Sand in the Hourglass

Time and death. I have an interesting relationship with the two of you. Over the years, I’ve had moments where I feel like like life is passing me by, like I’m wasting time, not living up to my potential, lost at sea with no direction. And typically accompanying those thoughts is the fear of dying. “Will I get cancer,” or “What if I’m in a car accident, paralyzed? Would you still want to live,” or “It would suck to be burned alive.” And on and on. None of these thoughts are particularly unique; as humans, born with with the fatal disease of mortality, it’s likely we all ponder our limited lifespan from time to time.

You did a pun! “…from time to time.” Get it? See the whole blog is about death. And time. So the phrasing you used is pretty cute and clever . It’s like you…

I get it, I get it. I’m not stupid, ya know? Wait. Do NOT answer that, Bitmoji. And for the record, the pun was intentional.

Argh. If I were a dog, I’d be baring my teeth at you right now. And I call BS. You’ve absolutely been listening, as you think this blog—and the world—revolves around you.

Back to the topic at hand. Yes, we all struggle with our inexorable march towards the afterlife (or whatever lies beyond). For me though, ruminating on such matters is not a wise decision, as it can trigger my insecurities and feelings of despair.

Time for a detour. Last night’s thought experiment:

Would you rather die in a plane crash or a sinking ship? I vote, ✈️


Now I’m not saying a plane crash wouldn’t be terrifying. The sounds + the chaos + the knowledge that all hope is lost = pretty shitty indeed. But the thought of being surrounded by rushing water—cold, life-sapping water—is utterly paralyzing. And, the whole…time thing (And yes, that is sorta a pun). The duration of the event matters. I feel like the whole process of a ship sinking would be so much longer. And with the magic of Google, I would be correct: A plane from 38,000 crashed in three minutes; the Titanic sank in over two and a half hours. With each tick of the clock, I’d imagine my anxiety and fear increasing to an unbearable level. The realization that there was no hope for survival, my heart pounding in my chest, intensifying and intensifying. Fucking dreadful. If I’m gonna go, I want to go quickly, please.

Yeah, you’re correct, Bitmoji. Unless I chose suicide, which I have zero intention of doing, I don’t get to determine how I go. And that is part of the reason dying is so dreadful: the unknown.

I need to constantly remind myself that so little in life is in our control. And that this journey is impermanent, constantly changing. The good—and the bad—just doesn’t stick around forever. Material things, situations, people, ourselves. All are subject to the ever changing nature that surrounds us.

For me, this beautiful poem still resonates today. It reminds us to live mindfully, to embrace the joy while it’s here, but don’t hold onto it too tightly, as we know it’s bound to fly away.

Regardless of my effort to follow this path—the path of acceptance, mindfulness and embracing the transient nature of our existence—it’s not easy. Especially when your emotional triggers are pulled.

Fifteen years or so ago, I embarked on a business venture with my best friend. I did so, not because I hated my job (which I did), but because I was jealous, not wanting him to succeed while I “failed.” I didn’t want to be left behind. I didn’t want time to pass me by. The decision was life altering, causing financial strain and hundreds of hours of effort.

We did. We purchased two homes with the goal of fixing them up and flipping them for profit. Unfortunately, we bought them right before the real estate market crashed. The result: one was sold with barely a profit; the other property couldn’t attract a buyer, so we held onto it as a rental for over a decade.

Yes. A decade. (More like 14 years, but who’s counting.) And there were plenty of times over those years that were not exactly fun. To name a few:

  • Tony O., a supreme douche bag of a “renter.”
    • He completely trashed the house: burnt carpet; holes in walls and floors; writing on walls; drug needles throughout the house; stained and vile looking mattresses left in the basement, as evidence of the drug addict squatters; he ruined the kitchen with grease and food debris; his slovenly nature, leaving rubbish everywhere, resulted in a house filled with fleas, ants, roaches and mice; and lastly, HE RIPPED OUT ALL OF THE COPPER PLUMBING, presumably to generate cash to purchase drugs.
    • The fucker never paid. He also wouldn’t leave, after numerous threats. A court appearance and eviction papers were required to put his ass on the street.
  • Maintenance and repairs are always required and there is no set timetable, other than seeming to happen at the most inconvenient of moments:
    • A refrigerator may break, causing you to cancel weekend plans with the kids. It’s not something that can wait, as all of your renter’s food will spoil. You’re forced to do it in a cold, windy rainstorm, and you’re required to rip out the door frame and wrestle out the old fridge, before lugging it to the trash dump.
    • The roof may need replaced. Money is tight, so you’re doing it yourself. Weekends and vacation days are burned and time with the family is lost.
    • Painting and repainting and repainting. Ugh.
    • The heater needs replaced. And despite not having any experience, it’s necessary for you to figure it out. The extra several thousand dollars is not in the budget. More time away from the family. More sleepy mornings and more handyman-related injuries. Suck it up, brah.
    • Dumpster-loads of trash require removal. Too bad if your back hurts or if your not feeling well. Did I mention it’s disgusting to clean up someone else’s shit?
    • Don’t forget about the outside: grass cutting; pruning; landscaping; fence-fixing; tree removal; and more.
    • Countless trips to the Home Depot. You’re bleeding money now, my friend!
    • Confrontations with neighbors for the disrepair. Renters do not always keep the property tidy, ya know?
    • Travel to and fro. For a good bit, I f’ing lived an hour and a half away.

I could go on and on. I’m sure there are many rental properties that produce positive results: the renters are responsible and cash flow is positive. That just wasn’t our experience. Sure, we sold if for a “profit,” but if you factor in all my time, I would’ve been better off getting a part time job at Chick-fil-A.

The point of all this? I made a decision based on faulty motives. Feeling jealous and insecure are not particularly useful in day-to-day life; when they’re hovering in your mind during times of crisis or when making major life decisions, it’s malignant.

Yeah, it is. Or, it was supposed to be, anyway.🤷‍♂️ My mind is not easy to figure out. I’m 50-plus years deep with this brain and I still don’t know what’s going on with it.

Honestly, I don’t know what this blog’s about. Maybe it’s about change. And purpose. 🤔

Time is ever-changing; nothing stays the same. So how do we process that and harness it for good, rather than letting the unknown cripple us with fear? And since it’s clear I won’t be getting out of this existence alive, how can I reach the end without regrets? How can I aspire to make a difference? The answer, to me, is by finding my life’s purpose. There’s the tie-in to this blog’s topic. We’ll go with that.

You see, Dear Reader, for much of my life I’ve sorta drifted along, aimlessly. I went to college because that’s what I was “supposed” to do, without knowing what I wanted to do. The result? I dropped out after a semester, before the University had a chance to kick me out due to my grades. I returned to another college a few years later, still not knowing what I wanted, but knowing I needed to make a proper living. The result this time? I made it through, leading to a career in engineering. A career that provided financially, but didn’t inspire passion. The only reason I stuck with it was my fear of change. The same could be said of my first marriage, sadly.

Effectively, I was stuck in the Current Reality Trap, as described by Vishen Lakhiani in his book, The 6 Phase Meditation Method:

“This…is a trap because your happiness becomes fleeting. It fluctuates with whatever is happening in the now. But true fulfillment is made up of both contentment and vision. Not knowing what you want to do with your life or what mark you want to leave on the world renders you a passenger in your own life. You’re at the mercy of the flow, and your state totally depends on the tide. You’re a piece of driftwood.”

—Vishen Lakhiani
From The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani

And the Current Reality Trap is where I languished… until I met Keeda.

She gave me hope, she gave me purpose, she gave me a vision for the future.

Keeda provided that mindset, but how do I keep it going, how do I make it thrive? By being my own best friend. And through lots of tools, in combination:

  • Daily meditation. This is sacred. Mandatory self-love.
  • Reflecting on the day in front of you by setting goals. Without them, we are “driftwood.”
  • Reflecting on the day behind you, to learn from the day and to tap into gratitude for all of life’s blessings.
  • Finding forgiveness, for myself, and others.
  • Affirmations, in the form of “I am,” statements. Ex:
    • I am here
    • I am resilient
    • I am happy
    • I am enough
  • Looking in the mirror, stating a mantra, and giving myself a high five 🖐️. My mantra: “Be better. Enjoy each moment. We’re moving to Portugal 🇵🇹 and I’m publishing that fucking book.”
  • Journaling
  • Learning something new, each day.
  • Exercise, walking my dog, living mindfully, and enjoying the beauty around us, in the spirit of looking at the world through child’s eyes, as if I’m seeing it for the first time, with wonder and amazement.

It’s not easy. It requires daily work, especially if—like myself—you’re prone to anxiety, depression, insecurities, and stress. But it can be done. It helps if you have that love of your life, as I found. But if you haven’t yet found that someone—or even if you have—maybe we can do it together, Dear Reader? What do you say?

One response to “Sand in the Hourglass”

  1. […] livelihood? Short answer: fear of change. For more insight into this recurring theme, check out my previous post. It’s fun […]

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