My mother was the last remaining member of my family from her generation. Her death a year ago Christmas Eve was another reminder that my turn is coming. I know no one will survive this journey, but that doesn’t bother me anymore, for I made peace long ago with the fact that my days will end (hopefully not for quite a while yet).
Growing comfortable with the thought of my death began when my beliefs about god matured. It was during my mid-thirties—a time when I suffered from a serious bout of depression—when I discovered that god lives within me and not on the outside.
This was a surprising discovery. Having been baptized a Catholic, I turned to the god of my faith when the darkness of depression overtook me. Daily I repeated the prayers and supplications the priests and nuns had taught me hoping to receive my message of salvation from a burning bush, a dream or a voice from above.
But that message never came. What I received instead were the subtle urgings from within that encouraged me to go on one step at a time. In a past blog, I referred to this internal presence as my little peanut and this being slowly helped me—one moment, one minute, one day at a time—emerge from the darkness.
After this experience, the image of an old bearded man who sits in heaven capriciously ruling over the fate of human kind no longer made sense. Neither did the idea of eternal condemnation for all the things I did wrong.
Only fools think there is no evil in the world, there is, but that does not apply to all people. Most of us have struggled with life as a never-ending series of trial and error. If you are like me, you made mistakes, but—considering the information you had available—you made the best decision you could at the time even if it went against social mores. Are these sins? Perhaps. But do you deserve eternal damnation for them? If there is truly a loving god, as Christians proclaim, this punishment far exceeds the crime. How could a loving spirit condemn you to everlasting suffering for something you did in a finite existence that measures a mere pittance in the realm of the infinite? This makes little sense to me.
So, what is life then?
Letting go of the idea that life is a period god uses to try humans for their deeds so he can assign them to heaven or hell has made me less afraid of making mistakes.
Life for me has become my time in an earth school where there are lessons waiting to be learned.
Like every young person who preceded me, I spent my younger days pursuing the pleasures and goals the material world offered. But with the steady march of the years and the slow decay of my body, I discovered that these inclinations provided a satisfaction that was fleeting. Sadly, I wasted much time and energy in their pursuit. It was amid these worldly pursuits that fear, greed, laziness, stubbornness, desire for retribution, anger and self-absorption caused me to repeat the same lesson many times over. The recurring pain of failure eventually motivated me to change.
My obstacles to fully living
Now, as the hourglass of my life empties, my trepidation about not fully living fully haunts me. Will my history repeat itself in the present with similar mistakes? The temptation is there. Since I no longer participate in a formal career, it is easy to fall back on memories of being and engineer, manager, or mayor and become complacent about contributing to a greater world.
Furthermore, although I know of my misguided tendency to try my utmost to give people what they want, I sometimes fall back on this wretched habit.
Age has given me much knowledge and experience about life, but I still feel a hesitation to evolve and change. It is a fear that my family and friends will not recognize or even dislike the authentic me.
Living alone is also challenging. Despite my two failed marriages, I still long to have a loving partner to share my life with. Sharing your life with another offers us the greatest opportunity to evolve. It also gives us the best chance to achieve spiritual, emotional and physical intimacy with another. I truly miss not having those treasures in my life today. But a question remains, will I allow my fear of living alone keep me from discerning for the right partner and make me settle for a companion who doesn’t suit me? I don’t know the answer.
Last, but not least. Will I remain faithful to my purpose of helping others by writing and speaking about my story even if I don’t experience commercial success? I can only hope my little peanut keeps me going on this.
These will continue to be my challenges for the rest of my days. Living a fuller life will depend mightily on my ability to get beyond these temptations. By doing a quick inventory, I am sure you can identify what is holding you back.
A Bucket List
There is nothing wrong with pursuing a bucket list. This is like following your passions. You should pursue what you love so you may fully live in the now.
I have a bucket list of items; to visit the Sistine Chapel and travel to all four tennis grand slams.
Remaining fit is high on the list, for I found this to be the real fountain of youth, not because you go back to being young (nothing will take away my wrinkles or bring my hair back), but because it enables the explorer that lives in you take the bold and adventuresome paths.
This is all good, but what is number one in my bucket list is to feed my heart and spirit with what they need to grow, flourish and soar.
The most important lesson I learned from my life is that, although fame, fortune, youth and physical strength offered me a temporary sense of security, I neglected the necessary and higher realms of humanity that bring us the greatest pleasure, living prudently, honorably, justly, courageously magnanimously, lovingly and accepting of all. I don’t want to waste any more time choking my spirit by falling into the same traps of my past.
You can do the same by learning and following the language of your heart and spirit. You too have a little peanut in you and it can help you break the chains from the worldly pursuits that have imprisoned you.
I don’t know why we are all here. Maybe our purpose is to be the messengers of what we learned so we can prepare the coming generation for their roles in the world. Perhaps, we will return to learn more important lessons in a new life and become teachers once again for those who surround us. It doesn’t matter, what is important is to live our lives as fully as they were meant to be so that others may learn to do the same with theirs.
But, first, you must pull your truths from your illusions. How does one do that? By identifying your self lies so you can confront them with reality. The belief that money and power will make you happy is one of these misconceptions. The truth is that many people who don’t have wealth or status live very fulfilling lives. The idea that you must please others in order to be loved is also a lie. The fact is that if someone loves you simply for what you can do for them, you are better off without them. Other shit thoughts are that you are not worthy or good enough if you are not the best in everything you take on. The truth is that your worth is not measured by comparing yourself to others. It is measured by how much you grow and evolve from the person you were.
There are many more illusions and, like a painful disease, they can plague the rest of your life. Get rid of them and you can begin to live in the full splendor of who you truly are. Living in these larger joys brings us lasting contentment and the certainty that our lives will be extraordinary until our last breath.
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