After my husband died in 2011, I became bound up with the idea that death could happen to me too. If a cancer diagnosis had come out of the blue for him, it could indeed happen to me too. The next thought, on the heels of that one, was ‘what if I die when I’m not enjoying myself?’
A horrible idea
That idea was so horrifying that I determined to only do things that I enjoyed. I could explore new things, of course, but if I found I wasn’t enjoying them, or having fun, then I gave myself permission to stop. (Warning: this can lead to walking out of ‘important’ meetings, amending arrangements at the last moment, and changing your mind!).
I started running everything I was doing through a filter of ‘Am I enjoying myself?’, and if I wasn’t, I stopped. Yes, it did make for some hairy moments, but on balance it was fine. And anyway I could attribute any weird behaviour to grief. It was one way to make sure I was taking care of the prospect of an imagined imminent death – but it also meant that I felt I was getting my priorities right. After all, is there anything more important than feeling happy?
That’s why last month, my partner and I went to visit family in Australia. It was very inconvenient for me to leave work for that long, at that particular time. But for various other reasons, it was the ideal time to go. So off we went, and guess what – we had a great time and work didn’t fall apart; to the contrary, it kept on happening.
Are you ready to die?
It also meant that when we had to board a plane on the morning of the awful disaster with the Ethiopian air crash a few minutes after landing, that I could answer ‘yes’ to the question I posed myself ‘Was I ready to die?’
Of course I didn’t WANT to die – there is plenty to live for in my life! I would miss the creation of the new house my partner and I are building and the joy of living there together; I would miss children in the family growing up; I would miss developing the work of Before I Go Solutions. But I was able to say that in that moment, if it was my time to depart this world in this way (as it had become for all those on that aeroplane) then I could accept it.
I believe that’s because I had been doing what I wanted to do, I had been fulfilling a dream, and I had taken action on it now, rather than waiting.
My question for you today
So my question today is, where in your life, right now, could you bring in more enjoyment and pleasure? What do you need to do to ensure that happens? Is there something you have been putting off that really needs to be at the top of your priority list?
It could be bringing a relationship up to date, or starting that process. Or examining your day to day life as to how much love and joy is in it. Or it could be taking a long look at what you are emphasising in your life, and making a commitment to identify what is really important – and then taking action on that.
What is the point of life?
Finally, here’s another story. My husband and I used to have long philosophical discussions about the meaning of life. I’m not so into that now, but back then I was fascinated by this subject. One day I asked him straight out ‘what do you think is the point of life?’ He pondered for a while, and then came back with ‘I think it’s to enjoy yourself’.
I was so cross at his reply! I took it that he was being facetious, that there had to be something much more important than just plain old enjoying yourself, and I told him off for belittling the question. But it actually bugged me over the years. Now, though, I think he was right!
If we are not getting joy/pleasure/peace/happiness out of who we are and what we’re doing in any given moment, then what IS the point?
What do you think? Where in your life could you increase the amount of yumminess, and how could you do that?