I’ve seen enough to have lost my fear of death. This wasn’t always the case. During my twenties and thirties, I thought I would live forever, but losing loved ones along the way changed all of that. I began realizing my mortality then, but not embracing it. That has taken me till now to do.
As I understand life, everything is ongoing a cycle of transformation. I once held the more limiting view that everything begins and ends and there is no more. But whether you believe this or that nothing happens after death, one thing seems certain, when the body expires, there is no more physical suffering.
Death is as much a natural part of life as birth is. Although I no longer fear death, the knowledge my death is imminent has triggered an urgency to live my life to the fullest.
Living every moment
Because our life is limited, wasting any moment is a travesty. Therefore, it is important we create a list of the things we want to have or do during our lifetimes. But just checking off the items in our bucket list as we do them is not enough to maximize every moment of our existence.
What would you do if you only had five years to live?
This is a better question than the traditional “year to live” because five years is a substantial amount of time but finite enough to make you think about the remaining time of your life. Five years can pass in a whisper. Here are some ways you could waste those remaining years.
1) Trying to live up to what we think people expect of us. I can easily do this, so I have to concentrate on sticking to what I desire. I have also discovered that what people expect from you changes daily, sometimes one hundred eighty degrees from what they told you the last time you asked them. Chasing the expectations of others is a waste of time.
2) Satisfying the shoulds. These are the things we think we must do even though we don’t want to. This can be small, like going to the birthday party of a coworker you barely know. But the doing the unwanted shoulds can add up. Just count the “shoulds” you do every day and you will see what I mean
3) Keeping score. An “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is a stupid way to live. This is the most basic form of keeping score and the consequences of this should be obvious. Nothing good could come out of this. There are other ways of keeping score that are just as wasteful. Someone invited you to their house for dinner and now you feel obligated to invite them back. You got an unexpected Christmas gift from someone and now you have to buy one for them in repayment. The possibilities are endless, someone does something for you and you are propelled to do the same or more for them. What a colossal waste of time and energy!
4) Blind adherence to inane rules. Humans created every rule that ever was, is or ever will be. Many are arbitrary, example; you can only buy ten items or fewer to go through an express check-out line at the grocery store. Why ten and not eleven? Remember when Catholics couldn’t eat meat on Fridays? Here are some others. Believing the kitchen is a woman’s domain while the man is ruler of the yard. Reading a book is an acceptable way to distract from everyday life but watching TV is a waste of time. Restricting sex to one or two acceptable ways and judging all others to be immoral (not sure why I went there, let’s just say the Universe inspires me in unusual ways). Feeling guilty if you didn’t call your mother every day. Not napping when you are tired because you believe naps are only for children and old people.
When wanting to wipe these rules out of your life, inventory your list with an eye on the ones that take time away from what you want to do or deprive you of joy and serenity.
5) Not taking chances. Everything worth doing involves a certain amount of risk and discomfort. Depriving yourself out of that trip you always wanted to take, or asking the pretty girl out, or applying for the interesting job will keep you stuck in comfort and security. In other words, bored to pieces.
6) Scheduling life with so much busy work you don’t have time to think. Nothing wastes time more than frivolous activity. When you schedule a bunch of them back to back, day after day, you might as well flush your life down the toilet. Open up your schedule so you can reflect, meditate and consider doing the things that give you joy and passion. Wipe out the myriad of things you need not do but do out of habit.
7) Striving for perfection in everything. I am all for giving your best effort, but not everything requires that you have to be the best at it. For example, I am not a great car mechanic, I have no drive to get better at it (no pun intended). I would pay someone better to work on my car rather than I become the best at it. It would be more fun for me to spend my time becoming a better salsa dancer. Discerning the things that matter to you is important. Striving to be the best at everything will only lead to burnout.
8) Not showing your love to the people dear to you. Life is short. Therefore, it is important to show your love and appreciation for those who matter to you as often as you please. There is no guarantee they or you will be around for a later day when you can do this.
9) Obsessing over what is not good for you. Eating organically grown food is a good thing. Reducing the intake of sugar, caffeine and other chemicals is also a healthy thing to do. The benefits of exercise have proven to help us live longer and healthier. But we can carry all of this too far. It is perfectly all right to stay playing with the kids and skip the daily run. Having an ice cream cone or a slice of pizza now and again is fun and satisfying. Doing this is not going to kill you, so don’t fret about it so much.
10) Worrying. No amount of worrying changes anything. When you waste your time worrying, you cloud your mind and hide the clarity needed to tackle today’s problems. Worrying fuels your fears and increases the chances of them happening. It is what it is and there is not a lot you can do about it, except learn the lessons from your experiences and move forward.
11) Wishing. There is something gratifying about wishing. But wishing only comes true without effort if a genie comes out of the magic lamp you just rubbed. Although there is a certain amount of pleasure in wishing, it takes effort to make things happen. Even then, you must have a plan by which to focus your efforts. So, if you find yourself wishing for something, make a plan and take daily steps towards your goal.
Your time to live your best life is now! There will never be a period when every problem in your life is resolved, so don’t wait. Don’t expect others to do this for you either, for everyone is busy figuring their own life out. Work to make every moment serve the purpose you want. The clock is ticking.
As always, wishing you a life filled with joy, love and serenity.