Noted therapist/author, Virginia Woolf, speaks of how much of our life is lived in the haze of “non-being.” She describes what she means:
“A great part of every day is not lived consciously. One walks, eats, sees things, deals with what has to be done; the broken vacuum cleaner; ordering dinner; writing orders to Mabel; washing; cooking dinner; bookbinding. When it is a bad day, the proportion of non-being is much larger.”
In my work as a psychotherapist, it’s inescapable for me that I catch glimpses of people going about their lives. And I always notice that it’s easy enough for most of us to live without really looking. We can get things done or interact with others and not bothering to pay attention.
I once knew a 50 year old man stricken with colon cancer who was always out, day after day, walking in the mall despite his frailty. He liked to get out. According to him, it made him feel alive. Even just looking at people going by or conversing with them in the coffee shop gave him “moments of being.” He rejoiced with them, sharing each other’s stories.
Illness, accident, or death can teach us that all can be taken away in one swift moment. So, for the first time in our lives, we may find learning to reject “moments of non-being” that characterize much of our days. We search for what really matters given the shortness of time to enjoy “moments of being.”
When Alexander Solzhenitsyn was imprisoned, he wrote:
“You have the right to arrange your own life under the blue sky and the hot sun, to get a drink of water, to stretch, to travel wherever you like … Do not pursue what is illusory — property and position: all that is gained at the expense of your nerves decade after decade, and is confiscated in one fell night …”