If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s control is an illusion. During our first family vacation in two(+) years in Costa Rica, I’ve been vividly reminded of that.
¡Pura Vida! quickly became ¡Pura Covida!, as my vaccinated/boosted daughter tested positive a few days into the trip. My positive diagnosis came four days later, despite obsessive precautions. As I write this, I’m still nursing mild symptoms and hard questions, with only a vague idea of when the government-ordered, successive 10-day quarantines will end.
So, what to make of the two preceding years marked by abundant caution and sacrifice?
First: you can’t control the uncontrollables. Which begs the question: what do you have dominion over?
4,000 Weeks of Choices
Here’s an exercise to kick off a new year, week, or day:
You are asked to imagine having only a year left to live, at your present mental and bodily capacity — what would you do with it?
Now, apply that to a month or even an hour. Viewed that way, the to-don’ts likely far outnumber the to-dos. Our busyness, or “modern cult of productivity” as Maria Popova puts it, can be seen as a colossal pyramid scheme that diverts our precious resources from pursuing passion and purpose.
Similarly, author Oliver Burkeman reminds us in Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals that an 80-year or so existence offers both too little and more than enough time, depending on the extent to which you keep life from “shoulding” all over you.
I don’t think the feeling of anxiety ever completely goes away; we’re even limited, apparently, in our capacity to embrace our limitations. But I’m aware of no other time management technique that’s half as effective as just facing the way things truly are.
In other words, stop being overwhelmed by seemingly infinite choices. Instead, ground yourself in the power of the few decisions you actually have.
Here Comes the Twister
As a meditation teacher, I’ve studied transcending thoughts and living in the present moment. The concept of being spirit having a human experience is never so obvious as when you find yourself in another part of the world, infected with the thing you’ve fought to avoid, no easy resolution in sight.
And so, as Burkeman urges, lean into your limitations. That means recognizing FOMO is inevitable, using procrastination to make better choices, and learning to settle for what’s best, not perfect. We’ve always got at least 99 problems… but making a switch ain’t one.
So while this isn’t the vacation I’d envisioned, it’s apparently the one I needed. After all, time isn’t holding up or after us — might as well head into the blue again. (That’s your cue to take the day off…me, I’m hitting an isolated beach.)