“I can’t wait until the weekend,” my kids say nearly every week. I can’t fault them for wishing they could push the fast forward button during a math lesson. Besides, they haven’t lived long enough to feel that with each passing calendar year, time speeds up just a bit more than the last. Or at least it seems that way.
A wise friend once explained his theory about why we feel like time passes more quickly as we age. Each year is a smaller fraction of our entire life span and our minds interpret it as such, which makes us perceive it as happening more quickly.
We also have fewer novel experiences as we age. Life, as a whole, is on cruise control when we’ve lived several decades, in comparison to a 4-year-old child who lives new experiences almost daily. There are even scientific theories that revolve around the notion of familiarity breeding brevity, such as return trips often feeling shorter than outbound journeys (even to astronauts returning to Earth!).
I recently finished watching the TV series Six Feet Under. The show chronicles a family who owns a funeral home. As a whole, I found myself irritated by most of the characters. They were literally faced with death on a daily basis, yet they always seemed to be spinning their wheels to find happiness and contentment. Shouldn’t they, of all people, recognize the disadvantage to living in constant inner turmoil? But I think that was the point of the show: We think we have time, but meanwhile life keeps barreling down the tracks like a freight train. Every moment is lost over and over as quickly as it happens until we reach our inevitable destination. It’s the kind of series that doesn’t leave you for awhile. It can also leave you feeling a bit empty if you relate to any of the characters, which is what happened to me.
As if in some perfect cosmic cue after finishing Six Feet Under and feeling blue, a friend led me to Oprah Winfrey’s excellently produced podcast, “SuperSoul Conversations.” Recently, she interviewed Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage. Achor is Harvard trained and also taught a popular course at Harvard afterwards which centers around positive psychology. I can’t wait to read this book in its entirety. Achor says we’re all wired in varying degrees to be inherently happy. He also preaches that it’s okay to be a glass half empty person, as long as you acknowledge the pitcher beside the glass that you can fill your glass with. The secret sauce is in the pitcher.
The biggest takeaway from the podcast was being reminded that “joy is inextricably linked to meaning.” We will find the most joy by striving for our potential in ways that give our life the most meaning. While I often fill my days to the brim, it can deplete my glass, because not all of what I do gives my life equally weighted meaning.
So what the hell am I going to cull in my life to find more joy in living mindfully? I don’t quite know the complete answer, but I do know where and how I’m going to dial it in: Walking in the woods. The pleasure a good hike brings me may be short lived once I’m back in the daily grind, but it will undoubtedly help me figure out the bigger picture.
I believe in the power of walking so much that I recently had a Latin phrase tattooed on my calf: Solvitur Ambulando. The translation? In walking it will be solved. Most of my biggest life questions and emotions are tackled on my hikes. If there is one thing that brings me immense joy besides “my people,” it’s spending time in wild places (and almost equally as fulfilling is sharing my knowledge and passion with others, like through this blog).
A little over a year ago, I took a short sabbatical from life to thru hike the Tahoe Rim Trail. One of the driving factors of this trip was to ponder a situational stress I had found myself in. I had taken on the incredible responsibility of becoming the board chairwoman for the school I helped start during a challenging time in our history. While I was fulfilling my duties sufficiently, it was breaking me in a way I hadn’t felt since my mom died.
The confidence and contemplative time hiking a 165-mile loop around a lake gave me is indescribable. It was exactly what I needed to come home and be courageous enough to say “no” to a second term as chair (in addition to feeling the most alive I’d felt since my mom died in 2010). Solvitur Ambulando…it really does work.
I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions, but this year I’m making an exception: To walk more and stress less. What do you think? Does walking bring clarity to your own life? One of the greatest joys of having a blog is the connections I’ve made through it. Share a story in the comments if you’re inclined.
Happy New Year, everyone. I wish you nothing but the best in 2018 and many, many miles under your own shoes. 🙂