I’m not doing a “by-the-book” last year to live exercise. I’ve read the book, several times. I go back and re-read parts of it, just for clues and tips, and making sure I don’t leave something important out of the process. But, mostly, since it’s my life, I am doing it my way. I’m not obsessing over it. I do think about it occasionally – I intuit it a bit, then let it go, let it escape conscious thought for a few days, and just be. Just live – my life.
If this was really happening – (and who’s to say it isn’t? I could get struck and killed by a car walking across the street today, just like my good friend and colleague, Dr. Lynda, who was my age, did last November ) - I can only imagine that things I’m experiencing casually, would be just a little more intense. But then again, that’s sort of why one does an exercise like this. It’s an opportunity to go through an end-of-life experience, without all of the pressures associated with an actual end-of-life experience.
So, if I did get struck and killed by that car today, and hadn’t already spent the better part of a year working on a “life review”, I’d really be cramming to get it all in during those final, flickering moments before I took off for parts unknown. However, since I’ve been doing this, if that car finds me today, I’ll be able to just relax into the experience, and let it take me wherever it will, without getting all side-tracked and distracted by that “life passing before my eyes” business. I’ve already seen that movie, now – the director’s cut! I’ll be able to laugh in the Reaper’s face and say, “Let’s go, Bubba. Where to now? Buh-ring it!” Although, I will feel just a bit ripped off that I wasn’t allowed to make it to my “due date” of August 20th. That’s the date I began my “Last Year to Live” exercise, last year. I’m sure there would be some bargaining going on – “Come on, Dude! We had a deal, right? I still have 26 unused days left! I can’t show up for death early – I’m never early! Hell, I was late coming into this world, I’ll be damned if I’ll be early leaving it!” Somehow, I don’t think the Grim dude will give a damn about all of that, but I’ll have to give it my best shot, anyway.
I woke up this morning thinking about Donnie Darko. That song was echoing in my head as I stumbled into the kitchen with thoughts of a fresh cup o’ joe. You know, the haunting one that plays during the final scenes of the movie, while you are finally finding out what that strange movie with the bunny-rabbit-masked Frank – “Fwank!” – was really all about – only, it’s after the SECOND time you watched it, because the first time, you still didn’t fully get it –that song with that haunting melody and words – “And I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad, the dreams in which I’m dyin’ are the best I’ve ever had, I find it hard to tell you, ‘Cause I find it hard to take, When people run in circles, it’s a very, very Mad world, Mad world…” I also thought about the movie “American Beauty”, where Kevin Spacey’s character is living the last day of his life, but doesn’t know it at the time. But, while he doesn’t know it, he’s making the most of it. He’s put aside all the reasons why he wouldn’t do what his intuition tells him to do, and he lives that day, really lives it. Granted, he does some pretty bizarre things, like he’s trying to recapture his youth, but he stumbles onto some basic truths in the process, and pulls the mask off his life, and lives that day as fully and openly as he knows how. After he goes through all of this silly trying to recapture his youth business, he finds a compassion that was missing when he was just sleepwalking through a life of regret, fully finds it right before he “buys it”.
I feel like this is one of the gifts that this process has bestowed on me. Finding that compassion. It’s been a gradual process. A year ago, I kind of had it, mentally – I dug the idea of compassion, but it was still very much an intellectual concept, a good thing to do, to have. Today, I feel like I’ve been able to experience it a little more. I’ve really “felt” someone else’s pain, and walked a mile in their moccasins, so to speak. I’ve woken up to some of the things of the world which I’ve had blinders on to keep blocked out of my safe, secure little corner of the world. I’ve allowed those blinders to be pulled off, and I’ve seen it, and felt it, and said, “Man, that is truly some fucked-up shit out there”, but still not let it knock me off center – o.k., not too far off center. It has knocked me off, no doubt about it, but I still had a working GPS to eventually find my way back to center. Getting knocked off it was actually a good thing. That is part of what gifted me with a little more compassion. You can’t really feel someone’s pain, if you haven’t actually felt it, yourself, or at least tasted it.
I’ve challenged most of my own beliefs, and reevaluated many of them. I won’t say all of them, because everyday, a new one comes to the surface that I forgot I had. Some, I’ve held onto, but a little more secure in the knowledge that they were the real deal, and worth hanging onto. Others, I have discarded as no longer useful to me, no longer valid or relevant to my life. They served me for awhile, they got me to this point, but now, they can go their merry way. I’ve let them go.
I’ve even challenged things I thought I knew. After Mom made her transition, I questioned my own knowledge of life after death. I allowed doubt to creep in – it felt necessary to do so, even though I knew – my “knowing” was a little dated. It had been awhile since I’d had the experiences I had with my best friend Reed, and with Dad, and with being outside of my own body looking down on it, and seeing it carried down a hall while I remained on the ceiling, looking down. Those were all valid experiences, experiences that I still could vividly recall, but Mom’s passing made me question them. When that was followed by several deaths of people I knew, in seeming rapid succession, my head was just spinning for awhile, on the whole subject of death and life after.
Now it has landed back on firm ground, but with a slightly more openness to the idea that maybe, just maybe, what I know, is only a fraction of what there is to know. I have so much more to learn, to find out, to experience. But it isn’t all out there somewhere, off in some distant future, or hiding in some corner of my past. It’s all right here – right now. It will unfold with this day – it is unfolding as I write. The answers to the universe are all in this moment. There is no clock to race against. Time is not real. It is merely a measure of something that doesn’t even exist. We made it up. In this moment, right here, right now, there is no time. There is only now.
This is it.