Embrace life

(Contemplate and appreciate every minute. Photo by Diana Gross.)

The date (Dec. 21) predicted by the Mayan’s to be the end of days will come and go.

The good news and the bad news is going to be the same. It won’t happen.

This is, of course, good news for obvious reasons but I can’t help but wondering what would have changed if people really, truly believed, even for a minute, that the world as we knew it was over.

All those chances had passed and those plans for later would never materialize.

The Buddhists like to ask if today is a good day to die. They don’t ask because they are morbid but because it is an excellent question. They understand that, if people really believed someone was coming for them tomorrow they would clean up their house today.

But, for some reason, Western cultures deny the reality of death. We don’t like to talk about it. We prefer, instead, to live as if there were no end, no consequence, no fiscal cliff or global warming, no health issues that will stop us in our tracks if we don’t slow down.

Two weeks before my mother died she tried to talk with me about it. “Nancy,” she said, “I feel like my body has begun to leave this earth. It won’t be long now.”

I let my fear take over and I flew into my denial mode.

“No Mom! Don’t say that. You’re going to be fine” which, of course, she wasn’t.

Two weeks later she was gone and I regret every day that I didn’t let her talk about it. I didn’t listen and I didn’t ask, “What does that feel like?”

Light Temple in Penang, Malaysia (Photo by Diana Gross)

If I had been practiced at thinking about and talking about death, I would have been present enough to give her what she needed at that most important time – compassionate listening.

Whenever that ominous realization comes over us we fly to action to distract ourselves with more work, more food, more booze, more entertainment, etc. instead of letting the feeling sink in.

This experience of life is temporary.

If we showed just a little more courage and held steady just long enough to let that thought take root we might then begin to experience the world in a way we never imagined possible.

If we accepted that life was fleeting we might be more inclined to take a moment to marvel at it.

Rather than see our bodies as too fat or too thin we might allow ourselves to be astonished about the fact that six trillion bio-chemical events are working in cooperation in order for one body to breathe the air or to move its fingers and toes.

If we take time, every day, to acknowledge that nothing is permanent, then we will be less incline to let our fear of change keeps us in jobs that don’t serve our needs and relationships that don’t honor our dignity.

What are you waiting for? (Photo by Diana Gross.)

If we were to understand deeply that change is inevitable then we would be more willing to take charge of our situation before time runs out.

We would learn to love someone before it’s too late. We would learn to trust enough to allow a partner into our scary places.

We would give ourselves permission to make mistakes and allow ourselves to have those life enriching experiences we’re so scared of.

This year I will turn 50 years old. Some of my friends have already died sudden and unexpected deaths.

So when I was presented with an opportunity to fly half way around the world to ride an elephant, I didn’t let my fear of being uncomfortable stop me.

I called my kids, my siblings and my friends and said – if that plane crashes I just want you to know that you were AWESOME to have in my life.

I told my boss that if I don’t come back I wanted him to know that I appreciated the opportunity to work.

My kids are used to it but my friends and boss were horrified. “DON’T SAY THAT!” they said. My question is, “Why not?”

This might be the last day you get the chance to say or do that thing.

So embrace it. Do it. The end of days is coming.