Just about everyone who has spent an evening with me has, at some point, accused me of being an old man. Back troubles aside, they’re quite correct. When 8:30 pm rolls around, I start to feel the haze creep into the back of my skull like the fog that lingers over Civil War battlefields in those long, dreadful documentaries. My body feels heavy and sluggish, and my give-a-fuck meter quickly starts rolling back towards “no-fucks.” Sometimes, if there is food around or something snappy or exciting happening, I can rally a little (we’re talking 10:30, maybe 11 pm). I can pull myself together for another round of the board or quiz game, conversation about the Donald, or attempting to flip water bottles over and having them land right side up (way harder than it looks). Doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it. Doesn’t mean I have to be unhappy about it either, I suppose… Point is, I usually want to close my eyes for a few or a large number of fews. Inevitably, especially if we’re not at our own house, I will fall asleep in someone’s chair sitting in their backyard, or on their couch while we’re watching the movie, or huddled against my poor wife who is still trying to be a de facto human who isn’t over the age of 65.
It’s not that I don’t want to take part in things or act my age. I really do. I just equally enjoy sleeping and not feeling awful (ok, maybe slightly more). That amazing feeling of freshness upon waking up rested vs. that horrible feeling of failed suicide with 3 hours of sleep, well, speaks for itself. But it also makes me old in most people’s eyes. They all get that mildly-condescending, dreary look that we’ve given an older or newborn relative, the “Aww she’s tired,” one. And but for the quasi-realistic fear that someone is going to write on my face (a fate I thankfully dodged in college), I think I would probably sleep just about anywhere. This is just my reality; my body says it’s time to quit at nine and almost-30-years-old or not, I listen. Age is just a number, after all, the body does what the fuck it wants.
Together with a significant number of eye-rolls, my old-mannish nature has also given me a little perspective about the uncomfortable thoughts of death that most of us struggle with (hell of a transition, no?). It’s not so much sage wisdom as simple observations that have happened while watching others laugh, contort their faces, or struggle with the idea of a man in his late twenties going to bed so early on a Friday (or Saturday, I don’t discriminate). Whether one embraces the idea of heaven, rebirth, or nothingness on the other side of death, it still scares the shit out of most people. The idea of our consciousness being extinguished from the planet and no longer taking part in the lives of the people and things we love the most is jarring and almost insulting to contemplate. We put all this effort into maintaining a physical form, only to have it inevitably call it quits. Fucker.
It’s that same look, the same feeling, albeit toned a-ways down, that most people get when they first see me yawning at their party on a Saturday evening. The fear of an end, possibly even a premature one. The fear of missing out on all sorts of good things that are in store, if they can but keep their eyes open a while longer. Every weekend is a microcosm of the life and death cycle, a glimpse into the fear we all carry around in our back pocket, hoping that we don’t see it when we pull out our phones or wallets. Death is the ultimate FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). So we run from the idea of the night ending, because, maybe, it reminds us that one day the night is going to end for good, which can be both depressing and alcohol-inducing.
Together with this observation of the petite mort of the weekend, I have an additional one, due to my old-man-ness. You are missing out and so what. Granted there are times where you do miss something amazing, beautiful, or hilarious, but that’s happening every day, 24/7. You are always missing out while alive. You were missing out before you were alive and you’ll be missing out even more when you’re dead. So the real question arises–what is worth missing out on? Everything becomes an exchange. When I go to bed at 9 pm (10 if I’m having a true battle with self), I’m exchanging the rest of the evening for physical and mental release, propelled towards the quiet morning sun while everyone else is scattered around the floor and couches of our home. I’m not saying it’s any better than seeing bottles flipped or deep conversations about life with loved ones, it just is what it is. If I want the latter, then I’m going to have to make an exchange and be amongst those sprawled out, asleep until mid-afternoon (plus some additional grumpiness and general fogginess).
Our beliefs in life and death are no different. We keep trading one set of experiences for another in hopes of prolonging or avoiding or fulfilling something that keeps us on the side of more life, or at least less death. Buried deep within our death-FOMO is a desire for the party to continue and a distaste for anything that might remind us of an end. I’m not about to tell you to start going to bed at 9 pm, weekday or weekend. But I am going to tell you that I’ve been to “the other side” of this FOMO in response to my body’s demands and there is a simple lesson to embrace–all you have to do is choose without pre-meditated regret. In other words, realize that you are missing out, no matter what you choose, so you might as well wrap yourself up in your choice with the reckless abandon of a twenty-something who has a date with cool sheets and a pillow.
I’m happy to discuss your choice at length, as well as any other thoughts you might have re: FOMO, just know that we gotta wrap up by about 8:45 pm.
(Pssst Do me a solid, don’t forget to like and share, if you did, in fact, find it likable and shareable)
Originally published at millren.wordpress.com on July 10, 2017.