Letter From My Husband: We Have 15 Years to Live. ~ Catherine Beekmans

Via on Aug 10, 2013
clock time
Photo: SamahR on Flickr.

After a spat with my husband this morning about the trivial matter of who was going to run an errand and when, I received this letter from him as a form of apology.

Dear Wife,

I read some articles online about hurrying ourselves and our kids through life and not taking the time to be present in the moments that matter. I’m also guilty of that “hurry up or we’ll be late” attitude. I recognized myself in those words and thought about rushing you and the kids out of the door whenever we’re going somewhere.

People say life’s busy, and I often say it too.

To myself, I now say this: bullshit.

I’m the one who’s made myself busy and everything starts with a choice. I simply have to make different choices. Next time I say something like “I’m too busy” or “I’ve got too much on my plate” or “I feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin,” please tell me to remove something from my plate, take a breath and move on.

We need to realize that nobody cares about or even notices the trivial things we consider important, like that scuff mark on the wall or that dead, brown patch of grass. I think we operate with the feeling that the tiniest flaw in our lives, our homes or ourselves are equally as glaring and obvious to others as they are to us.

I can stop paying attention to the inconsequential stuff in favor of something more meaningful that will yield lasting memories beyond the next five minutes.

If we relaxed more, like a carefree child, we’d be happier people. And nobody would care if we’re a little untidy or haven’t fixed up the yard to a standard we can’t ever attain because we’re not professional gardeners.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t strive to improve ourselves, but not to the exclusion of more important things. There are only so many hours in a day, so we pick and choose what’s worth worrying over and what will just have to be good enough.

Take, for instance, those few old screw holes in the wall that could stand to be puttied over and painted. Has anybody but you and I noticed the holes? If somebody has noticed, does it keep them up at night, worrying over our holes in our wall? Do they stop coming over to visit because they can’t cope with the aggravation our holes are causing them? No. It can wait for later, or never.

If we constantly worry about insignificant details, we’re going to forever remain bogged down in the minutiae of life and we’ll never accomplish the things we truly want.

Minutiae wastes time, preventing us from having (rewarding) experiences—that’s going to be my mantra going forward.

This isn’t exactly new, as we’ve talked about it before, but it’s like I’m rediscovering this epiphany and it’s clicking on a much deeper and more profound level. As the days go by, I feel an urgency to take action. I wanted to let you know how I felt so that you aren’t confused when my habits start changing.

My first discovery on this train of thought: friends don’t need to be a part of my every experience.

Keeping certain moments private makes them more meaningful, intimate and less diluted. If everything we do is shared on social media, we spend more time thinking about other people, taking pictures, writing the perfect caption…

The end result is we are more involved in these tasks and digital people than the person in our immediate and physical presence.

Why do I feel the need to do that? A deep-seated need for validation, I’m sure. What are we gaining from all of the likes our vacation pictures get, which are forgotten by most only moments later as they move on to the next plagiarized status and picture of a friend’s cat.

I suddenly understand why a co-worker chose to remove his Facebook account several times throughout the years I’ve known him.

He even went as far as disconnecting himself from the internet at home and was left with just internet access at the office. It baffled me that an internet technologies professional working on a PhD would not want to have internet at home or on a mobile device.

He said he needed to focus on life and family; “internet stuff” got in the way. At that time, “internet stuff” was primarily my life, I suppose.

For me it wasn’t in the way. It was the way.

Now it all makes total sense. Each day I’m closer to closing down my Twitter and Facebook accounts because they distract me and get in the way of things I actually want. It’s like some bad addiction I can’t seem to shake.

It’s not enriching my life—it’s just what I use to kill time, a minute here and an hour there. If I have time on my hands to kill with social media or watching Star Trek re-runs, then I have time to go for a bike ride instead.

I don’t have fond memories of spending hours on social media day after day. I do have fond memories of all the road trips and vacations we’ve taken. It was a little difficult not always having mobile data while traveling, but I found it to be freeing. We spent more time, just you and I, conquering the world.

Besides you, I doubt anybody has really noticed me slowly going off the grid. If they noticed, they didn’t think anything of it, or cared enough to inquire. That doesn’t make them bad people. I was just like them only a few weeks ago: consuming friendships passively. I’m not upset or sad over it because I’m not really different from them. They just haven’t had the epiphanies yet that we’re losing part of ourselves with our excessive online presence.

Maybe it’s becoming the new form of humanity and I should just evolve along with it, but I’m not ready for that yet.

So, how much time do we have left to live?

Say I am optimistic and live to be 90 years old—that’s 56 years left, at my current age of 34. I’m going to spend eight hours a day for the next 56 years sleeping and another 8 working, until I retire around the age of 65. All those hours added up come to 29 years of my life, busy doing mostly necessary stuff.

That leaves only 27 years for what I enjoy. But there’s more.

Based on the number of hours we spend daily on side jobs and consulting work, chores, grocery shopping, driving and cleaning, we will have approximately 15 years left to do what we enjoy and enjoy what enriches our lives.

This is when reality hit me. We truly can’t afford to mess around with things that aren’t important.

To be able to have a life, I need to already waste half of it working. I don’t want to waste the remaining half even further with unimportant things.

Do we truly have only 15 years for the meaningful stuff, for bonding with loved ones and achieving personal goals? What the fuck are we doing, honey?

It doesn’t matter who’s going to run that errand from this morning. (Actually, I did it for you, at lunch.) I hope I inspired you to join me in a renewed effort to reclaim our lives for ourselves instead of giving it away to social media, minutiae and that never ending pile of laundry.

In the wise words of Sweet Brown,

“Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

I love you.

Sincerely,

G.

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About Catherine Beekmans

Catherine Beekmans is a shy, friendly Canadian living in a small house with her nerdy Dutch husband, two nearly-perfect children, two kitties and a goofy dog. Cat spends her free time reading, growing vegetables and cooking them, traveling and learning life lessons courtesy of and along with her family. Cat began contributing as a typo vigilante and now eagerly serves as an editor, writer and student of the mindful life. You can connect with Cat on Facebook and Twitter.

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24 Responses to “Letter From My Husband: We Have 15 Years to Live. ~ Catherine Beekmans”

  1. Linda Wells says:

    Amen! Wise words for all of us… and at 54 I probably e less than "15 years". Life is for the living of it!

    • Gerard Beekmans says:

      Hey Linda,

      On the bright side, you’re a lot closer to retirement than Cat and I are. Something to look forward to. I can’t wait to retire and spend, hopefully, the rest of my life traveling.

  2. Sybil says:

    The irony is that I'm going to post this on FB. :)

  3. Jeannie says:

    The time you spend at work, running errands, whatever, that isn't time subtracted from your life, and it all contributes to who you are in relationship. All of it is your life. Do it al graciously, gratefully, kindly, and with a little benevolent mischief. There are no time outs.

    • Gerard Beekmans says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Jeannie, much appreciated! :)

      You're right, of course, every action has its part in defining who we are as people. Sometimes, though, when presented with the opportunity to make a choice to do X or Y, I end up picking X and wish that I had, in retrospect, chosen Y instead.

  4. Lisa says:

    Thank you for this wonderful article. I regularly struggle with completing a never-ending to do list in the quest to feel more organized and settled. Life is busy and that is okay. But it's super important to take steps back to evaluate the real pleasures in life and on our journey. Thank you for articulating this concept so well.

    • Gerard Beekmans says:

      Hi Lisa,

      Thank you for your comment. It is much appreciated! :) You're right, life is busy and it is more than okay. Rather, I would probably get bored eventually if nothing ever happened in life. It's all about effectively managing things so busy does not spiral out of control into chaos and being overwhelmed all the time (at which point entire other articles can be written and read on how to deal with that).

  5. Mindy Kittay says:

    You are so very blessed to have such a wonderful man at your side. I am a total Internet/email/Facebook, etc. junkie and if my Man (if I had one), wrote me that I swear to G-d I would stop this very minute. But that is just an excuse isn't it – I should stop because I love myself and I want to live my life not record it for others….

    • Catherine Beekmans Cat B says:

      Thanks for your comment Mindy! Yes, I am lucky, he is a smart man. Maybe we should commit to the effort of reducing our time spent in front of a screen, little by little, so it's an easier adjustment to make!

  6. Zoe says:

    This is beautifully written, thanks for sharing it.

  7. Robyn Braunshausen says:

    My heart feels so good right now. What a wonderful letter. A friend and I were just comparing our messy houses and chaotic lives and decided it was nice… Life is good and too short to stress about the things that really don’t matter in the end. Thanks for sharing.

  8. debaumer says:

    What a beautiful and thoughtful letter. Thank you for reminding me of the important things.

  9. Jen says:

    Thank you!

  10. hayley says:

    What a beautiful, self realizing letter.

    My mother passed away a week ago at the young age of 66, and has made us all realize how precious and short life is. It is so important to make every moment count, and to not get caught up in the trivial bullshit that doesn’t matter, and won’t matter, in the end.

    All the best to you both.

    • Catherine Beekmans Cat B says:

      Oh, Hayley, our condolences. Thank you so much for commenting & big elephant hugs to you & your family.

  11. Daphne says:

    Thankyou for sharing this. It is such a timely reminder for me. I am working on taking it a step further and that's given that I spend such a large percentage of my life at work I need to make this a rewarding, mindful experience too. I am lucky that I am in a job I love but still find myself counting tasks, hours till home time and not bring mindful and giving priority and mindfulness to people, moments and activities. The To Do lists take over! Thankyou for jolting me towards this realisation.

  12. Amy E says:

    Because: You never know. It's the people in your life that really matter. It took me almost dying, to figure this out. I always had work to do. Better late than never.

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