Death - Eye on now
by Ritu Bhatia
We live most of our lives imagining that good things lie just round the corner. What we don’t realise is that this is it, the miracle is right here. There is nothing to wait for. It is this life that we have been given, and this dayWork like you don’t need the money
Love like you’ve never been hurt
Dance like nobody’s watching
Sing like nobody’s listening
Live like it’s heaven on earth.
It all began when I read Steven Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In one chapter, he asks you to imagine that you are driving to the funeral of a loved one. “As you walk down to the front of the room and look inside the casket, you suddenly come face to face with yourself…this is your funeral, three years from today,” writes Covey.
He goes on to describe the people and speakers at the funeral and asks you to think deeply about what you would like each of the speakers to say about you and your life. What kind of wife or mother would you like their words to reflect? What kind of daughter, sister or cousin? What kind of friend? Working associate? “Begin with the end in mind,” he advocates. “The image, picture or paradigm at the end of your life.”
Reading this made me start thinking about what I would like people to remember about me after I was gone. I summoned up a vision of the kind of person I wanted to be and then slowly started examining who I actually was.
Did the way I live really reflect my ideals? Did my life reflect my values and intentions? How far removed was the vision I had of myself from the reality of who I was right now?
I began with evaluating my relationships. If I wanted to be a loving person, then why were important relationships in my life fractured? Why hadn’t I mended them? If I sought freedom to live the way I chose, why did I try and control other people? If I sought unconditional acceptance, why did I continue to judge?
While I was subjecting my life to this examination, something else happened. A voice started up in my head. “This is it,” it announced. I walked to the mirror and stared at myself. “This is it,” I repeated aloud.
Up to this point, I had lived imagining that better things lay around the corner and that I just had to wait for them. That I simply had to wait for those miracles that would transform my life and feelings. And that there was plenty of time, time to mend those broken relationships and time to plan the book I intended to write, and enrol in the pottery class I had always dreamt about, and find the kind of partner I yearned for.
Now, suddenly I confronted the fact that the miracle was here. There was nothing to wait for. It was this life I had been given and this day. The sources of pleasure and the daily miracles were many—a cup of aromatic tea in the morning, the intensity of a workout at the gym, my son’s smile, the pleasure of a cool room on a hot day.
The intensity with which I experience everything has become twofold. Being totally present in the moment has much to do with this. I am almost voracious in the way I devour experiences now. I admire the smallest things in every situation and regard everyone differently.
Living takes a lot of work and I can see how much energy it takes for people to smile and work, and simply just be.
Making the shift from living as though this was a dress rehearsal to taking the centre-stage has changed other things too. I have healed most of my broken relationships, and am moving (albeit slowly!) towards doing the things I really want to.
Give it your best, girl, I tell myself, this is your only chance. So I drink tea out of my best cups and eat off beautiful plates. I have discarded the clothes in my cupboard and the objects in my house that do not reflect the person I am. I accept what people give me graciously and thank them more often for their contribution to my life. Sometimes I find myself standing away from a joyous moment and replaying it in my head—what bliss!
Heeding the message ‘this is it’ has meant that I have had to start assuming total responsibility for my life. Where I am today is my choice, whichever way I look at it. How I feel, what I do, what I say is mostly up to me. This is daunting and empowering all at once.
The space in my mind for boredom, restlessness and anger has shrunk. All these feelings came from resisting the present and ever since I decided to embrace it instead, I feel calmer.
I am less strongly invested in fixed ideas about myself, other people and society. The best part is that I am much closer to the vision I have of the kind of person I would like to be remembered as.
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