We are going to do an exercise today. Nothing that will work up a sweat or anything, but might bring a few tears to your eyes or even abject fear of how bad you have been screwing up.
I want you to close your eyes. (Not now! Finish reading this first, then do the exercise. Did I have to mention that? Okay, back to our story.) Find a comfortable place where you can lay back and close your eyes. We need to do some time travel today and until scientists invent a time machine we will use our mind to get the same results.
Now that you are comfortable and relaxed, your eyes get heavy and slowly close. Your mind races you to a time in the future, maybe the near future, maybe decades down the road. In this future you are lying on your deathbed. You are old and tired. It is only a matter of time before the Grim Reaper claims his prize.
With these last moments of life you have the opportunity to review the life you have lived. What do you see? Are you smiling? Crying? Are you happy with the life you lived?
I Wish I Would Have. . .
How depressing it would be to lie on your deathbed reviewing your life and muttering, “I wish I would’a. . .” Imagine the tears streaming down your cheeks as friends and family look on wondering why you are in such pain. They pity you as the last spark of life leaves your body. Death is a welcome gift.
What did you do to mess your life up so badly? Did you work too much? Or did you never find your calling? Did you sacrifice friendship and love for just a little bit more? Did you waste your life on stuff instead of something worthwhile like relationships?
Dig deeper. You are on your deathbed and you have an accounting to provide your maker once you cross that line from this world to the next. Did you invest the talents granted you or did you bury them in the sand, fearful the harsh master would judge you should you lose charge of the gifts granted? (For those of you who don’t know, this is a parable of Jesus. Religious or not, you can learn a lot from holy books.) Now you must balance the books. You see, we are all accountants deep down inside.
Are there any regrets you would like to share with the class as you glimpse the future just moments before death? Oh, it hurts too much to share. Well then, maybe reflect quietly to yourself. Be honest. I know you will. You can bullshit everyone you meet all through life, but on your deathbed you can’t bullshit yourself. You know.
It is unfair for me to put you through such a trial at the moment before you die. Let me take a seat beside you and close my eyes and travel to that distant land where I lay on my deathbed and reflect on life. Do you notice the shit-eating grin on my face? Never mind.
My first impression is, “Did I do all that?” I was a busy bee!” Then I start to snicker as I recall all the trouble I got into. Lord help us all! My daughters and the rest of the family and friends notice my lips moving as if I have some parting wisdom to share. They lean closer to hear my faint whisper, “It’s going to take a few generations to clean up that mess.” Then I give one last shit-eating smirk and take my last breath.
The Grim Reaper hesitates. He looks back to whatever god there is and says, “Do I have to?” God frowns while he nods. It is the way things have always been; there are no exceptions for wealthy accountants. “Just put him way over there so I don’t have to put up with his BS.”
If you are honest like me *cough-cough-cough* I said like me *cough-ahhhemmm*. Something in your throat, Don? (Reference George Carlin.) Then shut up. I am honest. . . with myself, if I have to. On my deathbed the fog of bullshit will clear out as there is no one left to BS. The same applies to everyone.
You know the truth at that last moment. We know the truth right now. An honest assessment blends the two extremes from above. I suspect the vast majority will lean heavily toward the camp of “I wish I would’a.” The exercise above only brings the truth into focus.
I certainly have led a life of Bedlam. People usually don’t forget me if I make an appearance, especially if I am on a mission, aka, I’m up to something. Heheheeeee! There are other times I sit back and let life pass me by. Readers of this blog know how I struggle with this retirement thing people speak of. The trouble for me is I can’t be retired and do all the stuff I love doing. Technically I am not retired if I run a business or businesses. Then I get two spare minutes and start writing yet another blog. Writing is hard work, folks.
There is a way to bifurcate a lifetime of experience. First, I change the meaning of words to suit my purpose. It isn’t cheating. It’s my game; my rules. If you don’t like it, I’ll take my ball and go home. I can change the meaning of words to improve my life; so can you. Different languages handle words and how they are understood in multiple fashions. I am only changing the meaning and understanding to improve my life experiences. Retirement is one of those words.
Retirement is my best example. Look it up in the dictionary. Retirement looks like the first example above filled with regrets. My definition says I am retired when I live life on my terms. As soon as I stop trying to impress the neighbors I am free. Even in a prison cell I would be just as free! Imagine, a prisoner more free than you. It happens all the time.
The mind is the only thing you have absolute control over. Once you stop trying to control things you can’t, stress declines, then evaporates. Now you are free; now you are retired.
Under my definition I can run a business, write a blog, take a big juicy bite out of life. I even give myself plenty of “fuck’in around time.” You need that to, you know. But just pulling up stakes and cashing it in? Never! The Grim Reaper will pause (a tell) when he is ordered to harvest his greatest (okay, craziest) prize of all.
The Best News
Honesty is important if you want to benefit from the exercise at the opening of this post. No matter how well you have lived, there are things you will want to change. You can open your eyes now and wipe the tears from your face. You are alive; you are not on your deathbed. There is time to choreograph the life that fills you with joy.
Some things are impossible to have. Learn the Stoic discipline of accepting reality. I will never be retired and not retired at the same time. If I choose to dedicate my life to a monastery I can’t live a life similar to Hugh Hefner’s at the same time. It’s one or the other.
What I can do is search inside my soul to find which life will be most meaningful to me. That is why you have to do the exercise. It is not an accusation; it is a discovery, a revealing of inner truth.
There is no wrong answer. I love reading books and doubt I will regret having spent so much time with my beak in one. I also tackled more projects than I can remember. I better die slow if I intend to cover my whole life prior to passing. I want to leave this world knowing I lived the life listed under Bedlam.
There are always a few things I decide to change every time I undertake the exercise. I evolve. So do you. Life is always exciting if you allow your old self to die to make room for the new you. By growing every day you experience all the best parts of life. It is your life. Trying to please others or living someone else’s life is madness. I may be crazy, but I ain’t dumb. Neither are you.
Promise me you will bookmark this page and come back on a regular basis to remind yourself of who you are and what brings you bliss. The exercise should be performed a few times per year to account for the changes in you over the months and years. Follow your dreams. Live a life you are proud of.
Live a life you will smile at when you make that final review. Remember, on that last day, it is an audience of one. The only one that matters.