Archive for April, 2015

If I had four months to live…

shutterstock_70247761Someone very dear to me heard that the prognosis for someone very dear to them is four to six months. Over the last week or so, we’ve had many conversations about time.

What is four to six months in our lives?

What does it really mean? What do we do with it?

Every single day in a time-frame like that matters. And yet, every single day, most of us assume we have a much bigger abundance of time available, when really we have no guarantees. Not a single day of certainty.

Yet:

  • We settle for ‘good enough’.
  • We settle for worse than that.
  • We waste time.
  • We procrastinate.
  • We put off making a difference, or making a success or ourselves, or doing what we’d love.
  • We stay stuck in jobs we hate and relationships that aren’t working.
  • We accept our health the way it is and hope for the best.

I’m not suggesting that we ought to chase some sort of unrealistic utopia only attractive to people who have been given a set time ‘limit’, but most of us wait in a blasé state for a ‘wake-up call’ that might be far more invasive and cruel than we’re anticipating. Or maybe we’ll live til we’re a hundred… who can know?

What to do about it

I don’t think we need to live every single day as though it’s the last day in our lives, even though we all know it could be. That’s unrealistic.

We’re allowed to have days where we do nothing, or not much, and perform below our best in our professional lives or our families. Let’s give ourselves a break. But, when we do step back and look at the bigger picture:

  • Are we experiencing enough joy?
  • Are we contributing enough?
  • Do we feel significant in some way?
  • Are we growing?
  • Do we feel connection?
  • Do we experience enough variety in our lives?

The blissful thing is that most of us do have enough time. We have enough time to rectify our situations if we need to. We have enough time to squeeze the marrow out of life… the way we imagined it as teens in the 80s or 90s, watching Dead Poets’ Society and thinking wow, I must be remarkable…

But, come on. Must we really be ‘remarkable’? Where’s the measure? What really matters?

Someone crucially close to me has a future eulogy that doesn’t hold any “STOP THE PRESS” moments. Nothing like that. Nothing sensationally wonderful or globally life-changing. But gosh, she is remarkable in my life. She matters to me. She has transformed my world, over and over again.

A few years ago, when I co-organised our twenty-year school reunion people emailed to say they were worried. Worried they hadn’t ‘done enough’.

Against whose measure? Enough for whom?

Last week, I took my four-year-old and my eighty-plus-year-old parents to the NASA Space Station at Tidbinbilla. NASA is about 80 days off reaching Pluto. When you REALLY step back, and gain perspective about life on earth, everything changes.

Brendan Burchard, who survived a serious car accident says: “At the end of our lives, will we all ask: Did I live? Did I laugh? Did I matter?”

Did we?

Do we?

When a wave comes at you, dive deep

shutterstock_15372628One of my favourite Facebook pages is Humans of New York. This week, someone shared a post which contained some beautiful advice:

“There are three things you can do when life sends a wave at you. You can run from it, but then it’s going to catch up and knock you down. You can fall back on your ego and try to stand your ground, but then it’s still going to clobber you. Or you can use it as an opportunity to go deep, and transform yourself to match the circumstances. And that’s how you get through the wave.”

The imagery is powerful. Swimming along safely in the shallows and seeing something overwhelming coming towards you…

Diving deep in response to something hard is scary. It’s counter intuitive.

It’s also the place where we’re least at risk. The place where the force of the wave is felt less than the fierce crashing on the surface. The depths are where we can most easily control our responses, build our muscles and emerge stronger.

Last week I attended a Press Club address by Catherine McGregor, the highest ranking transgendered military officer in the world (and our son’s godparent). Cate described the various responses to her gender transformation including this by cricket commentator, Jim Maxwell: “The motto of my old school is; it is better to be than to seem. I have waited a long time to see someone live that.”

Sometimes it’s only through our deepest transformations, which typically occur during the toughest times in our lives, that we emerge from that wave and can finally, truly, deeply ‘be’.

When asked for her observations on life as a woman Cate explained: “I didn’t realise how much unlike me I had felt… Karen Middleton said a beautiful thing to me that I couldn’t have formulated. She said: Cate is more Cate than Malcolm was ever Malcolm.”

Most of us never have to endure the agony of gender dysphoria or the fear of what will happen if we address it (or worse, don’t address it). But most of us do find ourselves trapped sometimes, in a life that doesn’t feel like our own. A life that isn’t the one we ‘ordered’.

We all have times when we’re not really ‘being’. We’re just ‘seeming’. Seeming happier than we are, more in love, more settled, more on top of our family or our house or our careers.

‘Seeming’ is exhausting. It’s hard work. It’s a compromise. It’s a life ‘half lived’. It means living out of alignment with who we really are. It brings private moments of despair. (I speak from keen experience.)

I remember my first moment of truly ‘being’ after spending a long time ‘seeming’. It happened on the beach at the South Coast.

I watched my children jump in and out of the waves and realised I was genuinely enjoying the moment for the first time in years. It was my moment of not understanding how much ‘not me’ I had felt. For so long.

I felt like I was coming ‘home’. Back to who I really was and who I could be in the future. I’ve never felt more liberated.

Diving deep is a huge thing. It involves a big intake of breath, and some faith that you’ll emerge okay on the other side…

Do it. The alternatives will crush you.