"Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune's control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately."– Seneca, On The Shortness of Life
I just read an article on medium about a husband/father passing way from covid-19.
I had to think about how I felt about it.
On one hand, I feel for the wife and children. I can't fathom that. Honestly, it's more than I can think about objectively.
On the other, the rational side of my brain goes to the typical big numbers, big facts; hundreds of thousands of people die every day from a bunch of other causes having nothing to do with what's going on now.
Depending on your constitution, you will have a feeling one way or the other about this. You might be analytical minded and consider the larger picture, or maybe you lean towards the empathic side, focusing on the single individual and the tragedy of that loss.
Yes, it is tragic.Yes, it happens every day.
Life is a tragedy you over and over and over.
I've thought about death for years, since losing my father, then grandmother, then grandfather, the entire Stuckert side of the family within a 5-year span.
That didn't go in the order it should have. It went in a tragic order. First, a son and husband lose a mother and a spouse. Then a father buries a son. And a daughter and son bury a father.
It may be a form of overcompensation my brain takes to deal with the loss. I've since come to my own understanding of death.
I'm afraid of death myself. I want to live. I'd live forever if technology allows us (I think). I enjoy life too much, and I don't believe in an afterlife, so living is the obvious choice.
So yes, I don't want to die, and I don't wish it upon anyone.
But not wanting to die does not mean I will live the precious time and life I have now living in fear.
Living in fear is like dying every day.
I'd prefer to die only once, and as Charlie Munger said, "Tell me where I'm going to die, that is, so I don't go there."
Why be afraid? Why dwell? Why worry?
If you study the Stoics, you know they believe fear is pointless. They instead recommend focusing on what you can control, like your thoughts in the now, so you can find peace.
"External things are not the problem. It's your assessment of them. Which you can erase right now."-Marcus Aurelius
Focus on what you can control and let go of the rest.
This is one of those first principles of a good life.
Sure, this takes practice. Controlling your wild emotions does not come overnight. It requires a reframing of reality and can take years of constant vigilance to get down. But just like muscles in your body, not only do you have to train them to grow them, you have to constantly stress them, or they will atrophy (waste away).
But does this mean your life in fairyland and ignore the reality of life?
Not at all.
One practice the stoics recommended, and one I use often is called negative visualization.
This practice involves visualizing your death or the death of your loved ones as a strategy for realigning your perspective to the things that matter, like gratitude that you have them now and the reminder to not take them for granted by living in fear.
We could all use a dose of that.
You see, you should have a close relationship with your struggles. Don't ignore them. Embrace them so you can learn from them and turn them into fuel. This gives you control while removing the power of fear. If you ask me, this is the only way to come to terms with the uncertainty of life.
Yet most people ignore their feelings either through distraction or by constantly focusing on the worst-case scenario as a means to throw up the responsibility for life.
That's what sitting around watching the news all day does; it gives you the sense that you are doing something when really you are neglecting your responsibility to take charge of your life.
Today is no different than any other day, though it does feel that way.
Each day you wake up, you are faced with a lot of harsh realities; life is not fair, tragic, and people die every day.
So what you must do is the same: take ownership of today. Then take the actions you need to take to build the life you want.
And right now, for all of us, our health, both mental and physical, is the primary thing we should focus on.
That means disconnecting from the news cycle. Ignoring articles like the one I" m mentioning above, at least for now, until you can read them and have control over your emotions.
Get outside. Cook your meals. Learn. Read. Build something outside or online. Take a walk. Meditate.
The world is a harsh, unforgiving place that will swallow you up if you let it.
Don't let it.
Take charge. Take control. Be here and now. Finally, realize how lucky you are to be able to do so.
Remember the father that will not be able to do any of these ever again. To honor those who leave before their time, we must live our best lives and give our gifts to the world.
Fear prevents this.