I heard a song last week that had a theme something like this: “a mother hugged her son not knowing that that hug would represent her last hug. So knowing that life is short and unexpected realities can present themselves to us, what can we do to ensure we squeeze the best out of life?”
Following the song, I couldn’t help but consider just how tedious life can be, even for the best of us. We have those days when we are going nonstop from the time the alarm sounds to the time we shut the light off for sleep at night. Our bodies cleave to our beds as our soul thanks us for pulling aside to allow it rest and relief. But soon we are at it all over again, sometimes even during the weekends, the days of the week that were originally thought of as days of rest. When do we ever get time to examine ourselves? When do we get time to evaluate where we are in our lives? When do we get time to feel grateful for the little things (e.g., a baby’s smile, the beautiful architecture of a flower, the clouds in the sky, the peace rain brings, the sweet smell of food cooking, the fervor of love or a warm hug)? We rarely do. This is the sad reality most of us live and it is up to us to change the pace of our daily lives.
I set out a few years ago to do just that. I remember walking in the park and observing the world around me and my internal feelings about those observations. I couldn’t help but feel a temporary sense of fatigue and burden while watching people drive by at 50 miles per hour, rushing to and fro, trying to meet deadlines and make it through rush hour to get home on time or perhaps to class or work. The evening time was not characterized by solitude or the refreshing of the human mind, but more chaos than had been present during morning rush hour! I wondered how we continue to survive in modern-day chaos. Consider it: We must awake each morning on time to make it to work in order to pay for all of our responsibilities; if we do not, we are destined to be behind in our bills, stacked beneath debt, or cast aside as lazy and unmotivated.
Once we get to work, we check in and may feel a sense of pressure if we do not check in on time because the “boss” will know we were late to work. We feel compelled to do the best work we can because if we do not, we feel a sense of failure, worry that our boss or co-workers will think we are inadequate, or are not motivated or strong enough to stand the pressure. Or (in the case of some students) we study and study and study until we can “own” what we are learning and electrify professors with recycled knowledge. So we work and work harder and harder and harder until one day we look around and see just how much we have lost and not gained in our worlds.
Tedious things often are a required part of adult life. We are not given another alternative; we are not asked if we would like to work or rest. It is required. That in and of itself is pressuring and often removes from us an ability to live authentically in the world.
Our worlds are full of distractions, commitments, and responsibilities. We rarely, if ever, have time for what we deem significant. Some are living it up now, trying to get what they consider the best out of life and plan on working harder later in life. But in my opinion, this is a waste of time. The time spent “living it up” could be spent on cherishing the innermost parts of life, of you, and others around you and developing a sense of self and purpose.
Others are working hard now so that they may live authentically one day, particularly in older age. But that too seems unfruitful. Wbe may be missing important aspects of our lives that will only present themselves to us now and not later in life. So then what do we do? Either way feels like a losing battle.
Where is our freedom to choose? Do we even have freedom or is the term used arbitrarily to refer to a thing that we do not truly possess? We have freedom to choose, but often that choice is based on what we ultimately must do to survive.
The hints below may help you cope with life:
- Dedicate time to re-examine your goals and free will. Examine and cherish those things that rebuild your soul and mind. God gives us little rewards for our hard labor such as sleep, exercise, music, art, meditation, food, etc. All those beautiful things that help us recharge are best to focus on in a world so often imbalanced.
- Find things beneath the chaos to help you experience yourself despite your limitations. Take weekends to reflect. Use a journal or diary at the end of the day to process your thoughts and feelings. Read inspirational books and listen to soothing music.
- Examine your goals and make efforts to achieve them. Questions to ask yourself may include: “What can I do now to prepare myself for a better future?” “What can I do now to contribute to a holistic and moral world or society?” “What can I do now to change or alter my existence?” “Who can I help today or tomorrow?” “How can I add to someone’s life, while filling my own?
Essentially, if you are walking (or beginning to walk) this tightrope, you are also learning to rediscover purpose and meaning in life, to restructure your perspective and values, to acquire the tools necessary to gain the courage to be, and to engage yourself wholeheartedly with the beautiful blessings of life and those things you deem most satisfactory to your soul.