Life is Short

The average human lifespan is 76.9 years, or about 4,000 weeks. That means we have 4,000 Saturday nights, 4,000 lazy Sunday afternoons, 4,000 TGIFs. In the grand scheme of things, 4,000 weeks isn’t very long, and time seems to pass faster as we get older. By this calculation, we have only about 1,000 weeks left in our lifetime. We’ve been camping for about 478 weeks. It’s sobering to think of our seemingly long lifetime with this kind of finitude, but the cold fact is that—given our long bucket list of items—there will always be two realities: we won’t accomplish everything we want to achieve, and there will always be more to add to our list.

In our FOMO (fear of missing out) world, our wisest choice may be JOMO (the joy of missing out). If we actively decide (and make peace with) what we cannot possibly do, we might find joy in what we can actually accomplish and what we can let go.

As full-time workers, the bulk of our time is tied to our jobs, and our “down time” is considerably limited. We spend bout 42 weeks of every year working 8 hours a day, with about four weeks of vacation. Somewhere in between, we tend to our finances, fix broken stuff (or arrange to have it fixed), perform routine chores and maintenance, engage in self-care, attend to loved ones and friends, and just live life. Even though there is a certain thrill to living at warp speed, doing so can be overwhelming. The reality is, we’re not managing our time so much as our time is managing us.

In choosing our current career paths, we gave up certain alternative paths. At times, we regret those lost paths. In challenging moments, fueled by fatigue and overwork, we’ve both wondered about the “what ifs.” What if we had remained in the ministry? What if Jon had joined a monastery? What if Cliff had stayed in the military? What if Jon had become a lawyer? What if Cliff had become a pilot?

At some point, we closed the door behind us and forged ahead in our personal and professional lives. In many ways, now that we’ve made our choice and cannot turn back, any anxiety we might have had about our choice has faded away. There is only one path and it’s forward. We view this as the joy of missing out on all those other choices because, in the end, we couldn’t have done it all, regardless of the path we chose to follow.

As we consider all the coincidences that brought us to this moment and contemplate the unknowability of our future, it occurs to us that many spiritual traditions converge on the same sage advice: that we should focus on the present. If we can just relinquish the need to be certain about our future, we can free ourselves to live in the moment.

This weekend was a lesson in living in the present moment—the bookend to a 10-day period we began last weekend. Our site was short and uneven, which made unhitching a particular challenge. Because we had booked the same site the following weekend, we decided to avoid the problem of hitching up and unhitching again by simply staying through the week and returning to Hampshire for work. Like every present moment, staying through the week was valuable in and of itself and not just because it was an easier way to get from one weekend to the next. We enjoyed sunsets over the lake, late-night walks under the stars, and campfire conversations that would have been impossible at home.

And so, our mid-month time warp provided us in-the-moment pleasures we otherwise might have missed. After all, life is too short to take simple pleasures for granted.