Over 2,500,000 years of potential life have been snuffed out of the people who have died prematurely from Covid-19 in the US, according to a recent study. The calculation involves 200,000 people dying, complicated actuarial data on life expectancies, and this calculation that made me regret going deep into the bowels of the study:
Complicated math aside, think of the mountain of moments that won’t exist for these hundreds of thousands of people: nervous first dates, the pride of being promoted at work, sketches drawn under bridges in Amsterdam, shitty first drafts of manuscripts, the thrills of newborn sons and daughters, the anguish of retirement decisions, the delight of grandkids explaining how modern technology works… the list goes on, and you know I’m ready to keep going with it. The arc of a human life and all the guts and glory it contains is a beautiful thing, except when it’s chopped off prematurely.
Because I can’t not tie everything back to memento mori– the ancient practice of remembering we will die– my immediate thought after reading about the tragedy of 2,500,000 lost-life-years was about how those of us lucky to still be living have lost a few months of our own through this pandemonium. In our defense, we were trying to make sense of it all. Grappling with lost routines, lost lives, and lost political civility was (and still is) a lot to handle. But if we’re being honest, we’ve lost some quality time in our lives because we took our eye off the ball.
We’ve gotten a little sloppy with this whole “living life like we mean it” thing, haven’t we? How many of us have put our lives on hold, waiting for things to return back to normal? (You can’t see me gawking at the absurdity of that behind my mask. Oh, how we long for “normal”!) How many of us have slacked off with our bodies, our relationships, our hobbies, our joie de vivre? How many of us have slipped into a lifestyle unbecoming of someone fortunate enough to still be alive? Taking life for granted because that’s just what we do? Until we don’t– until a little thing like Covid rattles our cages of comfort.
Life-crafting the life back into your life.
Maybe it’s high time to do a little life-crafting to get the zest for life back. Does thinking about 2,500,000 years of potential highs, lows, and all that life offers in between– lost in a contagious instant– stir that little voice inside you that says, “it’s time to live”? Time to initiate new hobbies, not barely maintain the ones you had going on before March? Time to start getting creative with travel plans, going on the best-ever road trips? Time to learn a new language? Time to move your body more? Time to self-care yourself into a stupor? Time to enroll in an online class to keep your mind sharp? Time to really connect with a loved one because their time is ticking, too? Only you know what might make you feel truly alive… more alive… maximally alive. What is that for you?
Does this quote by Rudy Francisco give you the same flutter in your stomach that it does for me?
“The human heart beats approximately 4,000 times per hour and each pulse, each throb, each palpitation is a trophy engraved with the words ‘you are still alive.’ You are still alive. Act like it.”
We are fortunate to be alive, with all of our potential years ripe and ready, like a red carpet waiting to be rolled out in front of us. Let’s do this life justice. Let’s live like we have something to lose.