On seizing the day.

Dear Coquette,

I’m scared of dying. I think about it every day, several times a day. I’ve had several people close to me pass away and ever since I’ve been ruminating about how life is so temporary, and how we are so little and insignificant, and every moment I’m away from the people I love is another moment lost without them. Even when I’m with them, I’m freaking out inside about how I need to hold on to each moment for dear life and it stops me from enjoying my time with them.

I can’t handle the unknown. People tell me “carpe diem,” but really the idea that I have to live life to the fullest scares me to death. The reality is I can’t live life to the fullest. I have to make money to support myself and so on; I don’t have the chance to go skydiving and backpacking and such.

I don’t know what to do. I can’t live my life in fear every day. I would rather die and have it over with than go through every moment with that tight feeling in my chest, knowing that nothing will last. I’m not sure what I’m asking of you — maybe for some inspiration, but more likely for a good kick in the ass to snap me back into reality.

I’d be happy to give you a good kick in the ass, but I doubt it would do much for your anxiety disorder. There’s not much I can say, either. You’re gonna die. We all are. Sorry, dude.

One day, you will exhale your last breath, your heart will stop beating, and your consciousness will simply cease to exist. It all ends for every last one of us, but that’s no excuse to freak out. In fact, your goal in life should be to embrace your fleeting insignificance. Allow it to become a source of freedom, not a source of dread.

If that seems impossible, it’s because your mind is too busy reeling at the idea of an unknowable future, one that you inevitably aren’t living to the fullest. Even carpe diem is a prompt for your anxiety. Thing is, you’re missing the point. Seizing the day isn’t some goal-oriented, skydiving-and-backpacking sort of thing. The wisdom lies in recognizing that the only time you’ll ever have is right now. It’s about being present in the moment, wherever you are, regardless of the circumstances.

In fact, that’s the rest of the quotation. Carpe diem quam minime credula postero. It means “Seize the day, believing as little as possible in the future.” Did you catch that? Believing as little as possible in the future. Horace knew what he was talking about.

You are believing way too much in the future. You’re constantly up in your head about it, and yet none of that stuff in your head is real. That vast and scary unknown? It doesn’t really exist. The future is an invention of your mind, one that is paralyzing you. It’s all just useless anxiety fodder that fills your heart with ice water and turns your spine to glass.

When the fear hits, you gotta push past that mess. Remind yourself that it’s not real. Believe as little as possible in the future. Focus on the here and now, and let go of the rest. Just let it all go, and allow yourself to be present in the moment.

This is easier said than done, I know, but it’s worth the effort. You can try breathing exercises, meditation, maybe even a shrink to whack you with a few milligrams of Xanax. But at the end of the day, you’re the one who has to find freedom in your fleeting insignificance.

Good luck.


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