I woke up this morning with a feeling of melancholy that I am not fully a stranger to. While I would not call myself a full blown student of stoicism, I have been following the philosophy for quite a few years now. One of the tenants of it is to face reality like it is with courage.
So when I opened my eyes this morning a thought crossed my mind – one time that you do something or say hi to someone, anything – will be the last time that you do that. Say hi to your co-workers. Eat a tuna sandwich. Pet your dog. Kiss your spouse. All of these small things that we take for granted and probably make life worth living. One day it will be the last time that one small thing happens, and chances are you won’t even know it until afterwards.
So armed with this slightly depressing piece of reality, what are we to do? Well first, if we dig deep down inside -we know this. We know that unexpected things happen, and even if they don’t, we know that everyone grows old and dies. Is it painful to think about? Of course! Is it uncomfortable to think about? Absolutely. Does it change that it will happen? Not a chance in hell.
So what are we to do?! One option is to harp on the concept, become obsessed with impending loss and death that it stops you from experiencing life. Obviously not the preferable path. But we humans have this silly ability to dig holes for ourselves , and that line of thinking, while not good for you, is certainly understandable. Many people have done so and some of those people have let these thoughts lead them down dark paths of substance abuse, emotional abuse, and even physical abuse.
What I believe is this – do not hide from these things. But do not obsess over them either. Use this knowledge to your advantage. When you go to lunch with a friend, really BE there. Be present, appreciate the inside jokes and the conversation. When you leave your wife in the morning, kiss her and tell her you love her. Practice gratitude on a regular basis, and try to get into the habit of appreciating the things in your life you may not think about often, since they can all change at any moment. Basically, try to live your life where you would have as little regret as possible. “I just wished I would have reached out more”, “I was planning on going on this trip with this friend”, “We haven’t talked in 5 years because she stole my left sock and I’m still mad about it.” In the grand scheme of things the serious things in our mind often to turn out to be not so serious after all.
And when bad things to happen, you can feel bad. It’s normal, it’s human to feel pain, loss, and sadness. But don’t let it beat you. And deep down inside, you know that, too.