I have begun looking at life in terms of chapters – each separate from the others, full of its own unique advantages and opportunities.
This view is freeing in a number of ways.
With positive things, it encourages me to savor the best parts of this chapter. It is not guaranteed that future chapters will be the same. I am so glad I surfed as much as I did when I was young, single and living two blocks from a legendary beach. I took advantage of what was possible then but hasn’t been possible to the same degree since then.
With negative things, it assures me that they will not persist forever. I can suffer through many things if I know there is an end and there will ultimately be a benefit for getting through the hardship. When I bike to work in Seattle on days in the 30’s, I remind myself that this difficulty will not be with me my whole life, but that it is making me stronger. If ever I end up somewhere where it isn’t as cold or wet, even a 15 mile long bike commute will seem easy in comparison.
With things missing, it gives me peace that those aspect or activities are not lost forever, just waiting as possibilities for a future time. Before I was married, I periodically suffered thoughts of anxiety over my singleness. I checked my thoughts against my confidence in the rapid change that is possible as we span chapters. I needn’t be in the wrong relationship for the sake of carving a placeholder in life. When the time is right, we can rearrange our priorities and make room for something else. We must often balance our priorities over the long term, which means during some chapters, items that are overall important might be missing, but we have a means to balance them over time and need not worry or create preemptive regret.
With things dreaded, it gives me a means to focus on what will be uniquely possible in that chapter. As I think about getting older, I fret over the decay my body will face – I won’t be able to do many of the activities I love now. I remind myself that I will still be able to do many great things, including many I do not have time for now. When I retire, I will have time to consume all of the great books, movies and games I can only scratch the surface of now. As I bump against the realities of my busy schedule these days, I can bookmark things for the future. I find joy now in the enjoyment I will have later and that helps me cope with the uncertainty I have about things I can not yet see.
With things planned, I have a challenge to make the most of what I have in front of me now. I know that having sound finances in the future will be a platform that allows me to do more of what I care about. This calls me to make the sacrifices now to maximize my earnings while my job prospects are strong and to save as much money as I can, knowing that can all change rather quickly. I similarly see that future chapters depend on my physical health being maintained and I know that actions I take in this chapter can help ensure the result I desire. I do work now to give myself gifts through time and as such, make future plans possible.
Each chapter is unique and must be appreciated for what it is. I can embrace today for what it is, fully appreciate the good aspects while suffering the difficulties, confident that tomorrow might be without either.