With my 43rd birthday in sight, I feel like I’m approaching a finish line. As I gaze at the month ahead of me, the home stretch, I realize that I am no more immune to death now than I was when I first experienced my premonitions of death at age 42. I am acutely aware that if Heaven wants me, it can grab me off the race track of life whether I’m thirty years from the ‘finish line’ or thirty days. There are no rules, no fair and square, where death is concerned.
So although I’m not falsely consoled by the fact that I’ve almost made it to my next birthday, I am feeling quite lighthearted about the matter. The overwhelming fear of death that plagued me just months ago, has all but vanished. Thanks to the Gratitude Smackdown.
At first, Death was chasing me like a dog nipping at my heels. So I ran as fast as I could into my life. I seized days and moments and opportunities like a greedy thief. Intent on living life to the fullest and not missing one moment, I became paranoid and anxious. MUST BE PRESENT. MUST NOT WASTE TIME. The threat of death hammered away in my head.
Eventually, I had to stop running. It’s exhausting, and foolish, to try to outrun Death. Instead, I turned to face Death square-on, defying it to ruin whatever time I had left. I focused on embracing the whole of it – the times I am in synch with the rhythm of love and life as well as the times when I slip into unconscious, mindless, moment-wasting oblivion. When I stopped fretting over which of these states had more value, gratitude found its stride.
Gratitude revealed its magic in transforming each moment, each thought, each action into a cause for celebration. A fit of anger, I learned, deserves an equal amount of gratitude as a spontaneous expression of love. When I dared to be grateful to anger, I saw how it has been my voice when I needed to stand my ground. It’s hard to see the light side of the shadow, but I am convinced that it’s there even when it escapes me. So I throw gratitude at it with a disclaimer, “I don’t know why, God, but thank you for this.”
A question was posed to me recently. ‘What would your ideal life look like?’ At first, old practiced images of ease and decadence flashed through my mind. But quickly, because of the Gratitude Project, the scene transformed against a different backdrop. The lovely images I conjured looked empty save for the balance of life. The chaos and doubt and denial loomed close and completed the image with perfection.
Like the cat who ate the canary, a smile crossed my face. What would my ideal life look like, you ask? This. As is. I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve been proven wrong too many times this year to discount any single part of life as other than a gift. Though I may not at first see it or say it, there is nothing I can’t be grateful for.