So I recently heard this song by Tim McGraw called Live like you were dying. It’s about making the changes you always meant to do because you feel the end coming. It’s very touching. He identifies doing things and being different emotionally and in relationship too –
….I went sky-diving and rocky mountain climbing… and I loved deeper, I spoke sweeter, and I gave forgiveness I’d been denying; I was finally the husband that most the time I wasn’t, I became a friend a friend would like to have..and I finally read the good book and I took a good long hard look at what I would do if I could do it all again; ….I watched an eagle as it was flying…live like you were dying.
Several years ago my dear friend was diagnosed with colon cancer. She was amazing. Over the last few years of her life she made sure that what she could do, that she wanted to do, she did.
She focused on what was great about life and she focused on getting as much as possible out of life, from both a doing as well as experiencing (connecting and being) perspective. It was inspiring to witness and amazing to be close to her during this time.
She allowed her compassion and love of life to guide her in her endeavors yet she was mindful of taking care of all the responsibilities involved in dying – providing for other and making sure she resolved unresolved issues.
She lived as if everything she did mattered. But she was less uptight, and more relaxed about everything, too. It was as if she was savoring each moment and didn’t want to allow anger to steal any of those moments away from her.
She tolerated the vulnerability of being what her heart desired because she didn’t have to worry about what end would come; she felt the urgency of being her true self because her days were numbered.
It fits that when we see we are nearing the end, one of the first things to release is anger. Sure people are angry about dying but wasting precious living-time on feeling and being angry takes away the time available for en-joying what life actually offers.
I think it’s an important lesson on which to focus, getting as much out of life as possible; it seems like a good thing to focus on even when one doesn’t know their fate… to live like you were dying…. to really savor and be mindful of your actions, and your relationships.
Structure is important to teach but living is the most important thing that we take for granted. We focus on structure early in our parenting because we want to help our children to have that throughout their lives but I wonder if we do so at the neglect of teaching them about trusting their instincts about what brings them joy and their talents and seeing the beauty available in relationships.
To create a life that is full regardless of your days, both delayed gratification and structure as well as living in the moment are needed in balance.
When I lost my friend I felt I had really experienced a lot of life with her. That we had connected, and shared, and lived through things in a way that I could cherish and hold onto after she was gone.
Earlier in my life I had lost my beloved boyfriend in a car accident. It was unexpected and shocking. He too, had a way of getting the most out of life – for him experiencing life mattered more than the accumulation of things. He focused on connections and relationships, and experiences.
At the time, I was too figure focused and not enough ground – so when he died I really felt cheated and lost. It was difficult. But now I realize that our experiences together created a strong model for me to focus on connections and relationship and to let go of the unimportant injuries of everyday life; to see the whole of the person or experience and embrace what is good while releasing what doesn’t work.
His death profoundly changed my life. I always made sure that I tell the ones I loved how much I love them, every time I see them, so I won’t regret not saying it if something were to happen.
Now I am watching as my father struggles to live out the rest of his life with a diagnosis of end stage cancer. What strikes me is how it affects the people around him.
He, like the individuals identified above, seems to have let go of anger and is trying to both fight the cancer and focus on living experiences each day. He has lived a very experience and accomplishment filled life.
The people around him seem to have so much anger. They haven’t found their way to the importance of letting go of that anger, those left over resentments, and experiencing in the present moment what they have left. To connect and laugh and resolve the unresolved issues; to make peace with the fullness and wholeness of their relationship with him. To allow love, life, and peace to fill the time left. It’s difficult to witness and get caught in the occasional crossfire of anger.
Perhaps it’s because they haven’t lost someone they really cared about before – they don’t realize the finiteness of this time.
In reality all our time is finite. We each might find greater happiness if we could focus on our life as such, so that we could keep our focus more balanced.
Our lives are made up of our accomplishments, and they require an element of delayed gratification – waiting to do what you want while you are creating them.
But what also makes up our lives are experiences with people. Connections and shared experiences are the most amazing memories when those we love are gone. Sharing a sunset, a baseball game, a spiritual service, skiing, dinner, laughter, difficulties and joy.
These events build connections and are like threads through the tapestry of our lives. They provide color and content and a type of marker to keep us tethered while we move through our lives.
Balancing our focus on developing structure and doing and accomplishments with being and connecting and experiences is very important. It requires being present, knowing what matters, being flexible and firm, having compassion, understanding rights and responsibilities, seeing figure and ground, and being mindful.
How we integrate cognitions and emotions, and the ways in which we reveal them to ourselves and others, is the fabric of our lives.
See you tomorrow.