This is a post is from the future.
What you’re reading doesn’t come out until late in 2016, and fits in with a slightly different line of thought.
Or, at least that was the plan.
The best laid plans…
Originally, I planned to write and share about the topic of this post down the road a ways.
The discussion around the importance of the moment and the need to live in each one, fits thematically with topics coming out later, and in a few ways it seemed placing it with that subject matter might make it more impactful.
Additionally, I wanted to spend extra time creating compelling visuals and other media elements to make the content itself more powerful.
Basically, I was saving this subject for later because of just how important it is.
As the universe frequently reminds us though, things change.
Recently, a number of events took place that made it clear sharing this message earlier outweighs the potential benefits of sharing it later.
More over, this message really can’t be shared too early, only too late.
Catalysts for change
Setting the stage
Since a young age, I’ve accumulated enough interactions with death to know very well that our moments on this earth are limited and far too few.
Beyond death, or events that leave people incapacitated or vastly different than their former selves, life provides many lessons informing us that what is now, may not be again.
It can be easy to lose sight of those lessons in daily life though, especially with the hectic pace and characteristics of modern living, and we can forget to live in the moment.
So, occasionally, we get some strong reminders.
Reminder One: The appendectomy adventures
The other week, I sat at my table writing a post on mindfulness and meditation for the BigSkyRise blog.
The post was slightly longer than typical, and I’d struggled with it for a while.
The adventures begin
As I focused closely working through the details of one section I noticed some pain and cramping in my abdomen.
Initially the cramping was rather minor and I set it aside to return to writing.
Over the span of an hour the pain and cramping progressively worsened, and I no longer felt comfortable enough to remain seated at the table. I got up, walked around for five minutes and then I leaned back on the couch to continue my blogging efforts.
After another thirty minutes of making only minimal progress on the post, it became increasingly difficult to concentrate. So, I decided to set things aside when I got a call from a family member.
As the conversation began I grew restless from the pain and cramping and I got up from a seated position and paced around the room.
Only a couple of minutes into the call my ability to hold a proper conversation quickly waned and symptoms of what I initially thought was bad food poisoning started to manifest.
My Jerry Seinfeld moment
Skipping over the exact details for all of our sakes, the symptoms kept getting worse.
I soon found it hard to communicate both verbally and through instant message. As I was alone in my apartment, and sensing something greater was amiss, I continued to message the family member who called me so that I remained aware and so we could figure out a good hospital to go to should I need it.
At one point though, I got tunnel vision and nearly lost consciousness when my vision went totally black. Luckily, I was aware of what was happening and carefully breathed in a calm and controlled manner—a helpful benefit of being mindful.
After a few hours of the pain getting worse, and the symptoms following a different pattern than typical food poisoning, I grew more concerned.
Thanks Anderson Cooper
During a short break in the most incapacitating symptoms, I researched and read online to see what might be going on. I came across a number of things such as the story of Anderson Cooper’s run in with food poisoning that wasn’t.
Additionally, while the overall cramping and pain remained fairly steady at this point, the pain in my lower right side grew sharper and worse.
After 5am rolled by, I finally acknowledged that I needed to get some medical attention. So, I packed up a few things, gathered up some strength, and grabbed an Uber to the emergency room.
Confirmation of intent to exit
While I was pretty sure my appendix decided it was done hanging out with me, over the course of a few hours, the diagnosis of appendicitis was confirmed, and an emergency surgery was scheduled.
If you’ve gone through surgery before—this was my second emergency surgery, the first was much more significant—you likely experienced the mix of feelings that come with it.
There’s the combination of knowing there isn’t much choice, that things will more than likely be fine, especially for a surgery of this type, and at the same time knowing there is the slightly higher than normal statistical possibility that this is your last moment.
Happily, after a few incisions, getting my abdomen inflated like a balloon, and some careful slicing, dicing, and sewing up by a skilled surgical team, my surgery was done, I got on Recovery Road, and have the chance to experience more of life’s moments.
A note of thanks: My thanks to the friendly and caring people at the hospital and to family, friends, and well-wishers for their kindness and support.
In terms of this larger story, my appendectomy adventures served as the first reminder of life’s unpredictable and fleeting moments. They also form the first factor that made me reconsider when to share this post.
Reminder Two: Bigger news with greater gravity
While recovering from the appendectomy adventures, I received news of a more serious matter, this one concerning someone else.
Sparing the details out of respect for the privacy of the parties involved, the gist of it is that a person very close to me is facing an unexpected and significant health issue.
The weight of this health issue and the unexpected nature of it emphasize, in a very strong and pointed fashion, the importance of each moment we have.
With the appendectomy adventures, I considered posting the topic of the importance of each moment earlier than I planned. This news cemented the decision to do so. It really highlighted why this topic should be discussed early and also contemplated frequently.
The topic of the moment
For leading a happier and more fulfilling life, it’s vital to understand how important, unique, and rare each moment we have is.
Comprehending the limited number of moments we really have in life—even in the luckiest of scenarios—gives us a sense of how crucial it is to be present in each one and really cherish it. It helps us understand why we really need to live in each moment.
Two views, different results
A point of consideration before diving in…
Of the ways to take in this topic, two tend to be the most common:
- With appreciation for the moment we are in and the moments we may still have, coupled with the aspiration to make the most of each one.
- With regret for having missed or undervalued the moments that already passed.
While not mutually exclusive, the first way of interacting with this topic is more beneficial overall.
Approaching with an appreciative state of mind allows for the recognition and gratefulness of what is still available to us. Thus, we are likely to be more fully present and aware of the moment we are in and to fully live in it.
The second way of interfacing with this topic is generally more harmful.
While it can be used as a tool for motivation if we acknowledge the feeling and then let it pass, the general tendency is to focus too strongly on missing out and the associated regret.
It’s easy to become so fixated on what we missed but cannot change that we then miss out on the present and future moments we still have. This of course is unfortunate, and also carries the side effect of leading to additional regrets and missing even more moments.
For that reason, it’s really best to forgive ourselves–and others—for the moments that have passed, and to focus on making the most of each moment that is still there.
Time is finite on Noah’s birthday
On Feb 17, Noah Kagan sent out an email with the subject of “It’s my birthday!”.
In his email, he touched on the finiteness of time, starting out with:
“A few weeks ago I read an article where the writer said, ‘I’m only going to experience my sons birthday 8 times until he’s 8 years old.’
That finiteness of time really stuck with me:
- How many times can I actually listen to this song?
- How many times can I eat at Taco Deli?
- How many emails can I ever send you?”
— Noah Kagan
He went on share some key lessons he’d learned over the past year, such as how it is important to surround yourself with people who are better than you—a topic I’ll also touch on here at BigSkyRise in the future.
The basic idea behind the email relates well to the topic of this post.
There’s a limited amount of activities, events, and moments in life, and it is crucial to approach them with awareness and intention.
To make the most of the time we have. it’s important to be present in each moment, and to be deliberate about how we spend that time and with whom we spend it.
The Tail End at Wait But Why
At Wait But Why, which is a great place to find thought-provoking posts, Tim Urban touches on the limited number of opportunities we have in life for many things, such as experiencing winter, witnessing U.S. presidential elections, or eating a specific type of food.
His post, The Tail End, lays all of this out in a nice visual manner, and is a must read.
The most powerful part of his post is when he focuses in on the limits we face in one of the most important aspects of our life, relationships.
In his example, he points to his relationship with his parents:
“It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end.” – Tim Urban
This sobering perspective illustrates just how important it is to cherish each moment we have with the people in our lives.
On its own, visually seeing this breakdown makes the article worth the read, and I encourage you to give it a look and to share it with others.
The moment is even more important than that though
Both Noah Kagan’s and Tim Urban’s pieces touch on the really important concept that even in the best case scenarios, the number of opportunities we have in life for many of the things we care about are very limited.
Fully recognizing this helps us appreciate each moment in our life.
Beyond what both of these are touching on though, there is another, even more crucial aspect to understand.
Even in cases where we are lucky to live a long life and can continue to interact with those things that matter most to us, each moment really exists only once.
The contributing factors to each moment in life are infinite and always changing.
When we look back over life, it is easy to see how our body and mind change over time.
In many respects, we are not the same people we were as children, we have grown, encountered a multitude of experiences and have had our perspectives shifted by our interactions with the world.
In the same manner, other people change over time as well.
Friends and acquaintances come and go, and the characteristics of the people we remain close to are impacted by the life they live.
At a broader level, basic things like where you live may change. Or, in the circumstance where you don’t move, the place you live often undergoes changes, sometimes in significant ways.
Even barring that, surrounding circumstances always vary. Presidents, governors, mayors and community leaders come and go. Neighbors move in and out. Storms blow in and clouds break to reveal blue skies. Every sunrise and sunset is unique.
In examining our simple interactions with a favorite food or restaurant as Noah Kagan and Tim Urban both mention, there is clear evidence of the uniqueness and value of each moment.
Missing what’s still there
For example, in New York City, there is a Chinese restaurant specializing in noodles and other foods from Xi’An, that I came across not long after moving to the city.
Even though the restaurant was 50 minutes away by subway—fairly long by Manhattan eating standards, particularly for Chinese noodles—I made a consistent effort to go. Nearly once a week I’d head out to enjoy the cheap and exceptionally delicious food.
Over time, the restaurant gradually raised their prices, and removed an item or two from the menu. That combined with my moving to another part of the city, which increased the commute time to over an hour each way, lead me to not visit as often. I still loved it though and made an extra effort to go as frequently as possible.
A few months ago, the restaurant moved from Flushing in Queens to the East Side of Manhattan, which is a lot closer to me, and naturally, I was pretty excited.
I knew prices were likely to climb due to higher rental costs and such, so I prepared myself for some changes.
The first time I went to the new location, things seemed good.
While the atmosphere of the place wasn’t quite as comfortable as their location in Flushing, the food was still good and reasonably priced.
Today though, was the last time I’m likely to go.
Seemingly overnight, prices increased significantly, about 20%, since my first visit after their move. At the same time, portion sizes decreased by about 30%. Most importantly though, the restaurant has changed their recipes and the food isn’t nearly as good.
The overall point of this though, is that the restaurant still exists, and it’s easier to get to than ever.
However, it’s not the same place I discovered in Flushing and that I knew and loved. The meals aren’t the same, the ambiance isn’t as enjoyable, and the experience of visiting the restaurant isn’t the same.
Imaging this visually illustrated in the same manner Tim Urban does on Wait But Why, the underlying concept of this story can be seen. Even when the boxes for the number of times we can visit a place stays the same, the boxes themselves are different.
If I took eating at this restaurant for years to come as a given, and didn’t savor each visit, I’d have missed out on something I can no longer get, even though the restaurant and dishes still exist.
That last moment
Coupled with the concept of continuous change is another key point hidden within plain sight, the existence of that last moment.
This is something easily missed in visuals like Tim Urban’s illuminating graphics, and in thoughts along the lines of “I’m only going to experience my son’s birthday 8 times until he’s 8 years old.”
Yet this element is something powerful and vital for appreciating each moment.
From season pass to seasons passed
Starting from a fairly young age I fell in love with skiing and snowboarding.
The freedom and effortless flow of gliding along alpine-fresh mountain trails blanketed in snow; the adrenaline rush from cruising at high speeds, diving down steep and challenging grades of double-black diamond and unmarked runs; the joyous escape from gravity’s ever present pull and soaring silently through the air; plus the simple freedom that comes from being in a quiet, natural space filled with crisp, fresh winter air completely captured me.
Very quickly, I began skiing multiple times per week, hitting the slopes as frequently as possible.
One mountain near me offered day and night access, and I quickly snatched up their all-day access season pass. From then on, it was easy to find me skiing from the moment they opened at daybreak until well after dark when they closed.
Clearly, skiing and my life tied closely together.
Here’s the thing though, at his point, I don’t remember the last time I went skiing or snowboarding.
I’m sure I thoroughly enjoyed it since I enjoyed every time I went out—even on those frigid, icy and blustery subzero days, and those days where I came back with bones in more pieces than their supposed to be in.
So, why can’t I recall it?
The simple reason is because I didn’t think “this might be the last time I go skiing”.
I didn’t savor it as possibly being that last time.
Of course, it’s entirely possible, even likely, that I’ll ski and snowboard in the mountains again some day—I certainly hope so.
It’s not going to be the same though.
The moment will be different. I’m older, the slopes are different, my skis are long past too old to use, and I won’t have near the ability or skill set that I once did.
No chance for another go
Stories such as the one about my last time skiing illustrate how appreciating that last moment is important.
Frequently though, a last moment is far more significant than that, as there is no chance to hit the metaphorical slopes again.
For instance, when we contemplate our relationships, the gravity of that last moment is easily seen.
All of us are bound to encounter many of these moments through hard and painful events. Events such as when a beloved pet will no longer be there to greet us at the door or comfort us in tough times. Or, when we can’t ever see or talk to an important person again in our life.
Sometimes, we are lucky and we clearly know when that last moment is happening. Other times, that last moment has already happened, and there is no additional moment to appreciate and treat in the way we would have wanted.
This is why each moment we have is of the utmost importance.
It’s also why training ourselves to be more mindful is incredibly helpful in living a happier life; we can be more present in each moment, appreciating it greater while being more in control of how we interact with it and with those sharing it with us.
Where we’re at
When we take the time to pause and reflect on the moments in our lives, it’s clear that every moment is important.
With the day-to-day distractions of modern living though, it can be easy to lose track of just how important they are and only realize we’ve missed out when our opportunities have already passed.
For most of us, regardless of where we are in life, we can look through our past and feel some regret over missed moments or a general disconnection with life.
The important thing with this though is to remember, those things have already transpired, and now we are where we are.
This moment is a new starting point, a chance to begin fresh, letting go of the baggage we tend carry with us. Now is the time to live in each moment, and really connect with the life we are leading.
Start making the most of each moment now and start training yourself to make the most of each moment that is still to come.
Pause and ask yourself…
With all of this in mind, set aside a few minutes and consider:
- Are you making the most of each moment you have?
- What moments are you missing now?
- What are you doing, and what more can you do, to ensure you’re present and appreciating the moments you have?
- What are some of the things that are important in your life?
- Once you are clear on that, take the time to sketch out how many more opportunities there are for you to still enjoy, in a best case scenario.
An extra note
Normally, the sort of exercise questions above only appear in the BigSkyRise : Newsletter.
My entire goal with BigSkyRise is to help people, including myself, live a happier, more fulfilling life.
So, given the significance of this topic, I’m sharing some of these consideration points in this post.
Please, take the time to pause and reflect on this subject.
Being present in and appreciating each moment we have is a major part of finding happiness in our lives, and in helping others find happiness in theirs.
Doing this takes only a short bit of time, and can be life-changing.
This post is from the future, but plans change, so you’re reading it now. There are many catalysts for this change, including an appendicitis and some serious health news regarding someone else.
Every moment in our lives is of the utmost importance. We never know how many more times we can do something. Given the luckiest of scenarios, opportunities are often limited in quantity. Even in those cases, the elements of life are always changing and no two moments are exactly the same.
Even more crucial is when we encounter that last moment, that last chance for something. Sometimes we know it when it happens, and other times we don’t. In many cases, particularly in our relationships, there is no way to have another chance at that last moment, so we need to make the most of it while we can.
Remembering to live and be in each moment and training ourselves to be more mindful is incredibly helpful in living a happier life.
Right now is the time, and a new chance to start being present in and appreciating each moment in our lives.
One extra point of action
As I mention above, the purpose of BigSkyRise is to make lives better. So, please share this with someone you care about.
Be well my friends,
Fellow Journeyer @ BigSkyRise