I wrote this post on my birthday last month, but it seemed a little morbid so I held off until now to post (although in my opinion, it's the opposite of morbid). Hope you enjoy. xoCandace
My thirties have my favorite years so far. The older I become, the more comfortable I feel in my skin and each year feels better than the last. Oddly, though, I think about my own death quite frequently. I don't obsess over how I will die, or think too much about what happens when we die, but contemplating my own mortality really helps to bring perspective and clarity in my daily life. I think about it when a car swerves for a split second into my lane on the highway, or when I'm walking into my building at night and I notice a shadow of a person move quickly in my peripheral vision (it inevitably winds up being a neighbor taking out the trash). I think about my own death every single time I'm on a flight and there's turbulence. When it gets bad, I always think to myself, "Ok, Candace. It's happening. This is how it's going down." And I close my eyes, almost ready for it, never really afraid, and I think to myself, "You know what? I've lived a great life. I have done work I am proud of. I have had beautiful friendships and relationships. I have no regrets."
And then inevitably the plane will even itself out and I'll half-smile to myself, amused by how morbidity and peace can simultaneously exist within, and then I'll pick up my book and go back to reading.
I'm not sure when exactly this started. Actually, scratch that. It started with my uncle's suicide, when I was in college. He was the first major person in my life to pass away, and it shook me. It ignited a boiling sense of panic and anxiety when I realized that one day everyone in my life would die, and I'd have no control of any of it. I came face to face with the realization that the most important people in my life could die at any given moment, without warning. I ached and squirmed in that discomfort and fear and panic. For years. Because I lost not only my uncle, but in a very short time frame, I lost two other family members as well. It felt like my world was crashing down around me.
Years later, I contracted Lyme disease. And this time, the fear and anxiety I experienced wasn't surrounding others dying, but around my own death. Lyme is frustrating because it affects everyone differently. Some people get it and they're healed in a few weeks. Some people get it and they're better in a few months. Some people get it and ten years later, they're still sick. Because it affects everyone differently, doctors aren't able to tell you with certainty how long until or even if you'll ever get better. I remember getting worse with each month and being paralyzed by fear that I would never be my old self again. I remember wishing to just disappear. Not to die, but to simply not exist. I was in constant physical pain and mental anguish.
At some point, though, I just got sick of being sick. Sick of being fearful. Sick of feeling out of control. I might not have had control over the illness and its effects on my physical body, but I had a choice in how I reacted. I could choose the path of hope. I could choose to allow myself to dream. I could choose to let my wild imagination take over.
And so I did. And soon the fear transformed into hope. It might sound dramatic to feel like Lyme made me come face to face with death (because really, I wasn't exactly on the brink of death). But in the depths of the depression I experienced while at my worst point with Lyme disease, I did ponder my existence on this earth, and ask myself why I'd spent the twenty-something years prior being so insecure, self-destructive, and unappreciative of the glorious blessing it is to simply be alive and healthy. I felt that the years prior to the illness were such a waste. I could've done so many wonderful things, had I not been so wrapped up in my own self-limiting beliefs. And I decided that when I got better, I would do better.
And I have. The ordeal I went through with Lyme disease, and the grief I went through years prior with the deaths in my family made me realize that this time we have on earth is short. And because it's so short, why not start every day with gratitude? Why not dream big and joyfully work to make those dreams a reality? Why not say no to the things that bring you down, and yes to the people and experiences that lift you up? Why not choose happiness no matter what's put in your path?
And so yeah, I think about my own mortality a lot. And in doing so, in a weird twisted way, it helps hold me accountable to the promises I made myself about doing better. About working on my insecurities. About being vulnerable. About trying to do work I am proud of and that helps others. About living a life where I feel so profoundly content and grateful that good energy radiates around me for others to soak up. That's what I aspire to do, today and every day. And, given that my birthday was this past month, I'm so thankful for the start of another year to keep at it.
I'd love to hear your thoughts, if you're willing to share down in the comments section below. Do you think about your own mortality? Does it scare you or inspire you?