Maybe we don’t need to live life to the fullest

A lot of people have been leaving Earth lately. At least a lot of people that I know of or have known. I can count on two or more hands. And of course, when people pass away, it gets you thinking about your own life and your purpose. It gets you thinking about how much you have to appreciate. Even if it’s “small”, like taking a breath, because there are people that don’t even have air in their lungs.

Okay, so I’m being morbid. But, with purpose of course. When someone passes away, everyone says “you need to enjoy life and live it to the fullest.” We know we’re all near death in some shape or form, which is why we say things like “you only live once” or “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” when we do risqué things.

We know we’re near death, so to “appreciate our lives” we jump out of planes, quit our jobs to travel, leave our marriages, chop off all our hair, and all the rest. We do these really earth-shattering things that may completely alter the course of our days and lives. To appreciate life?

I’m beginning to think that we’ve got it all wrong. That we don’t really need to “LiVe LiFE tO tHe FuLlEsT.” It’s becoming more and more clear to me that what we probably need to do is to live life with intention. With mindfulness. With consciousness.

This may seem super subtle and boring as hell, but it’s the subtleties in life that are vastly under-appreciated and overlooked. It’s noticing the world around you. Being conscious while driving to and from work. Noticing how you feel on a regular basis. Listening when people speak to you. Honoring your body and all its capabilities. Taking a moment to think about how far you’ve come. Really tasting your food as you eat. Being grateful for having air in your lungs.

It’s those small things that we don’t think about on a regular basis, but should. We’re so busy chasing after the shiny objects that we miss the whole point of life: to be alive, and notice yourself living. Taking your headphones off to notice yourself breathing for two seconds. Notice the people around you breathing. Seeing them for who they are. These are the things that are so subtle, they go unnoticed. Because we’re busy living our lives to the fullest. Unconsciously, on auto-pilot. And here’s a thought:

There’s a difference between enjoying the world and enjoying your LIFE.

Enjoying the world is usually what people mean when they say live life to the fullest. It’s traveling the world for a year, going skydiving, trying new and exotic foods, going to that concert, getting out of your own backyard, hooking up with that attractive person, dropping out of school to pursue your passion, getting drunk/high, or buying that sports car. It’s much more macro and has a lot more to do with you taking an action, rather than observing and feeling. In fact, if you’re not careful, it serves as a convenient distraction from you enjoying your own life.

Enjoying your life is something that is more observatory. It’s being completely aware of yourself and the world around you. It’s the very act of understanding how blessed you are to be alive, even when things aren’t going according to your plan. It’s acknowledging all the ways in which you’re privileged and feeling grateful for that privilege. It’s noticing the way certain things make you feel and using your inner compass. Taking a deep breath, moving your body, figuring out if you’re happy in your own skin. It’s awareness and consideration of the people around you–yourself, your spouse, your kids, your friends, your colleagues. It’s caring for them when they need it and setting boundaries when you need them.

The other day, I opened my refrigerator and realized how full it was and I was filled with gratitude about my ability to have a full fridge and then my ability to eat food without an issue. It was an interesting moment because I did this unconsciously, without intending to. I was recognizing my privilege in that moment and feeling grateful for it. THAT is enjoying life. Enjoying your life is simple and subtle. Enjoying the world is bigger than you.

And OF COURSE you should enjoy every nook and cranny of the world and all it has to offer. You should travel. You should go snowboarding. Go white water rafting. Buy the car if you can. Eat at all the delicious restaurants. Of course, you should bask in the sun, go hiking up that mountain, and all the rest. I sure am. But don’t forget to enjoy the life inside of you and all around you.

That is the key to happiness and fulfillment. Our place on this Earth, among many things, is to enjoy being alive and to remember to not take the subtleties for granted. Because we didn’t HAVE to have them in the first place. We complain that our hair looks weird, but we don’t have to have hair. In fact, it could be gone tomorrow. Then we’d be wishing for our weird hair back. We complain of being broke while having money for our necessities and bills. Guess what? Not everyone has the luxury to even have bills to pay, much less the money to pay them.

So when someone passes away and we feel this push to live life to the fullest, let’s first enjoy our life. Take a moment to breathe in and out. Wiggle our toes, feel our heart beating in our chest. To empathize with the people in our lives. It’s these subtle signs of life that allow us to enjoy the world anyway.

Slowing down is probably one of the easiest ways to do this. In today’s world, it’s so easy to be activated 24/7. We’re on our phones, listening to music, scrolling through social media, checking emails, etc. Every once in a while, we’ve got to turn off auto-pilot, remove all of the devices and distractions, come up for air, and take a look around us.

TL;DR: Living life to the fullest is all about taking risks and doing things out of the ordinary. We all need that. But what we also need is to enjoy LIFE itself. The very things that make life what it is–the air on your lungs, the people around you, the life inside your heart are what we need to appreciate the most. Because even those “small” things are a luxury to some.

How do you enjoy LIFE? And, the WORLD? Let me know in the comments–we can all use a reminder!

Melina Renee

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