Ever since having a child, mortality is on my mind a lot more than usual. I have always known life is precious, not guaranteed, too short, and all the other appropriate and relevant clichés. But now having a daughter, it’s like a daily, (literally) screaming reminder of how much there is to miss out on if my, or a loved one’s, life comes to a quicker end than expected.
I know this is a common worry. I don’t feel alone in my anxiety and rumination of mortality, but it lingers there in the back of my mind a lot of the time. When the re-realization of the fragility of life floats from the subconscious parts of my brain to the very present and conscious part, it takes my breath away. I’m not saying that in a metaphorical way– it literally takes my breath away for a moment until I remind myself to breathe. Thankfully cutting my conscious breathing short, the baby screams for my attention or the dog starts barking at the door or my work phone rings, and the paralyzing moment passes as quickly as it came.
Usually, my coping tool for these ‘glitch in the matrix’ moments, as I think of them, is to remind myself that it’s incredible I even get to exist and be alive in the first place. Statistically speaking, the chances are about 1 in 4 quadrillion, so I’ve read. This thought disruption helps, and it also propels my anxiety and rumination into an upgraded sister version of spiraling thoughts– the existential crisis. I start thinking about the chances of being alive, how I got here, and what is real vs perceived in this world. Am I even real? Is this a simulation? How do my legs know how to move when I simply THINK about walking forward? Is this my first time living on earth, or have I lived previous lifetimes? Is that incongruent with my based-in-Christianity beliefs? Probably, but I am OK with that. Am I OK with that? Are there other earths out there in deep space? If not, why is there just this one? How do cell phones work? Where do the writers for history textbooks get their information, and which sources do they use? And it’s at about this time that I typically move away from stressful thoughts and my mini crisis, and go back to spreadsheets and diaper changes.
However. Maybe this child I have given birth to, this existential crisis disguised as a gap-toothed grin and a babbling mess from breakfast, is a good thing. Maybe we all need a little dose of daily existentialism, however it appears for each person individually, to help us remember to not waste a second of this precious time.
And what does wasting my time even mean?
Not speaking my mind.
Holding back from adventure because of fear or self-doubt.
Not exploring my inner creativity and voice.
Not using my skills and talents to better the world around me.
Being consumed by the hardships of the past and the uncertainties of the future so that I’m not fully living, creating, and feeling every current moment.
At first I wrote “enjoying every moment” in the previous sentence, but that’s not quite right. Humans aren’t meant to enjoy every moment. We are here to feel every moment. Acknowledge the way it feels on our human skin, in our human hearts, and its weight on our human souls. No matter how hard, we are here to lift our faces to the sunlight each day in hopeful anticipation of the next human feeling experience.
Maybe it’s not a crisis at all. Maybe our children, pets, spouses, plants, internal creativity, music, or whatever else is meaningful enough to provoke a feeling of such love and passion that there is instant fear of it going away– maybe these are gifts. Maybe we are meant to sit in the paralyzing, breathless fear of losing these precious gifts if we want to continue living, feeling, and being fully (and sometimes painfully) present in every moment.