August 10, 2013

Letter From a Husband: We Have 15 Years to Live.

Photo: SamahR on Flickr.

Whenever we bicker with our loved ones over trivial things like who should have run that errand or how to budget our money, use this letter from a husband to a wife as a humble reminder:

Dear Wife,

I read some articles online about hurrying ourselves through life and not taking the time to be present in the moments that matter. I’m also guilty of a “hurry up or we’ll be late” attitude.

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.

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 news to me, 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.

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 we 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 some people choose to remove their Facebook accounts.

Some even go as far as disconnecting themselves from the internet at home, leaving them just internet access at their workplaces. It baffles me that anyone in this day and age would not want to have internet at home or on a mobile device.

They say they need to focus on life and family; that “internet stuff” gets in the way. Yes, “internet stuff” was primarily my life. 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 television re-runs, then I have time to get outside instead.

I don’t have fond memories of spending hours on social media day after day. I do have fond memories of all the vacations I’ve taken. It was a little difficult not always having mobile data while traveling, but I found it to be freeing.

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 themselves 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 we live to be 90 years old. As an example, for a 34-year-old person, that’s 56 years left. Most of us are going to spend eight hours a day for the next 56 years sleeping and another eight working, until we retire (hopefully) around the age of 65. All those hours added up come to 29 years of our lives, busy doing mostly necessary stuff.

That leaves only 29 years for what we enjoy. But there’s more.

Based on the number of hours we spend daily on work outside of our main careers, 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?

It doesn’t matter who’s going to run those errands and we shouldn’t waste time bickering over dumb stuff. I am inspired to renew my efforts to reclaim my life for myself 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.”


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Photo: Scio Central School Website/Flickr

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lace Nov 15, 2015 7:05pm

thank you for sharing. My husband was diagnosed with incurable cancer two years ago at the age of 62. I/we learnt from the very beginning – life is way too short to worry about the small things. Instead we are making memories together. Yes we still squabble – but that is just life!! ! But even those squabbles are memories cuz we eventually laugh. We ask no pity or allow cancer to define our lives – but instead we are living life to the fullest. So happy you and your husband "get it" at a young age. Cheers to making memories. hugs

Amy E Jul 23, 2014 9:38pm

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.

Daphne Jun 20, 2014 3:56pm

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.

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Catherine Monkman

Catherine Monkman is a shy, friendly Canadian (former Manitoban, current Albertan) living in a small home with her family. Cat spends her free time reading, gardening, cooking, and journaling, and always gathering life lessons along the way. Cat began contributing as a typo vigilante and now eagerly serves as an editor, writer, and student of the mindful life.