If you want your life to stay exactly the same, don’t fall in love. If you want to be unaffected by the loss of anything or the death of anyone, don’t fall in love.
Or if you want to put off what makes you come alive or to sidestep your purpose, don’t fall in love.
Making sure you don’t fall passionately in love is simple: Guard your heart against all that Death stirs up inside of you.
Act as if you will live forever in this physical body, and so will everyone you know. Get on with business as usual when someone you love is dying. Don’t let the temporary nature of anything impact your daily routine, the decisions you make, or your future plans.
But if you are willing to live differently – to have certainty without having answers, to follow unexpected twists and turns, to be deeply moved and satisfied, to grow and give and receive and surrender – then here’s what I suggest for you:
Call upon death to be like Cupid, shooting an arrow of passion into the heart of what matters to you. Invite death to be the matchmaker between you and what brings you joy.
Then accept the real Kiss of Death: Allow death to escort you on the mysterious adventure of falling in love with life.
This summer, I’m giving up. I’m giving myself up, that is. Offering myself up. To acknowledging death. To embracing life. I Give Up.
Photo Credit: 2013 Self-timed photo, Jennifer Mathews ©
When I was training with laughter yoga founder and guru, Dr. Madan Kataria, he told a story of being interviewed about how the idea of laughing for no reason came to him. He shrugged his shoulders, then matter-of-factly pointed at the sky.
“It came from Up,” he said, his Indian accent and eyes emphasizing the last word.
I could feel what he meant. It’s where most inspiration and creativity comes from . . . somewhere beyond our daily routine. Somewhere vast and bigger than we are. It’s also the place from which I prefer to live. To live from Up.
Over five years ago in 2009, I wrote my first blog post ever. The website I created at the time was called Optimystic Institute and my initial article was about the unexpected death of my dear friend Guen. Today, June 4th, had been her birthday.
Back then, my focus wasn’t death and dying. It was inner joy and optimism.
Actually, my focus still IS inner joy and optimism. But my entry point to these topics is now death and grief, rather than the other way around.
I had imagined that my response to our temporary lives had been shaped primarily by my life-partner Kate’s death in December 2011.
Then I reread this article.
My experience of Guen paved the way for my exploration of embracing death as part of life. My experience of Guen prompted many questions I continue to ask and countless conversations I continue to have about how someone’s death can inspire my own life.
These are the roots of “Seeing Death in a Different Light” . . .
Which comes first? A smile or feeling happy? A hop in your step or feeling lighthearted? Unlike the long-debated “chicken and egg” question, the answer is not based on speculation. It’s based on research.
It seems only natural to think that you smile because you are happy.
But since the late 1980s, studies began suggesting that you can change your emotional state by choosing to allow the corners of your mouth to curve upward into a smile. That the emotions can also follow the action.
Even though I knew about this research on smiling, I hadn’t applied it to other activities in my daily life. Like walking. Yes, walking.
I walk every day, even if that’s just around my house. It seems logical that you walk with more bounce when you feel good. But have you considered taking a more buoyant stride in order to feel good?
I’m here to report that a research group in Canada actually has!
A few years ago on New Year’s Eve, I looked around the house for a blank journal to write in. As I flipped through an almost empty notebook, I unexpectedly came across a note my life-partner Kate had written a couple weeks before she died. “Dear friends, family, loved ones,” she began . . .
Photo credit: Jennifer Mathews, 2013
As Kate’s cancer progressed, she and I had used the CaringBridge website to keep people updated about her life and process. I recall her mentioning that she drafted something to post online, but she never brought it up again. And then almost a month after her graceful exit, I found her handwritten words.
I’m compelled to share them with you as we enter a new calendar year. May they be a reminder that it’s possible to experience freedom and joy amidst challenges and suffering. No matter what you experienced this past year, or what is on the horizon in the coming year, my prayer is that you, too, remember to taste and savor the sweetness of life.