We all know that life and just about everything else we see are impermanent. We all know that we need to savor what we have because it may not last. This is especially true of love, that most precious of elements in our universe. We all know this, and yet it is so easy to forget. As the dust settles a bit (hopefully) after a few years marked by loss, I have become more determined to incorporate this awareness into my own life and consciousness.

This will likely sound a bit morbid at first, but lately I have had a little perspective-checking exercise I undertake whenever my wife or I is about to leave for work or otherwise. I think “if this is the last time I ever see her, will I regret the last interaction?”

Allow me to explain a little bit. This semi-philosophical question could lead down any number of rabbit holes, such as panic, sadness or even simply never getting to work because I’m clinging to her ankles too hard. On a good day, though, none of these pitfalls are relevant.

Ultimately the sense that all we have is this moment and anything can happen is simply the literal truth. Thinking ahead to consequences is a straightforward, rational thing. There is so much we can’t predict, but I can say with great certainty that whenever that inevitable last moment comes (hopefully a long time from now) I want the last interaction to be one of loving and full engagement.

But here’s the thing to latch onto, even if that line of thought is just too depressing for you: any actions governed by that principle are likely to be healthy and uplifting. Even though Kate did, in fact, return home from work the other day, I’m still glad I got up from the email I was writing to say a meaningful goodbye. Even though we both woke up this morning, I’m still glad I put my phone down and paid attention to her.

I have a hard time withholding judgment of people who squander riches that others do not have in comparable abundance, and I am determined as hell not to be one of those people. There are lots of poems and songs about how love is a gift that money can’t buy . . . and you know what, it’s true. It’s easy for other things to feel urgent (indeed, sometimes they are), and yet if we’re not careful we can get so caught up that we forget what’s really important. And this principle applies, of course, to all forms of love for others, not just romantic partners (“Cat’s in the Cradle,” anyone?).

I’m going to make this one uncharacteristically short so that more of Valentine’s Day can be free for attentiveness. In the meantime, you can entertain yourself with my Valentine’s gift from last year, a song/video that addresses, a bit more cheekily, the idea of savoring every moment.

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