“life, if you know how to use it, is long”
Life truly is long.
It’s been just over a year since I took steps for a full week without crutches, after seven and a half months of incapacity. In some ways this seems like just yesterday, but in all the meaningful ways it feels like a lifetime ago.
While it’s tempting to say time has flown, when I step back and look at all I’ve learned and experienced over the past 12 months, I can’t help but think of the advice I was given and repeated to myself during my recovery – life is long.
I didn’t always believe this was true, but I can honestly say I’ve been proven otherwise. The range of experiences, emotions, and interactions I’ve had over the past year have shaped a new perspective on how to live every day.
To get a little more tangible, here’s a short, non-exhaustive list of things I’ve learned and experienced over the past year:
- Finally letting go of what I can’t control
- How to detect what I’m feeling, compared to what I’m thinking
- Truly stepping out of my comfort zone
- Learning to know when I’m getting in my own head
- Embracing experiences with people, rather than the “perfect” experience
- Letting loose, and having one of the best birthdays of my life
- Long hair, don’t care
- Doing something that scares me, and creating what I want to see in the world
Those were all great lessons and learnings, but this list alone doesn’t explain why life is long.
Let me do my best to explain what this phrase means.
Life as it actually exists is different than the conventional view of the term. Most people measure life in clock time – days, weeks, months, years. But life itself actually exists independently from this point of view. A hummingbird or a chimpanzee doesn’t know the difference between three hours passing and 30 minutes. They probably don’t anticipate, or even care, about such an arbitrary measure of our passing existence.
And that’s the distinction, right there. Most living creatures simply live. They aren’t caught up in tenses like future and past. Their mind is drawn only to the moment that actually exists, the one they inhabit right now. Life is simply what happens within this space occupied by the now.
But not us humans. With our increasing desire to prioritize productivity and output, it’s no wonder we feel as though time flies.
It says something about our priorities when the default answer to the question “how’s life?” becomes “good… really busy!” We’ve become overly preoccupied with being productive, and less conscious of being present.
And that reminds me of something I left off my list earlier. Arguably the most important lesson I’ve learned, the one that’s had the greatest impact on my worldview, is the practice of living in the present moment.
It sounds cliche, but it’s true. This is the one that makes me believe. Not just acknowledging the vague idea or desire to “live in the moment”, but the actual practice of doing so. The more often we train ourselves to be present, the more effective we become at living consciously moment to moment. And the more “time” we squeeze out of life.
Seneca was on to something when he said life is long “if you know how to use it.” My belief is that “using it” means living life consciously in the moment.
After all, if we can learn to truly live every second we exist, can the statement “time flies” really hold any weight?