My husband (43) and I (37) each lost our only parents within the last two years. Now that all of the associated complications with that have been fully resolved we find ourselves facing our futures with a much greater sense of mortality. It feels like there’s not enough time and I think it’s fair to say we both feel like we’re not getting enough out of life. We’re happy with each other we’re just not all that enamoured with the lives we’re living. I guess my question is: is there a cure for this particular feeling or is this simply what ageing is like and we
should just suck it up just like everyone else has to?
Let me begin by offering my condolences to you and your husband. It’s not an experience I’ve yet had so I cannot pretend to know what it is like, but I am quite certain that it changes the angles on many of our previous thoughts and presumptions because I’ve seen it act as a very common catalyst for important change.
Secondly, yes—to a degree your experience is a common one. Although it’s brought about not by age but through experience, albeit in many cases the two end up connected anyway. The farther we go in life the more choices we make. And without us realizing it, many of those choices are irrevocable. They set us on a course that we cannot change. You can always go back to school and upgrade your skills and scores but you can’t suddenly change the fact that you did once go to jail. And sometimes our careers, our relationships—even our children can feel a lot like jail. You can’t un-have children even when they’re screaming at you that you don’t do enough for them.
You can’t unhave the child and you can’t never-have-been-married, but you can get divorced and abandon your children. But I don’t think that’s the solution you were really looking for, was it? You want your cake and eat it too. Well, you kind of can. Because your knowledge that life is short is really valuable. Because it is short. You don’t have much time to be you so it’s time you started. Way too many people die without ever really starting their lives.
So you can live an ego life and tell yourself a story filled with value judgments about the choices you made, or you can live your real life where you quiet the narratives and instead you open your mind to what’s around you. With your awareness active you can then feel the pull of your own nature. You will congeal with similar people to do naturally appealing things. You will gain clarity over which directions to take your life. The truth about your values will be exposed and you will begin to live authentically. And if you start doing that, you’re very likely to find that you don’t need to change a thing about your circumstances. Because once you’ve changed your attitude and perspective, you’ve changed everything.
Everyone reaches a point in life where our imminent death comes into sharper focus. This is not a bad thing. Quite the opposite. It allows us to more clearly see the path for the next stage of our life. Maybe you and your husband start a band. Maybe you join a church, or go travelling. Maybe you work for a charity or have another child. Maybe you split up. But maybe you fall in love all over again. But whatever you do, do it. Don’t let life happen. Live it. It’s an opportunity. Don’t squander it. As long as you are true and bold you really can’t go wrong.
Like I wrote in yesterday’s piece, someone can’t tell you not to like purple, nor can they tell you that oysters taste bad, and they certainly can’t tell you what choices to make in life. That’s what living is—making choices. And that’s what you are—the chooser. So don’t invest your life in trying to align your choices with everyone else. That’s robotic. Be yourself. Be original. Go your own direction. Reinvigorate your life by simply activating it. You have a huge list of things you’d previously imagined for your life. Go make some of them happen. Now that your preferences are in sharper focus you can finally find your way. Because your life isn’t actually winding down. I’m totally serious when I say that it really is just beginning.