“The value of life is not in the length of days, but in the use we make of them; a man may live long yet very little.” Michel de Montaigne
Looking at the picture on my computer monitor, the silly face reminded of how much fun my friend’s son was. Another picture popped onto the screen, and it was a happy face of another friend’s brother, and that led me to think about another beautiful face of a friend who lost her daughter in a murder. All three faces–a son, a brother, a mother– that would light up a room are only visible in photographs today. All three people decided they had enough of life and its struggles and chose to end things earlier than we might have expected or wanted, but each of them made a great impact in their short lives. Michel de Montaigne’s words are just so true…it’s not the number of days we live that means so much as how we use the days we are here. I think a lot about how I am using the days I have.
While the average life expectancy in the U.S. is 79, (Singapore is 84.38, and Egypt is 73.45) years of age, I know people who have lived long beyond 29,000 days, and I know those who died much earlier. True, there is no magic formula or pill to take to guarantee a lengthy life, but with the advances in medicine and education about healthier choices, living a long life is much more certain today.
There is no guarantee that you’ll live to 90 or 100 and no promise that you won’t die before 30, so maybe the message is simply to enjoy every day.
Life is too short to miss out on relationships and opportunities that bring you joy, and it is too long to endure relationships and decisions that leave you feeling miserable.
Life might seem too short not to take risks, but it is too long to spend it incapacitated or incarcerated because of unwise choices.
Life might seem too short to spend alone, but it is too long to spend it with anyone if the individuals you find are unkind, demeaning, or abusive.
Whether you are 20 and think you have the world ahead of you or 65 and think you only have 20 or 30 years left, there is a lot of life to live, whether it ends tomorrow or 10,000 tomorrows. The key is to make it matter.
Changing our perspective on living could change everything, I think. Perhaps people would stop rushing through life and start enjoying every delightful part of the journey. OK, so maybe not every part would be delightful, but wouldn’t thinking of life as a lengthy journey take some of the panic out of trying to do it all in a day and thinking that you must get it right the first time? I think it might, and I think we would find that life could be more pleasant, less hurried, and full of great experiences. If dinner tonight turns out to be a frightful experiment in sautéeing, it could be chalked up to experience as you plan to try roasting the next night. If the way you discipline your child isn’t working, you can try other methods until you find what works for both of you. After all, you have a lot of years to get it right. You don’t have to settle for what you’ve been told is the right way.
Sometimes, we take the possible brevity of life so seriously that we miss the joy that should accompany the probable lengthy journey. The truth is if a life ends tomorrow or next year, it will always be too soon.
So, here you are looking at 50 years of life in front of you, or maybe you figure you’re down to 20 years. How will you spend it? If I had realized earlier in life that nothing was really set in stone, maybe I would have been a little more relaxed and found balance sooner. When your kids don’t enjoy something, do they have some freedom to explore other activities and other friends? When you find that you’ve lost interest in the career you thought you always wanted, do you give yourself permission to start in a new direction?
Life is too short to not experience all of the wonderful things available to us. Life is too long to put up with people who don’t encourage and celebrate our aspirations and achievements. Maybe today or over this next year will be your time to just take life how it comes, to enjoy the surprises and pleasures. Don’t just exist because you think you have forever, and don’t risk it all in an effort to accomplish all you think you must. Make this your time to put value in your days, no matter how many or how few you might find that you have.
I’ll end with the words of a 13 year-old boy who lived fewer days than he wanted and more days than the doctors predicted. He died from a rare form of muscular dystrophy, but he lived a large and meaningful life in his short time. Even though the future seems far away, it is actually beginning right now. ~ Mattie Stepanek