Alive or living, that is the question
I have been thinking a lot lately about death and dying. I have been putting my affairs in order, making a will etc. No I am not depressed and I am not contemplating ending it all. I just dream about the sweet release that I think it will bring – for me anyway. No more pain- physically or mentally. No more wrestling with wanting to do better, be better and failing at it. No more merely surviving each day.
I came across this quote recently: The skills that take you through the first half of your life are entirely unhelpful for the second half – Richard Rohr
I have to agree with that. The skills I needed to survive were based on the best a child could do. I am so aware that the decisions I made years, no decades, ago, consciously and unconsciously, have made me what I am today. I am fortunate that many of the decisions I made were ok – it could have been so much worse. And as much as the skills I learnt went into making sure I survived, I never really learned how to live!
Let’s be honest, being a live, breathing being is not the same as living. Living means sharing yourself with others, connection, belonging. It means taking risks, having adventures, loving and being loved. It’s exploring, learning new things, tasting new foods, daring to try something new. It’s using your good dishes, singing at the top of your voice, dancing, laughing out loud, stopping to smell the roses or watch the sunset . It’s being patient with yourself, and kind to those you meet in your day to day life. It’s about being present, experiencing wonder, appreciating the silence, playing your guitar, having a nap. It’s about turning off the gadgets and switching on to what’s going on around you; listening to understand not to answer. It’s being able to sleep without the fear of night terrors.
Of course, it is also moments of pain, anger, frustration. It is worry for your loved ones and grief at times of loss.it is all of these things but it is not self-imposed isolation and loneliness, or being too afraid every waking moment to do more than survive the day. It is not staying inside your shuttered house with the blinds closed while the sun is shining outside. It is not failing to hear the birds sing or appreciate the sunrise. It is not in the endless cycle of nightmares and flashbacks and panic attacks.
The challenge is knowing which of the old skills to let go of and finding new skills that let you move towards being truly alive.