Existential Bummer

posted in: Just Write, Life 62 comments

Live life to the fullest quote

Many years ago, my husband and I watched documentaries about the Universe, how it came to be, how big it all is, and the one thing that stayed with me was how tiny I felt, like I am merely a speck in this existence.

It struck me that life is truly short, if you think about it in a macro sense – how things and people have existed and died over thousands of years, and that our time here on Earth, is but a blink.

Now that I am a mother, I have a complex relationship with time. There are parts of parenting that are hard, and I admit, I wish that they would pass, and pass quickly. But there are so many things about it that I love, and wish I could just stop time and hold that moment forever. 

When I watched this video (below) by Jason Silva for the first time, I had tears rolling down my face, and I found myself exhaling when it finished. I didn’t even know I was holding my breath, or that I was crying. I have watched this many times now. A dozen times, at least. The effect is the same. Breath-holding, tears-rolling.

Our lives are short, in transience, impermanent. We all know this. Is this why we are always desperate to dig through our family histories? To beg our grandparents for stories about their youth? Is it because we want to know that things DO go on, that the ones who went before us felt that too, and are leaving us a thread to hold onto, for us to then pass it on to our children? 

Is this why we have words, pictures, video to memorialize moments, to freeze something in time, that we can read/ look at/ watch over and over? I think this is why I feel such a great urge to write, to photograph, to blog. I want to do my part to defy this impermanence. I want future generations to know what and who came before them. I want to never, ever forget, or let go. I want to live life to the fullest. All the parts – the good, the bad, the ugly. Because this is our life, short and impermanent as it is, physically. 

Please take a few minutes to watch the video. If it doesn’t play here, click this.

How do you feel about the impermanence of our existence? 


If you’re up to reading something a little less deep, but equally thought-provoking, I have a post about potty training struggles at Everyday Family. Check it out? Thank you.

Alison Lee is a former PR and marketing professional turned work-at-home mother. After a 10-year career in various PR agencies, and of the world’s biggest sports brands, Alison traded in product launches and world travel, for sippy cups, diapers, and breastfeeding. Alison's writing has been featured on Mamalode, On Parenting at The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Everyday Family, Scary Mommy, and DrGreene.com. She is one of 35 essayists in the anthology, My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends. In 2012, she founded Little Love Media, a social media consultancy specializing in blog book tours, and because she doesn’t sleep, is an editor at BonBon Break, an online magazine. Alison lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with her husband and four children (two boys and boy/ girl twins).

Latest posts by Alison (see all)

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • November 20, 2013 Stevie

    …s@#% that video just gripped me. I cried too. I wonder if that is why I am the way I am – like you trying to so hard to soak it all up, to love deeper, to feel everything because I know it will pass. Maybe that’s why I write too. Wow. He is right – there is a hint of sadness is our joy.
    Stevie recently wrote…I Hate Being Sick But I Love Old School BloggingMy Profile

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      It’s the truth of his message that really hits hard, doesn’t it? It’s a knowledge that we have, deep inside us, but doesn’t come to surface if we don’t think about it. I think that is why it’s profound.

  • November 20, 2013 Carrie


    We just had something hit our family that brought this to the surface. What DO you do? Love harder, hug tighter?

    Lots of thinking and pondering going on around my place and this came at a perfect time.

    Again, fabulous.
    Carrie recently wrote…The world has enough crap but could probably use a little more me. And a little more you. Trust me, here…I’m right.My Profile

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      I pray for strength and love for you, Carrie, for whatever you and your family are dealing with. xo

  • November 20, 2013 Tamara

    I usually can’t watch those universe videos. They make me so anxious! I’ve had a lot of existential bummers in my life. I’ve also had some existential triumphs – in which I make every little thing matter to me. It gets stranger with having kids too. I’m always a little sad with my happy – that it will all fall through my hands.
    Tamara recently wrote…Look Ma, No Hands!My Profile

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      My husband made me watch them! 🙂
      Parenting is like the ultimate existential bummer, isn’t it?

  • November 20, 2013 Living Serenely

    Oh! So worth the watch. Thanks so much for sharing. So true… there is always a trace of melancholy in the sweetest moments, because they are so fleeting. Like the saying “this too shall pass”… it applies to both the sad times as well as the happy times.
    Living Serenely recently wrote…Embarking on something crazyMy Profile

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      It truly does.

  • November 20, 2013 Kim

    I think that this holding on and savouring is why I write and blog and photograph, too. It does go so fast. I know about that complicated relationship with time. 🙂
    Love the video – so powerful.
    Kim recently wrote…First FiveMy Profile

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      Time and I – we are best friends and worse enemies. 🙂

  • November 20, 2013 Natalie

    Wow this was truly beautiful and so true…the times of so much love is also backed with a sadness as he described b/c in the back of our minds we know it can’t last forever even though we try to hard. But then again we have these beautiful photos, writings, and videos to remind us of these great feelings. Wow love this post Alison!
    Natalie recently wrote…Moms Always Finish LastMy Profile

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      We do, don’t we? Thank you, Natalie.

  • November 20, 2013 Catherine

    I didn’t have the same feelings. I write, blog so my children will have memories. I do miss time since my children are older and I wonder where it has all gone.
    Catherine recently wrote…How the girooses came aboutMy Profile

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      Maybe because we are at different times in our lives? Since my children are so young, I feel the rapid growing up, immensely.

  • November 20, 2013 Christopher D Drew

    I believe strongly in transcendence. While the thought that everything will change grips me from time to time. And I both enjoy and mourn each stage of life I am passing through, I find I do not worry that one day everything will slip into a black abyss. I think there is more.
    Christopher D Drew recently wrote…A Pastor, A Pagan, and A Hippy Walk Into A CoffeeshopMy Profile

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      Christopher, I truly want to believe that there is more too. It’s comforting, isn’t it?

  • November 20, 2013 Kerstin

    The video is definitely the kind that makes you pause and think about your relationship with the universe. Also – anything that has Rilke (and Freud, but Rilke more so) in it makes me think. He’s the author of my favourite poem ever – The Panther – and when you read that it really reflects that desperation he must have felt.
    Kerstin recently wrote…ZwetschgenknödelMy Profile

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      That was an awesome poem!

  • November 20, 2013 vanita

    So I’ve never heard of Silva until now and to be frank, OMGawd I love this guy. this film is awesome. Loved it. As I look at my kids Alison, I feel that melancholy. I know these years will pass. And I want to squeeze these kids so hard as if that will stop time or make the moment even more memorable for them and me. I look at my teens and I cherish how amazing they are now but I miss the days of them being little. My oldest is going off to college next year and I pray that she chooses a local college and doesn’t go away because I know no matter what I do, I can’t stretch this last year any longer that it is. This year of her giving me hugs and kisses everyday after school and telling me about her day…I’m trying to hold on to these moments. Make her give me extra kisses. Because next year, I may not get them daily and I know I’ll long for the days that I did. And yes it’s selfish of me not to want her to go, but I can’t help it, all I can do is let her choose, right? Ah parenthood makes our short lives seem even shorter honey. Thanks for sharing the video. Silva expressed everything I feel in mere moments and so beautifully. I loved it.
    vanita recently wrote…A Bit Of The Unusual, Courtesy Of Old School BloggingMy Profile

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      I’m glad you shared this, V. It shows me your heart, your love for your children and how awesome they are. Yes, cherish every day with your kids, and your soon-to-be-college girl. (OMG what?)

  • November 20, 2013 Sarah

    Wow — that was pretty deep. I’m with you, I just do the best I can to really live in the everyday moments that make up our lives (and sometimes snap a picture or write something down to remember it by), so at the end of my life hopefully I won’t look back and wonder where the time went, and wish I’d done something different.
    Sarah recently wrote…A day in the lifeMy Profile

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      Live with no regrets – I agree. That’s a good way to go.

  • November 21, 2013 Alexandra

    You knew I would get this, right?

    I love you, dear lady.

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      I knew. I really did. Love you too. xo

  • Yes, tears and a need to high that what you hold dear as tight as you can. Thank you for sharing this.
    Tinne From Tantrums and Tomatoes recently wrote…A nightmare come true: the 5 stages of forgetting your shoes at homeMy Profile

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      Thank you for reading, Tinne.

  • November 21, 2013 Ilene

    I cried when I first watched this video and now I’m teary just thinking about it. It all goes so fast. And it’s so impermanent. I hope I’m making the most of it. I hope we all are.
    Ilene recently wrote…Upside DownMy Profile

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      I believe you are, Ilene. I do.

  • November 21, 2013 Shannon

    Wow. I really get this. I’ve been feeling the impermanence hard with motherhood lately. With one knocking on the door to adulthood, I find myself thinking a lot about how short of time 18 years really is. Granted, I will not cease to be their mother at 18, but you know what I mean. I can’t really get a handle on it and what it means for me.
    Shannon recently wrote…DadMy Profile

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      I know what you mean, I do. Wow, 18. I cannot imagine. Hug those children tight! 🙂

  • November 21, 2013 Nicole

    Thinking about eventually saying goodbye to our children, to our loved ones and knowing they will have to do the same keeps me up at night, if I let it. That’s why I’m going to RAGE against the dying of the light. Every.Single.Day. Love this, Alison.

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      Let’s rage together, Nicole. And thank you.

  • November 21, 2013 Elizabeth

    I can relate. These kinds of questions and worries have been on my lately this year, especially with the death of someone very special in my life. And I know what you mean about feeling small in this space and time. And because of that, I think I’m slowly starting to let go of the little things in everyday life that bother me – thinking, “Does this situation/problem/worry *really* as big as it feels, or am I just wasting time feeling bad about it?” Like I said, it’s a slow process, but I’d like to keep looking at worries/annoyances/fears like that. There’s too much life to live, too many people to love, and too many places to go to waste energy on the stuff that brings us down. Thank you for writing about this.

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      I am so sorry for your loss, Elizabeth. You are right – the impermanence of life does bring a different perspective, doesn’t it? When really little things, really is small, and we shouldn’t sweat it.

  • November 21, 2013 Emily

    This idea has been huge for me lately. Why am I more blue since becoming a mom? I am happier, too… Why do I constantly want to document everything? Then get sad when I miss it because I’m fumbling with a device. This video and your words provide a little of comfort here. Lovely. Thank you!
    Emily recently wrote…mtn mama: go, jabberwalkeyMy Profile

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      Thank you, Emily. I’m glad that the video touched you.

  • November 21, 2013 Maureen

    Oh Alison the video brought me to tears.
    I came to the realization about circle of life two days ago after finding out my aunt passed away while we are awaiting for my sister in law to give birth. New life – passing life. Circle of life. Surely make me think deeply.
    Maureen recently wrote…Uncooking 101 – Raw Food Made EasyMy Profile

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      I’m so sorry for the loss of your aunt, Maureen, but congratulations to you on becoming an aunt. It truly is a circle of life.

  • November 21, 2013 Allie

    I love so much of this and feel so much of this. The video had me in tears as do most days with the kids – some are good and some not so much. I especially agree with your point about leaving a legacy through photographing, blogging and videos. How I wish my own mom had done more of it so I had more of her that was tangible instead of just memories in my mind.
    Allie recently wrote…Allie’s Arms – The TrifectaMy Profile

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      I wish the same too. That my parents, and theirs before them, had kept better records. When I was a kid, I used to flip through my grandmother’s photo albums of the early days with her children, I was consumed with them, always asking questions, wanting to know everything. I just wish there had been more!

  • November 21, 2013 Tricia

    Oh I felt the exact same when I watched that. The crying and the exhaling and also the feeling of this is why I write and take a million photos and do all of the things I do and live my life the way I try to live it. Because I want to believe in more. So glad you are sharing this video.
    Tricia recently wrote…Little fingersMy Profile

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      I love that you felt all the same things, Tricia.

  • November 22, 2013 sarah reinhart

    it had the same effect on me when I watched it. I remember traveling abroad in Europe when I was in college. That was the first time I felt the grandness of the world vs. how small/tiny/insignificant (though not in a bad way–just eye opening) I really was. Thank for sharing it. Makes me want to live even more boldly and fully. xx

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      Oh, me too, Sarah, me too!

  • November 22, 2013 Jin Ai

    It’s complicated isn’t it? I can relate, yet feel that everything that’s happening now “echoes for eternity” (name that movie!).
    Jin Ai recently wrote…Looking back, laughingMy Profile

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      Um, Gladiator?

  • November 22, 2013 Adrienne

    Wow. I needed more coffee for that! What a beautiful thought provoking way to begin my day. Sniffle, sniffle…
    Adrienne recently wrote…What Operation Christmas Child Means To MeMy Profile

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      Right?? It’s so profound, it hit me to my gut the first time. And the second time, the third…..

  • November 22, 2013 My Inner Chick


    Love HARD. Tell people you LOVE them every. single. day. LIVE like tomorrow will not come…
    sometimes it doesn’t.

    Love flowing to you in Malaysia, Sweet Insightful Alison Lee. Xx
    My Inner Chick recently wrote…You’re An Effing Super StarMy Profile

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      I know you know the pain. And I’m sorry. But I love that you also know to love had and live beautifully. xoxo

  • November 22, 2013 Christine

    ohmygosh wow. thank you for sharing that. I think that there is a part of me that tries to soak it all up and dive deep because I lost my father when I was so young. At the same time, that loss made me really realize that things don’t last forever and made me afraid to hold on too tightly. I do think that’s why I like to blog and journal and keep photographs. I need proof and memories.
    Christine recently wrote…Friday Round-Up: Don’t be afraid to ask for helpMy Profile

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      Yes, proof and memories! Exactly.

  • November 23, 2013 Elaine A.

    When I start to think about the smallness of myself and those around me and my eensy-teensy bit of time here on earth, I am usually standing at the edge of the ocean. That is where it hits me, every time.

    I agree with Jason, take it all in while you can. In a BIG way.

    • November 23, 2013 Alison

      I have a strange relationship with the ocean too. Which is why I love it, and fear it at the same time, I guess.

  • November 24, 2013 erin margolin

    What a rockstar post, Alison! Amazing complication of tips and helpful advice for both newbies as well as more seasoned bloggers!!!
    and love that you’re FAMOUS now!
    (I can say I knew you when!_
    p.s. Did i tell you I got your sweet card, all the way from Malaysia? I love you.

    • November 25, 2013 Alison

      Hardly famous, sweetie!
      Glad you received the card, was wondering about it. 🙂 Love you too. xo

  • November 26, 2013 Keely

    I want to defy entropy. ….WEEEEEEEEEP.
    Keely recently wrote…November Date: Riveting Theatre And Tasty Frites.My Profile

    • November 26, 2013 Alison

      Right??? Sigh.

  • December 3, 2013 R.F. Dietz

    The fact I wont live forever is comforting. Life is full of beauty and hardship and I feel lucky to partake in the experience and miracle that is existence. It doesn’t hurt, depress or make me feel sad to know one day I will be dust and forgotten because it is a common tragedy we all share. I very much enjoyed the video!
    R.F. Dietz recently wrote…A Holiday Weekend Photo DumpMy Profile

    • December 3, 2013 Alison

      I’m glad you enjoyed the video!

  • December 8, 2013 Andrea

    I relate to this so much. I think the reason why I write is to feed into my own nostalgia. It’s self-preservation. It keeps me from dwelling on the fact that I may one day be alone, and everything that I had ever loved is lost. My thoughts are written down somewhere, not consuming my mind.
    Andrea recently wrote…We DancedMy Profile

    • December 8, 2013 Alison

      I love your perspective, Andrea. I always find it interesting why people write.

I Write This Blog

Alison Profile PictureI'm Alison. Writer, a mother of four (two boys and boy/ girl twins), social media enthusiast and book lover. A believer in the power of chocolate and hugs. Chugging coffee as I type. Want to know more?

The Books I’m In (Buy Now!)

I Am On Google+

Oldies But Goodies