Wednesday, 7 February 2018

The importance of living for today

The last couple of weeks have been really challenging – jolting me out of my metaphorical comfy armchair and reminding me that life is fleeting and capricious. Two weeks ago David and I received an email from a very close friend telling us she had secondary breast cancer, for which there is no cure. The email was heartbreaking, yet brave and uplifting as she told us how much she loves us and asked that we celebrate her great life and many achievements, and surround her with joy not sadness. It has been overwhelmingly painful to process news of this magnitude and I have been lurching between profound sorrow for the future, waves of nostalgia for what has been and an intense rage which I’ve been struggling to suppress. To add to the emotional burden I’ve been really sick over the last week which has reduced my capacity to cope and has opened the door to a black cloud of depression, which fortunately seems to be dissipating today. In short, it’s been a bit shit.

In our society we seem to fear death and brush any thought of it under the carpet as though it doesn’t actually exist. However, when it unexpectedly looms, it does remind us, with a hefty boot up the arse, that we only have one life and we need to live it with purpose. The Roman philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, wrote: “It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” None of us are going to be around forever so we need to really live our best possible life now. Today.

My naughty, brave, spirited and courageous friend is 'life is not a dress rehearsal' personified. Her achievements are numerous. To name but a few: she is a very successful partner in a law firm; she has climbed Mont Blanc; she took part in the 2017 Arctic Marathon; she has competed in the 100km Gurkha Challenge trek across the South Downs; she was selected to sing and tour with the World Youth Choir; she has competed in numerous sailing races including Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club’s Round the Island Race on Wonderwall; and there aren’t many corners of the world that she hasn’t explored. She has crammed more excitement, adventures and achievements into her 39 years than many people manage in 80. She has shown what can be accomplished by living for the now.

Today is the day for me to stop wallowing and to start celebrating my friend's achievements and surrounding her in the joy she wants.

Steve Taylor, Ph.D. , wrote on the Psychology Today blog: “Becoming aware of our own mortality can be a liberating and awakening experience, which can – paradoxically, it might seem – encourage us to live authentically and fully for the first time.” So today is also the day to follow my friend's example by no longer procrastinating and starting to live life in the present with genuine purpose.

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