“This is all you have. This is not a dry run. This is your life. If you want to fritter it away with your fears, then you will fritter it away, but you won’t get it back later.” – Laura Schlessinger
This. Is. All. You. Have.
If you have the courage to truly look at that statement and accept it for what it is, various religious beliefs notwithstanding, it is an absolute cracker of a concept. There is nothing else. This is it. Every day, we are one step closer to the big curtain call.
Many other writers, including the late fabulous Douglas Adams in this excerpt, Terry Pratchett, and even Dave Grohl in this tune, have waxed lyrical about the fact that one day it all ends – and even more, that humanity has an incredible ability to simply carry on living each day, seemingly ignorant of our ultimate reality.
We are but brief flickers of candlelight, and there is no conclusive proof that we will exist or continue beyond this mortal coil. By rights, the overwhelming nature of this concept should leave us writing in a puddle of our own tears on the nearest floor.
We should get some perspective, a sense of proportion. We are – in our most honest and vulnerable – standing naked against the elements and realising that this life is all we will ever have.
In the realisation that our time here is absolutely finite, it occurs to me (and clearly to Laura Schlessinger) that spending any of it on fear – “Failure in advance” (Seth Godin) – seems hideously wasteful.
How does one make peace with the finality of “This is all you have” in any meaningful way, without writhing in fear on the aforementioned nearest floor for the best part of our journey?
I have no firm answer for every person in every situation.
All I can offer is my own methods, which work most of the time. I oscillate between trying to make meaning through my work and the legacy I leave behind both for my children and of my children; and completely ignoring the idea altogether. I don’t recommend the latter very often, but apparently I am not alone in possessing such a finely crafted blindspot, or else Messrs Adams and Pratchett wouldn’t have had cause to write what they have about the topic.
So, I mostly do work that I believe matters and that I believe makes a difference. Sometimes, I simply waste bucketloads of time worrying, being fearful, being unproductive, and generally being a knob. Fortunately it’s mostly the former, and I’m getting better at recognising when I’m doing the latter.
In any case, I am finding that my fears – especially relating to money – are coming under somewhat more control and affecting me less. I have found enormous value in the practice of simply seeking to understand what is, and what is not. With respect to finances, it is checking the figures each day, and working hard to detach any emotional reaction from the practice of looking. It allays my fears by arming me with knowledge, and prompting me to take action.
It sounds far more Zen than it feels some days, but at least it’s better than the spiralling panic and anxiety I used to experience as soon as I began any conversations about money.
So where has all this philosophy in today’s IQ come from?
Firstly, a chat with my wife about money, in which I realised I am less fearful, and I feel in more control than I have in years.
Secondly, a beautiful essay written by one of my heroes, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, about how to breathe. Sounds irritatingly simple, but his treatment of the topic seems to simply ooze peacefulness. Read it now, please.
Enjoy a peaceful day. Remember, this is your life. Fear is a frittering of your precious minutes and hours. Don’t spend too many on it, OK?