Writing Wednesday 004: Dying & Living — Are We Doing Either Right?
When the time comes for my life to end what will be said about me? Have I made a difference? Did I matter? Serious and deep questions to start out this Writing Wednesday, but so relevant. This piece is inspired by a photograph I just took of some beautiful African Violets (see above) and one has died. It’s right next to two new beautiful expressions of the flower, but it has withered and will soon fall off. It did its job though, it grew and blossomed and then nature called it back to the eternal source from where it began. That same source is my origin, your origin and the origin of all. Did the flower get scared of what happened after its role was fulfilled? Likely not. People, (myself included) do get scared when they are faced with death and the questions surrounding it. It’s a natural thing for humans it seems, but it is not the way of nature. Nature created everything from chemical elements in the simplest form, and chemical reactions sustain all things around us. When I die, a chemical reaction within my body will no longer be functioning — it will be natural.
Facing my fear of death unearths other fears. The questions I began with reveal some of those fears. Relevance, legacy, and impact. Did I help our species and this planet? Was I here for a reason or did I fall into the grey limbo of the mediocre middle? Neither contributing nor detracting enough to be noticed. This middle is represented by a flat line graph, that shows I stopped growing. I feel that if I don’t grow continually I’ll never achieve a fraction of what I dream of. Growth is nature. But, for a time: the growth stops and death gains momentum. I want to fight against this. My creative pursuits, fitness, relationships and health all need me to continue to grow. The people I love and care about need me to grow. As a tree grows a canopy to shade the underbrush so must I grow to stand tall and protect others. My growth is happening, so is my death. I could not make it another year, or I could live until a ripe 130 years old — I want to make peace with either outcome. I’m working towards leaving behind a legacy that will convey what I’ve learned and the character I’m building. What will be said about me? I can greatly effect the answer to that by expressing what I have to say. I’m not simple, I’m intense and complex. There’s misinterpretation that is bound to occur, both in what I say and in what I do. I haven’t always lived right, or done right. When I haven’t been in alignment with what I believe is right I’ve known deep within though. Understanding more of how and why I’m behaving in certain ways has been a great value, and led me to dual questions: Am I living right? & Am I dying right? I can’t escape the latter so why not face the question?
Nobody escapes death, but plenty of people escape life. They mail it in, settle and stop growing. I think if I’m going to die the right way I can’t do any of those things. I think that if I commit to dying right, then I will be living right. What is right you ask? You decide for yourself, you will feel it in your heart when you do right. That feeling is quieter than the feeling of when you do wrong though. The feeling of right is a subtle warmth and comfort, while wrong is a stabbing pain throughout the abdomen accompanied by wails of doubt and regret. That’s one of my major indicators, if I feel I’ve done wrong, than the opposite or a different choice must be what’s right. I suppose people would say that’s my conscience, and they’re probably right. So does living right mean living in accordance with my conscience? I think that’s part of it, but I think that my biggest realization is that living right is best done by helping others: giving, teaching and inspiring humans to ask tough questions, and become the fullest most beautiful blossom while they’re here to bloom, before they wither and die on the vine. Live while you can! Death and it’s transition await us all. I for one want to decide how I will be remembered.
Part of what’s gotten me going in this direction is my small scale legacy. The legacy of my career up to this point. I chose to fix something that I broke over a year ago. It’s not fixed yet, but I’m working on it. I could have let it go and moved on, but something stopped me. I did wrong, and felt it. There was a partial rightness to my actions and desires, but I handled it wrong. I behaved emotionally, and with hostility. I tarnished the good I’d done and those that knew me wouldn’t be left with the memories I’d like for them to. Looking back, I feel it all needed to happen so that I could detach and come back to the situation eventually. I’ve committed myself to fixing this and expressing the character I desire to be remembered as, not just the one I’ve expressed up until now. I think anything can be fixed (maybe not perfectly) with the right intention and efforts. Dying with a regret like that is something I don’t want. Living with regret can bring an early death, and I’m learning to either calmly accept my past mistakes or aggressively take action to fix them. Not flatlining. Ups and downs without a doubt, but casting away stagnation. My actions and intentions should lead me to a happy death. I want to live each moment fully content, and express that to the world. I want to smile in the face of obstacles and death itself. I’m not some freak who’s not ever going to be afraid again, and I haven’t completely overcome the fear of death. All I’m saying is that I’m willing to face it, and that I’m not afraid to live, to grow and to share that.