Live Like You’re Dying
Man oh Man. Don’t even go there. People seem to think it is such a heroic way to live. To say fuck it to the world and just do what you wanna do. People wonder what they would do with that crazy freedom of not having to suffer the consequences. It’s a weird mindset.
There were a few things I found wrong with living like you’re dying though. For one, it’s expensive. And I ate a lot of ice cream and suddenly maybe a simple Tuesday evening was cause for celebration. Eventually, nothing seemed special anymore and I realized that I was just leading an impulsive extravagant lifestyle as a matter of course.
And then, awkwardly, I didn’t die, at least I haven’t yet. When I was diagnosed with Stage IV, it was like all the doors shut for me. That was the final blow. It was over. Now I had a front row seat to watch my eventual decline which would be poetically beautiful and tragic. I felt I was singing the swan song of life and it was time for me to begin my terrible and unwanted exit. I lived that for quite awhile too – the slow dying. I was unaware I had subconsciously made death by cancer my goal, but there it was in my mind, at the end of everything. All roads led to that certain demise. All dreams died there.
So recently, I decided to confront cancer and I wrote it a letter:
I have been pretending that you are killing me now. That you have ended my life before it has even begun. I have been pretending I am sicker than I am because I’m frightened, when in fact I feel pretty good right now and there are still a multitude of options available to me. I don’t know the effects personally of any of the medicines I haven’t tried and it is entirely possible there could be ones with minimal side effects for me. You hurt me in the past with the treatments and I’m letting that fear carry forward into the future and assuming that all treatments will be painful. What’s happened that I’m slowly killing myself with my mind, I’m letting fear win and I’m terrified and always in a state of high anxiety. I’m touchy and quick to anger as a result. Everything sets me off all the time and I’m existing in a reactionary mode much of the time. What has been missing from my life since you came along is a sense of hope or joy. I haven’t allowed myself to receive love because I’ve been too busy being a victim. I’ve clammed up. I’ve lost self-expression. I’ve lost aliveness.
So as of right now I’m changing it up. Right now I’m creating a space where I exist separate of this disease. It is something that is happening to my body but it doesn’t have to dominate my mind. I will allocate time to it, as I do to housekeeping or paying bills but I will no longer let the uncertain future of it run and ruin my life. I stand here in the immense possibility of aliveness, love, self-expression, and BEing that is fulfilling with every moment. I vow to have fun.
I am so so SO GRATEFUL! Cancer, thank you for my freedom. It was you who gave me the courage to find my voice when it was almost gone. It was you who tapped your wristwatch and gave urgency to the need for me to find my true path. It has been your insistence on immediacy, that has pushed me to take one frightening leap after another. For that I thank you.
But I choose to take it from here. I choose to go forward from a place of personal power and choose each moment. I choose my future from a place of love of life, not fear of death. Thank you for the push, I’ll take it from here.
And that right there made all the difference. I stopped letting it be a big looming thing that was dominating my every waking moment. I refused to let it run my internal dialogue. I was so sick and tired of being me that I demanded a change of myself. I can’t change anything else, but I can change how I deal with this.
For me, living like I was dying meant living from a place of fear. My attitude, in general was “if I don’t do this or have this now, I never will”. The perspective “live like you’re dying” only served to make beautiful moments sad and filled my heart with shoulds and shouldn’t haves. “I should have done this sooner. I shouldn’t have to miss doing this again” It ate at me as I tried to live and I began to avoid amazing epic experiences because they made me bitter and full of regret and resentment.
No. Live like you’re dying is not a good way of being for me. Now I live like I’m living. I do things because I enjoy the doing of them. I do the things that I want to do and that make my invisible tail wag. My life has suddenly become so precious to me. I realize that sounds weird, like of course your life is precious. But I mean my aliveness has become precious. What I do with my day-to-day really matters to me because the present is where I’m keeping my attention. I’m OK with not taking on a project that my heart isn’t in because I now realize, ultimately, that is a disservice to everyone. I’ve become really clear on what it is that gives me joy and I keep as much of that as I can in my life. It’s remarkably easy actually. Joy seems to beget joy and it feeds on itself in some really impressive ways. Joy spills over into areas you didn’t realize and results in unexpected smiles from strangers and little tokens of love from the universe. And the more I stand in joy the more I am grateful for where I am now. I’m so grateful for this moment and the person I am in it. I get to do this for awhile longer.
How awesome is that?