You do not have to jump off off the cliff without a parachute, you can take some tiny steps in a new direction. Stop eating donuts for breakfast, and eat cereal instead. Create a Word document with the chapter headings and write one paragraph of foolish nonsense. Put up a really ugly sales page with a two-paragraph description of your service and a PayPal button. Go on a Sierra Club hike (incidentally, that’s how my Mom found Larry after 16 years of being single).

If you are desperately searching for the answer to one question and not finding it, try asking another question.

Questions like “What is my passion?” or “What business should I start?”, create despair in the hearts of many people. Try asking a different question like “What am I thoroughly grateful for today?” or “What can I count on to make me happy, regardless of what is going on in my life? (my kids, my dogs, my Peet’s coffee).

There is no right answer. There is only the opportunity to be aware of the tremendous blessing we have to wake up each day, breathe fresh air, and watch a shadow dance across the grass until it is swallowed up by the sun.

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