The Mundane and the Mysterious
'Live each day as if it was your last'. We have all heard this. And we may have thought about what that last day may look like. But for most it is an intangible, speculative exercise.
What happens though, when it is not? When we are reminded that life is fleeting for all, and sadly way too short for some? When we are dropped into the reality that life is limited, it has the capacity to shake us to our core. The jobs we have, the health we take for granted, our family, our friends, our freedom, our plans ... all can be disrupted at any moment.
I marvel at the capacity of humans to live alongside this knowledge with optimism and grace. To immerse ourselves in the mundane, the ordinariness of everyday life, when there is the mystery of the unknown sitting right beside us. We move through our routines and habits, weirdly secure in the perception that later, when the kids are grown or we are more qualified or more financially secure, that we can do more of the things we want to do. We can live the life we want to live.
Our routines and habits, the things we do on a daily basis - this is our life. We can't guarantee getting to a place in the future where we can do the things we are putting off until later. What do you want to do in this moment?
And this moment?
And this moment?
When we are faced with the reality of the fleeting nature of life - whether it is something we experience ourselves, or through a family member or dear friend - it can be earth shattering. It can feel like the ground has shifted under our footing; the stability we took for granted now tilted and skewed. We are unmoored, untethered.
It can make us examine our relationships, priorities and purpose. It can make us question the random unfairness of life. Often, there are no answers - it's a roll of the dice, it's the hand we are dealt, it's the way the wind blows. It is often mysterious and unexplainable.
I read an article recently about a father who lost his 20 year old son during a routine surgical procedure. Very unexpected and preventable. His heartbreak was tangible and of course completely understandable. However, what he said at the end really stuck with me. He said that he cries every day for the loss of his son; but he also was so, so grateful that he had known him and loved him for 20 years. He was so happy that his son had been here at all. Because as much as his heart was broken at having lost him, he could not fathom a world where he had not known him. That brought me to tears - how his grief and his love could sit alongside each other.
We all plan on living a long and healthy life; but there are no guarantees. If this was your last day, your last week, your last year - what would you do differently? Who would you hold a little closer? Who would you make some time for? What would you say no to? What part of your to-do list would you delete? And could you do some of these things anyway, regardless of what stage of life you are in?
When I think about this (from a healthy place, which I am sure is different from a place of illness), I realise for me it's not about doing things that are new or adventurous. It's not about ticking a box. It is about doing more of the things that I already love, spending time with the people that light me up, and saying no to the things that are unnecessary and trivial. It's about spending more time in nature, valuing what I already have, settling deeper into my skin. It's spending time thinking about things just like this, and having conversations and understanding why we are how we are. It's about living a life that has depth rather than breadth. I would rather matter to a few people deeply than many superficially.
Can you sit with the mystery and the madness, the passion and the profanity, the mundane and the magical, this wild and precious life, and learn to co-exist with it all?
Mary Oliver says it best in 'The Summer Day':
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean - the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down -
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass,
how to kneel in the grass, how to be idle and blessed,
how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
This post was inspired by thought provoking discussions with friends and students dealing with
loss and illness xx