THE BLOG

Knowing I Will Die Someday, How Then Shall I Live?

08/15/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

I know this sounds like a really "heavy" subject to be bringing up, especially now, in the middle of summer, when everybody just wants to escape the heat and curl up with a romance novel at the beach, or go to the mountains, pitch a tent, drop a fishing line and dangle your feet in a cool mountain stream and forget the world.

I'm choosing now to bring up the "D" word? Not to worry. I don't want to talk about death. I want to talk about life.

I know, it's not exactly light, summer reading, but hey, the sudden and shocking death of Michael Jackson three weeks ago coupled with the reality of my own breast cancer diagnosis three months ago has brought this important question to the forefront of my awareness in a new and urgent way.

One thing I've learned from both these events is there's only now. If something's on my radar screen, it's there for a purpose. And that, after all, is the point of this post; to live on purpose.

I said I wasn't going to talk about death, but let me just say this: the very fact of our death is ordained at the moment of our first breath, yet human beings live their lives, for the most part, in deep denial of this truth. The unexpected death of a loved one or the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness smacks us in the face; tears away our denial and forces us to look squarely into the abyss of our own mortality. I've just come back from taking a look into that abyss. While it had some interesting features, and I know I will return some day, for now, I'm quite happy to be back.

But like I said, the focus of this inquiry is not about death. Death, like it or not, is a given. Life is not. Life is merely a creative possibility that we shape and mold according to the choices we make during our time here on earth.

The $64,000 Question

Given that we know how the story ends, how do we make the time we spend here worthy of the life we've been given?

Within each of us, there is an innate call to connect to the greater whole in our own, unique way. We're called to actualize our potential, discover and develop our gifts and contribute them in some way that makes a difference in the human condition.

Each of us is called to be in service to life in a way that only we can fulfill. There is no one else who has the same combination of gifts or talents as you. You're one of a kind.

Another $64,000 Question

Given your life is yours to create, what kind of life do you want to live?

I was in my mid-30's when that question first arose for me. Up until then, it had never dawned on me that I had any choice in the matter. I was just putting one foot in front of the other, doing what I thought I was expected to do. Graduate from college, get a job, get married, start a family. My life was already laid out according to the messages from my parents and the culture in general.

I followed the rules and did all the things I was expected to do; but there was another dynamic at work in me that did not line up according to plan. Some deeper part of me wasn't buying it. I was living the life I thought others wanted for me, not the one I wanted for myself. I couldn't fit myself into that box, even though I was the one who'd constructed it. I was compelled to leave that life in search of the authentic life I sought to live.

That search has taken me far and wide and I'm happy to say I've found my purpose and lived in alignment with it for the past forty years.

Today, I'm much closer to the finish line. Sensing its increasing proximity puts a fine patina on the richness of whatever is left of my life. I feel a quickening, a knowing that while I may still have decades left to live, it becomes even more important that my remaining years be lived in service to my purpose. This is not the time to kick back and coast. Now post cancer, I've been given another chance at life, an opportunity to continue to make a difference. How will I use it?

I'm reminded of Mary Oliver's wonderful poem: When Death Comes
(not to worry, this poem is really about life)

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

What Do You Choose?

Each of us has a choice about how we live out our days in this lifetime. We can live in lockstep with how we've been conditioned and never question whether or not the choices we're making are truly our own or if we're merely following the script we've been given.

On the surface, this might seem the easier approach. Follow the rules: don't make waves, live to please others, ignore your own feelings, keep a low profile, don't upset anyone, be careful what you do and say, be concerned about what other people think of you, be in control at all times, avoid difficulties and anything unpleasant. Lots of people live this life and seem to do it well, at least on the surface.

Having worked with thousands of people over the years that have lived according to these unwritten rules for being human, it's clear that while this life might give the appearance of working, it comes at a heavy price. The price? Knowing who you are, that's all. But in the end, that's everything. So what's the alternative?

Living On Purpose

Another possibility is to live a life that is sourced from the deeper waters of the Soul. As I've said before in other posts, the soul has its own agenda. Sooner or later, it will have its way with us. The soul comes to fulfill its purpose. The sooner one can discover that purpose and align with it, the more grace we experience in the journey.

A life lived "on purpose" is not necessarily an easier life. It can be very challenging because you're not avoiding anything. Some of us come with strong and powerful lessons to complete. Living on purpose insures that you'll be continuously learning, taking new territory, dealing with uncertainty. But knowing that a larger purpose is being served and becoming aligned with that purpose puts one on a track that is supported by the very process of life itself. You were meant to fulfill your purpose.

Your purpose becomes your point of reference, your personal GPS. Choices that were obscure now become obvious. You operate from a level of Higher Being as opposed to being driven by the automatic, reactive, conditioned Ego. You learn to access your own wisdom and trust it. Imagination and intuition spark creative responses to life instead of automatic reactions. What once looked like a huge risk becomes the next obvious step in the direction of your authentic life. You begin to sense yourself moving in the direction of "home", your deeper truth. Your dreams take form. This is a life lived with intention. This is a life lived "on purpose".

Like Mary Oliver, I don't want to end up having simply visited this world. My purpose is to serve the planet in awakening to a higher consciousness. For forty years, I've been in service to my purpose through teaching, training, coaching, speaking and writing, being a mother and a friend.

As part of fulfilling my own purpose and to support you fulfilling yours, I'm launching a live, four-week tele-seminar series, Living On Purpose, beginning August 4th. For more information on the series and to register, please visit my website, Rx For The Soul at www.judithrich.com., and click on the Program button. While you're there, become a subscriber and receive my newsletter. You can also leave personal messages for me there.

How do you see your life unfolding? Knowing you will die someday, what do you see most important to fulfill in the life you have left to live? Are you on/off track? Can you see the path of your purpose? What steps do you need to take now to step into this life? I'd love to hear your thoughts and receive your comments below or on my personal blog.

I'm grateful to be on the healing path and launching myself into my new life, post cancer. Thanks to you wonderful readers for your healing prayers and blessings. I'm back.

Blessings on the path,
Judith

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