On Obituaries, Finding Purpose and Letting Go
Quite a few of the books I’ve read about “finding purpose” suggest writing your obituary. The thinking is that obits capture the very best of what we’d want said about ourselves. They showcase the highlights of a life well lived and the elements that make up that life: family, career, travel, charity work, whatever. So, if you write your own obituary, you’ll likely write about all the things you’d want your life to include and, in that, you find your purpose. When you’re dead … how do you want to be remembered? That’s your purpose! Simple as that! No need to read on! If only…
I’ve been thinking about this more than usual lately because, and I’m not afraid to admit it, I’ve been thinking about the time I have left. I’ve been thinking about time wasted and time that remains. I’ve been thinking about the challenge of letting go. Really. Letting. Go. Because, frankly, I don’t want to die feeling like I “left something on the table.” Feeling like I didn’t live every drop of my life. In doing so, and I know that despite the good intentions this is probably seriously morbid, I’ve been thinking about writing my obituary. What would I say about myself? How would I want others to remember me?
But I get stuck.
I get stuck because I recognize that there’s a divide between who I am and what I want to be. I get stuck because I don’t take as many risks as I think I should or I advise other people to. I get stuck because I don’t pat myself on the back and celebrate my accomplishments … but I constantly tell others to get over themselves and feel good about their own achievements. I get stuck because I don’t feel as whole as I’d like to feel. I get stuck because I gain back weight when I lose it. I get stuck because I’m not perfect and I think I’m supposed to be.
So as I sit down to write my own obituary? The cursor blinks. And blinks … and blinks. Why? Because letting go feels f*%^$! impossible.
I recently watched a movie where Russell Simmons said that he thought yoga was going to mess him up because it relieved him of his fears and anxiety, and he was convinced that his fears and anxiety were what drove his success. I think letting go creates similar challenges.
Hanging on gives us a crutch. Hanging on gives us excuses. Hanging on let’s us convince ourselves that getting stuck is okay. Why? Well, because A, B and C or 1, 2 and 3 happened to us in the past. We can’t let go of the pain we felt. We can’t let go of the pain we caused. We can’t forgive a friend or family member. We can’t forgive ourselves. And, as much as we bitch about this, <em>as much as I bitch about this</em>, hanging on is safe. Being stuck and hanging on provides us with a pretty tight cocoon. It’s probably not as satisfying as being whole would be, but at least I/we don’t have to take the risks required to find out.
But the thing is … I don’t want to be stuck anymore. I want to feel whole. I want to let go. And, not like in the past, where I let go for a while only to grab back on, but for real. Like eating healthy and having it stick. I want to be able to feel good about my accomplishments without feeling like I should be embarrassed by them. I want to forgive myself. I want to live the way I know I can live. I want to experience … well, you get the idea.
I’ve never struggled with my purpose … at least professionally. I wanted to be in sports. I wanted to produce content. I wanted to write. I’ve always been pretty good at that. It has evolved through the years, to where it is today. My life has collected where it is here and now to provide the purpose that I feels better than any previous purpose. I want to inspire people.
That’s what I want more than anything. To inspire creatively. To make people laugh. To make people think. To make people thank. I want to put more into the world than I take out of it. If I had a personal tagline, it would be the very same one I use for A Day Well Lived: Gratefully Inspired. I feel grateful every time I’m inspired and I want to deliver that same kind of inspiration to others.
In order to do that, I don’t need an obituary; I need to live up to my own potential. I need to feel whole. That’s the only way that I’ll ever get unstuck. And stay unstuck. The only way that the future will be so bright and inviting that I won’t ever want to look back. And, if I do, it will be with gratitude … a knowing, silent, grateful nod to the things that got me where I am and where I’m going. Nothing more. The past will not be a place I need to visit because I’m too busy and too happy with right now. And I won’t even worry too much about the future either. If I take care of the moments as they come … the future takes care of itself. One day well lived at a time.
There are lots of blogs that try to pinpoint the “Five Ways to Let Go.” I’ve never bought into posts like that, as we’re all different. The five things, 10 things, or one thing that works for me may not work for someone else. All I can do is speak to my experiences. I’m more of an “all or nothing/all in” kind of guy. So once and for all, I’m really letting go. Cold turkey. Please be kind and call me on it, dear friends, if you see me slipping. I may react defensively, but I’ll be forever grateful.
As for the obituary? Like I said, I don’t really need to write that now. That’s thinking too much about the future. That’s creating expectations. It promotes “future-tripping” (as in tripping, falling down, thinking too much about what’s ahead). And besides … I have too much life left to live. Right here. Right now.