I think most of us want to be better to ourselves. Eat right. Be active. Get enough sleep. Stop drinking. Spend more time with family and friends. Worry less about things that really don’t matter. Do all the good things that help us live a longer story, as the theme of this website suggests.
We sincerely try. We succeed, at times and for a period. But for many of us, it’s a cycle. On again, off again. Stop and restart. Our dedication and disciple are not perfect. After all, we’re human, right?
Then the phone rings. It’s bad news. A family member is gravely ill or there’s been a death or a terrible accident. At first, it’s the shock with which we struggle. Our heart sinks; it breaks. We want to understand. We need clarification. There are so many questions, many without answers. We enter some variation of the grieving process. And eventually we think about our own mortality and realize the inevitable, that some day that phone call will be about us.
Here’s the sum of it all: We are born. We live. We die. That’s it.
We don’t control the first part, nor do most of us control the last part. But, like it or not, we all at some point WILL take ownership of the middle part. It’s unavoidable. Anyone who has ever done a little self-reflection has seen it coming. At some point, hopefully, we awaken to this reality and know we can no longer ignore it. At some point we will take action on what we need to do with whatever is left of our lives.
From having had one too many of those phone calls, I can say without ambiguity that earlier ownership and awakening of how we conduct our lives is always better than the moment the doctor tells us what we’ve been dreading to hear or even if we foolishly wait until our last breath.
It’s better in many ways. Here are a couple:
I know. Not all of us have circumstances that allow us to take control of our lives every day. Things or people get in the way. We sometimes have impossible choices. We sometimes wonder if we will ever get to where we want to be. I get that. At times we all are there.
But here’s the thing: We can choose to be the story of Job (of the Bible) and go through all the stages of blaming, excuses, self loathing, and anger. But in the end it all comes down to what we have done with the hand we’ve been dealt. It’s really up to each of us. No matter the circumstances, we aim ourselves in a direction of our own choosing or we surrender that choice to someone or something else. We can choose to sink low into despair and grievance. Or we can wake up and rise above it all; overcome, accept, find contentment, or even reach a level of joy and thanksgiving. And there is plenty of space in the in between, where it seems many of us settle. But the point is that whatever direction we focus our lives toward is ultimately our doing.
So today, even if your heart is still breaking, make a choice. And do the same tomorrow and the next day and every day. Take small steps or big steps if you can, as long as it is in the right direction. Eat better. Do some activity. Get some rest. Count blessings. Spent time with someone special. Worry only about what you can control, the rest is someone else’s problem. Let your heart break, but then awaken and choose to live a longer and better story.