Live Like We Are Dying

The phone call. The knock on the door. Some unexpected bad news just never arrives gracefully. In an instant we learn that a loved one is terribly ill, injured, or already dead. One second we are zipping along with our daily routines; the next second life jerks us into shock, disbelief, and grief.

A young woman with a rope engaged in the sports of rock climbing on the rock.This happened to me afresh almost two weeks ago when I received an early morning call that a long-time friend and former coworker had died. An undetected medical condition turned his normally upbeat self on a dime and his wife called to tell me he passed. What??!!! Fine on Monday. Dead on Thursday.

Almost all of us can relate to receiving unexpected news of a loved one’s death. Some of us hunker down in denial. Some of us spill out our frayed emotions. Others of us swirl in a combination of numbness and outward angst. As mental health professionals advise, grief can tumble and toss us about with varied responses, all fluctuating throughout our days.

One thing I’ve learned over the years about sudden loss and grief is to give myself space and grace. None of us feel the exact same emotions in the exact same way at the exact same time. While grief is a shared response to loss, it’s also an individual journey.

I’ll never forget driving across the northern Kansas flatlands returning from one of my last trips to visit my failing dad in Nebraska. Tim McGraw’s hit “Live Like You Were Dying” came on the radio and I was both belting out the lyrics and bawling. “How’s it hit ya, when you get that kind of news. Man what ya do. And he says, ‘I went sky divin’, I went rocky mountain climbin’,…And I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter, and I gave forgiveness I’ve been denying,’ and he said ‘someday I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dyin’.’”

The unexpected phone calls and knocks on the door are a part of living on this planet. So do we tense in anxiousness over the likelihood of losing someone? How do we prepare ourselves? I venture that we live each day as it comes with appreciation for those we love. We look for the little everyday things to savor, the unexpected joys that make us smile. We choose not to focus on the some day, but focus on the right now. We live like we are dying.

What do you think helps us to focus on living the right now? What are ways we can live today like we are dying?

Brave and Resilient Tip #110: Focus not on the some day but on living the right now.

Exhaust the Little Moments

IMG_4021This morning I dared to silence my more sensible voice. I tossed aside my schedule and work to-dos and made a dash into the five inches of gorgeous snow covering my yard like a cotton ball blanket. With Logan barking and untying my snow boot laces with his teeth (it’s a herding breed thing and something he’s mastered since puppyhood), I plopped ungracefully on my back and rapidly waved my arms. Snow angel!

Growing up, I adored making snow angels in the backyard during our brisk Nebraska winters. Every so often I listen to the spontaneous child in me and cut loose in sheer delight play. Who cares if I get wet? Who cares if I track in snow? Oh to brush off the responsible adult in our heads and kick loose with the kid in our heart.

One of my all-time favorite authors, Anna Quindlen, writes in her A Short Guide to a Happy Life: “It is so easy to waste our lives: our days, our hours, our minutes. It is so easy to take for granted the pale new growth on an evergreen, the sheen of limestone on Fifth Avenue, the color of our kids’ eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again. It is so easy to exist instead live.”

In her book, Anna quotes a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks that encourages us all to realize that this day, this hour, this little moment will never appear in the exact same way in our lives.

Exhaust the little moment.

Soon it dies.

And be it gash or gold

It will not come

Again in this identical disguise.IMG_4039

I dare us all to exhaust more little moments. To make more snow or sand or mud angels. To track snow in the house. To rough-house with our pets. I dare us to live instead of exist.

Brave and Resilient Tip #93: Dare to exhaust the little moments and live instead of exist.

Nowhere or Now Here?

IMG_6046 - Version 2

The punctuation says it all. Put the words now/here together and you get nowhere. Removing the space between the words now here describes two completely different spaces in our lives: living in the right now or living somewhere dithering between the past and the future. Lingering too long in the past, we can bog down with regrets. Longing too much for the future, we can stagnant in today.

The late beloved author Brennan Manning dedicated a chapter in his Ruthless Trust book to excavating below the surface on how we can pass through our days with our minds ricocheting everywhere but in the present moment. The former Franciscan priest turned prolific author, Brennan writes: “To be fully present to whoever or whatever is immediately before us is to pitch a tent in the wilderness of Nowhere. It is an act of radical trust—trust that God can be encountered at no other time and in no other place than the present moment.”

Oh, for us to be fully present in the now here. Or, as my buddy Jules once encouraged me, “Live the NOW.” My visually perceptive friend, Reasie, recently took these photos in our Colorado mountains, replete with fall beauty. Living in the now here is like zooming in on the intricate aspen leaves vs. zooming out and looking past the trees to the mountains beyond. Pausing in the now, allows you to see the sunlight contrasting with the shadows, the gentle quake of the leaves in the crisp breeze. Living acutely engaged in the present also allows you to move beyond your own little world to see and feel the joy and pain in others.

IMG_5946 - Version 2And as Brennan reminds us, “It is through immersion in the ordinary—the apparently empty, trivial, and meaningless experiences of a routine day—that life/Life is encountered and lived. Real living is not about words, concepts, and abstractions but about the experience of who or what is immediately before us. The self-forgetfulness that such experience requires is the essence of contemplative simplicity.”

So let’s forget ourselves a little more today and step out of nowhere to fully encounter and LIVE the now here in front of us.

Brave and Resilient Tip #43: Forget going nowhere.
Live the now here.