My new Understanding of ‘Live Like You were Dying’

I recently heard the song “Live like you were dying” by Tim McGraw. I love me a good country song.

ON THE BUCKET LIST, BUT IS IT ONE OF MY VALUES?

He croons…

“I went skydiving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu… And he said
Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying.”

And I had this total a-ha moment.  Until my 40s, I have always thought about this concept “live like you were dying” as action oriented, as bucket list stuff.  Whenever the question came up – what would you do if you knew you only had X amount of time to live, the answer was usually quit my job, travel, go sky diving (like Tim sings), etc etc.

But it’s either old age, or I’ve just done enough cool shit in my life…because this time as I listened to the lyrics, I thought – I’d be doing the same thing I’m doing now, but I would choose to worry less. I would choose to make the best of whatever was in front of me.

WHAT IF YOU KNEW YOUR EXACT DEATH DATE?

I listened to the song again, and it seems Tim’s lyrics have this same wisdom, and I’d missed it the first few thousand times around.

He goes on to sing…

“And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying”
And he said
Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying
Like tomorrow was a gift
And you’ve got eternity
To think about
What you’d do with it
What could you do with it
What did I do with it?
What would I do with it?”

What would I do with it?

I would focus more on how I behaved and how I might view my choices. I’d be more determined to live and respond based on my values and my integrity.

WHAT ACTIONS CAN YOU TAKE, DAILY, TO BE IN YOUR INTEGRITY?

For example, if being present is really important to me, I’d stop future tripping.

Or if courage was a character strength, I’d decide to try new and difficult things each and every day.

If authenticity is core to who I am, I would speak my truth more. Not at the expense of others (because emotional intelligence is also important to me), but to feel understood and seen.

I’d definitely give less of a fuck about what others thought of my zany ways.

But I want to clarify a bit further.

If the doctor took a look at my X Rays, and said I had 2 weeks to live, I probably wouldn’t work anymore (although I love my clients, so I’d call each of them and tell them what’s up and refund their money!) and I certainly wouldn’t worry about saving money for the future.

I’d say good-bye to everyone I loved (and tell them I loved them!), and I’d take my little family somewhere majestic and squeeze every ounce of time, goodness, emotion, beauty, and excitement (oh and laughter) out of the experience. Maybe Zion National Park, maybe Bali.  Somewhere I haven’t been which is natural and also totally alien to me at the same time. I’d want bizarre creatures like Spider monkeys, and mysterious plants, trees, weather, organisms, landforms, celestial bodies and sensory overload. I’d want to go out as deeply a part of the world, as I came into it.

ZION IS DEFINITELY A PLACE I’D LIKE TO LIVE OUT MY LAST DAYS

That said, if we could know our expiration date, or our death date, the way we knew our birth date, and it was, say, 20 years from now…I wouldn’t change much. I love my family, I love my job, I love the city I live in. I love the various friends I have around the world. I love learning. I love my books and my bikram yoga and my hikes. I love the donut shop down the street. I love sleep. I love that the Women’s World Cup is on the TV this summer. Don’t misunderstand … my life isn’t perfect. I have fears (see below) and failures (that’s for another blog). That said…

What would I change? I’d be more intentional. I’d be more patient. I’d be kinder. I’d be more serene. I’d be more joyful. I’d be more exuberant. I’d be zanier. I’d be more spontaneous.

MY BEST SELF IS A MINDFUL SELF

I’d work harder, but only when I wanted to. I’d strive for excellence instead of obsessing about perfectionism.

I’d take work seriously, but not take myself so damn seriously.

I’d attack life like my child does – the good and the bad and the complicated – all of it. 

In other words, I’d be the best version of me.

So what stops us now? Fear, mostly. I mean, we all have a death date, whether we know the exact one or not. It’s coming.

What am I afraid of?  For me… it’s fear of running out of money. Or fear of being rejected for who I am. Those fears stoke stress and anxiety for me.  And those emotions and feelings put me out of alignment with my highest self. In layman’s terms, I act like a jerk when I’m afraid. What fear(s) drives your aggression or sadness or anger? What fear ignites your worst self?

And if you knew your expiration date, even if it was 20-30 years from now, what would you do differently today and tomorrow? Would fear still get in your way? (Probably less so.) What would you be grateful for? Maybe for the time you knew you still had? Each day? How would you show it?

To steal from one other singer (Rob Thomas -who is on my mind because I just went to his concert, and he has still got it!):

“And I’ve seen my friends fall away before their time
And I’ve been afraid that I may follow in their light
So I drink and love and whisper all the things I know are right
Someday, I will leave this world, but maybe not tonight.”

Why don’t we start living like we are dying, today? Because we are.

YOUR DEATH DATE IS AS CERTAIN AS YOUR BIRTH DATE

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