2014-02-24

Never Stop Living

I.
It's easy to forget what an amazing, fleeting thing life is. It's something we all emotionally grapple with in some way or another, but no one ever gets comfortable with the way life changes through the years. I am sure I'm not alone when I say that I still feel like the same person I was ten years ago, maybe even twenty years ago. I certainly have more knowledge and wisdom, but I still feel like the same guy.

This is seldom clearer to me than when I listen to music. Soundgarden is getting set to release a 5-CD, twentieth anniversary edition of their classic album Superunknown and to me this is a striking thing. I vividly remember what was happening in my life when that album came out. I remember the time of year it was, I remember the conversations I was having with my friends, how I discovered that album for myself, and of course the many times I listened to that album and learned how to play those songs. As tacky as it might sound, it really does feel like only yesterday.

But it wasn't yesterday. I was a teenager. Then, as now, I was obsessed with music and running and reading thick books. My sense of humor was more or less the same as it is now. It's not that I haven't progressed as a person, it's just that twenty years ago is a whole other world, whereas my consciousness is the only world I've ever known.

Life passes by slowly as we experience it, but once the years have gone by, we realize how quickly time really has gone by. I blogged about this once before.

II.
Suddenly, with a burst of strength, he squeezed my hand and his voice boomed forward. "Sean! You need to live your life! There are so many things I wish I could have done but now can never do... I have so many dreams that are going to be left as that. Look at me. I am a shell of a man who can't even go outside for a walk. Don't let your dreams go unfulfilled. It's too late for me, but it's not too late for you..." 
...Then I began to cry. But to try to offset the tremendous sadness I was feeling, I also began to laugh and smile. As I continued to talk, his last words to me finally anchored themselves to my soul: "I will from now on, until the day I die, live every day as if it's my last. Every adventure I perform will be in his honor." 
I reached down and grabbed a bottle of Aquavit... I poured the Aquavit into a shot glass that my grandfather had used and raised it to the audience. "To you, Grandpa. Skal," I said, and I gulped the liquid down. 
I believe, to this day, that those two ounces of Aquavit just might have contained my grandfather's spirit, because by the time I returned to the pew I silently vowed to strike out for the big goal that had occupied my daydreams over the previous four years: climbing Mount Everest. I was not going to let fear and doubt kill any of my dreams anymore...
-- Sean Burch, Hyperfitness

III.
So life passes us by quickly, and before we know it, we're on our death bed with a list of regrets, and the solution is to live each moment of every day to its fullest. It's been said millions of times by millions of people, but it's something that doesn't seem to resonate... until it does.

When I finished the Cowtown Half Marathon yesterday, I didn't want to do much of anything but sleep. I spent a lot of time at home, remembering all the great runs and races I've done over the years. Part of this line of thinking involved pining for the days when I was not diabetic, when I could just strap on a bottle of water and run thirty miles through the mountains. It was such an amazing period of my life, and such a fulfilling experience. I can't really even describe in words what it feels like to run over a hundred miles in a single week, but I've never felt anything better. It's not just the sense of accomplishment, but the level of physical fitness required to do it.

At that time in my life, I could have directed my energies elsewhere. I could have accomplished a totally different set of feats, which would be satisfying in their own right, or I could have done what many people mistakenly do with their time, which is while it away on TV, video games, drugs, and various other wastes.

A lot of people waste their time. And I`m not talking about people who spend their time doing things that I don't find fun. I'm talking about people who don't ever do much of anything. They never try to accomplish anything big, they never go anywhere interesting, they never do anything exciting or satisfying. Instead, they coast through life doing the absolute bare minimum. Life is easy for these folks, but I can't help but wonder what they'll think of themselves on their death beds.

Meanwhile, I am intensely grateful for the time I was able to spend running through the mountains without a trail map. Now that I no longer have access to that kind of activity, I can't help but appreciate how thoughtful it was to do that while I still had the chance. It makes me really happy.

And then, I think about how much life lies ahead of me, and how many other things I can still do, and it makes me excited to tackle it.

You have to use the life you have, you absolutely must. Life passes quickly and the opportunities you have today will not necessarily be there tomorrow. It's easy to say seize the day and live life to its fullest, but internalizing that message is a real and daily challenge.