I often find myself thinking about happiness, about life, and about how the two coincide. Inevitably, I also wonder about death and how the end of life plays its part in what we make of our wakeful hours.
Not in a morbid way. Just in a wondrous way.
Maybe it’s because I’ve seen death head-on. Because I’ve prepared incredibly young bodies for the grave, and because I have seen how quickly life can enter, and equally so how abrupt it can leave. But maybe it’s also because there’s a fear around the unknowns of death and a social-cultural norm of avoiding dying for as long as possible.
We have all lost someone we know and love. Chances are we have lost many. We have grieved in the many phases of our lives – maybe the unexpected death of a friend in high school, the death of a parent or grandparent in college, the death of an unborn baby, happy child, or spouse in young adulthood.
We connect this grief with empty, unforsaken pain, and before we know it we are living not to be well. But rather, we are living to not die. Because we know how sad and scary death can feel on this side of the equation.
As an adult, I often think about life, death, and happiness as they parallel with career, relationships, and finances. I find myself wondering where each fits into the equation and what role I want each to consume. I see people work their whole lives in positions where they are unhappy and regretful. I see people stay in debilitating friendships and relationships that leave them sad, angry, and cut off from the absolute joy loving others was made to bring. Even more commonly I see people stay in the jobs they hate and the relationships they loathe because of money. Because it “pays the bills”. And while I very clearly understand and respect the responsibilities that adulthood brings, especially with decisions to create a family, I still dread many of those theories.
I dread having a job I hate.
I dread having a relationship that doesn’t equally and positively serve both sides.
I dread money and materialistic items being of more value than time.
We, as a culture, stay in these circumstances that DON’T fill our cup to the brim because we think the value of life lies in how long it is lived. We muddle in medications letting a diagnosis confine us, we restrict ourselves in horrid diet fads, and we bribe ourselves through the week knowing Friday or Christmas is coming.
But what if it doesn’t?
What if tomorrow doesn’t come?
We say the cliches so often about ‘living as if tomorrow never came’, but really, TRULY think about it.
Do you feel you’ve lived a life you’ve loved? A life with more joy than stress? A life of fulfillment – whatever fulfillment means to you?
I am essentially the most stubborn 20-something year old on the planet because I just can’t see myself living a life without pursuing my authentic purpose and without fearlessly following my passions (knowing the personal definitions of these are all ever-changing over a lifetime).
One night, before I ‘had it all figured out’ (which for clarity's sake, I’ll never actually have it all figured out), I was overwhelmed with thoughts of who am I, who do I want to be, what do I want to do. This hot track is on replay so often in my mind that I picture all my little neurons singing, dancing, and passing out on couches with their shoes on, waking with sharpie mustaches in the AM.
My husband could see my inner-mind cooking, steam sifting out of my ears, and without me even saying a word suggested, “how ’bout tonight you make a short term, medium-term, and long term goal list”. And so after dinner, I grabbed my markers and did just as Dr. Marc prescribed. And as I sat next to the stars under the earth-lit window pane, I had a crashing thought.
You have ONE CHANCE at this life thing (assuming reincarnation is a sham, but I’m still open to the concept).
You have ONE OPPORTUNITY to make an impact.
ONE TIME here on planet earth to make a difference.
ONE LIFE, YOU GUYS.
ONE STINKIN’ LIFE.
Oddly enough, I didn’t feel limited or exhausted by these thoughts. I felt exhilarated. Because at that moment, in my mind's meteor shower of ideas and concepts, I felt ALIVE. Because there and then, the petty stuff does not matter.
This life is too short for materialistic idolization, surface-level relationships, and jobs that we don’t DREAM of.
Similarly, we are wasting precious time if we are only living not to die. We are letting all we are made of slip through the cracks if we believe that a successful life is one that is lived LONG rather than lived WELL.
I often envy extreme solo rock climbers like Alex Honnold who live TO live. He does what he LOVES, chases what sets his soul on fire, and knows I could die today doing this, AND IS TOTALLY COOL WITH THAT.
I’m not saying go climb El Capitan rope-less and prepare your headstone, but I am saying LIVE THAT WAY. Whatever that means to you. Just LIVE TO LIVE.
Stop living to avoid death.
Attend your healthcare appointments.
Drown in quality time with both yourself and those you love.
Live for your passions, for your purpose, and for your impact.
Don’t let the drudgery of bills, chores, medication refills, degrees, politics, gossip, and the unspoken games of who has it worse let you lose sight of that.
Love and thank your body.
Love and thank your mind.
Love and thank your spirit.
Be your own best friend and BE WELL.
You have ONE SHOT. ONE CHANCE. ONE OPPORTUNITY. You’re only here once.
Are you doing what you want to do? Are you loving who you want to love? Are you living a life that sets your soul on fire?
If not now, when?
Rooting for you, always.