Someone recently called me middle aged. It's true, I'm 45 - I'm in my middle ages, I guess. Though, to think of "making it" to 90 seems daunting. The idea of another 45 years on this planet exhausts me. I just can't really imagine it. It seems like so much time.
I know, people say all the time "time flies," and "the second half of life flies by faster than the first half sped by..." I haven't felt like time has been flying by at all. Not that I'm bored with my life. Exactly the opposite, my life is full with friends, my kid, my career, my relationship, my volunteer work, my family and, well, just...me. I feel like I spend my time wisely and I'm aware of what's going on most of the time, I'm awake, so my life seems to go at a fairly processable pace.
It's been like this since I can remember. No part of my life has sped by in a 'blink' or a 'flash.' My kid's childhood does not seem like 'yesterday,' and, no, I wouldn't go back to it or my own high school years or 20s for anything in the world. It's not that I didn't enjoy those times of my life - actually...I didn't, so it is that I didn't enjoy those times in my life - it's more that I REALLY enjoy THIS time of my life so much more. Each year things get better in my life and that's been the general trend for the past 45 years.
I think one of the sources for my satisfaction and enjoyment of my life comes from the fact that since I was very little I've been acutely aware of my (possibly imminent) demise. My mortality. I was six when it really hit home that I was going to die, thanks to a brilliant and terrifying Marcel Marceau pantomime sketch. I wasn't really square with my mortality until I got into late high school and then it took another 20 years to really make sure that I lived my life accordingly.
In 2005 I wrote a show called SAMURAIZATION which is all about embracing mortality so that we can live life fully. As you can imagine, I had to really confront my own mortality, in a comprehensive way, at that time in order to pull off the show. And I did. I thought deeply and thoroughly about my life and if there was anything I was dissatisfied or upset with in my life - my friends, my achievements, my work, my successes, my failures...I came to the conclusion that I felt content at that point in my life. I was - what - 34. That I had really done much of what I wanted to do with my life. Not that I didn't want to live longer, do more things, achieve more. But if Death knocked on my door in 2005 and said, "Ok, you've got 6 months and then kaput." I would be ok with that. At least that's what I concluded then.
Now, 11 years later, I'm working on the same show some more and I'm finding myself continuing my confrontation of my mortality. (Not that I ever have really stopped, but now because of the show it's in the forefront again.) And I realize that I still feel the same way. Life is full. I love my life. And the only regret I'd really have, down deep, now if I were to die is that I didn't get to be there for my kid for longer. And, frankly, I'd probably feel a bit cheated out of what I think is a really great relationship I'm sharing with my girlfriend. But, really, at my core, I'm good with my life and what I've done.
I think this is what people mean when they say, "Live every day to it's fullest because you never know what tomorrow will bring." But, to me, that advice seems too general and vague. I prefer something like, "Get straight with what you want TODAY, because tomorrow, you could find out that you only have six weeks to live." When I would get caught up in minor trivialities in therapy, I'd say things like, "I don't want my tombstone to read, "Here lies Pandora Scooter, she had a really nice car. Or she did her dishes every day." "
So that became a kind of question I'd ask people when they were stressing about problems: "You want this to be on your tombstone?" You want to be remembered as the person who never got what you wanted because you were so nice to everyone but yourself? If so, great! You're on the right path. If not, then change. 'Cause your tombstone only has but so much room on it so only your major accomplishment(s) goes there. Think. Prioritize. Confront. Act.
It all comes from embracing mortality.