Question of the day: WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE BEFORE YOU DIE IN 90 YEARS?
A few years ago, a woman came into Two Buttons, the store that my husband and I run together. She approached my husband, and told him that she was seeking his advice about her life, because he was that guy from EAT PRAY LOVE.
Promptly, my husband tried to talk her out of asking his advice about anything and instead gave her a glass of wine, as he does for everyone who comes into the shop. But she persisted, and he is polite, so he listened.
She said she was thinking about selling her house, downsizing her life, and going traveling. But she wasn't sure. She was afraid to let go of her security, and didn't feel certain that she was meant to be a traveler, and thought she might miss her family if she went off to see the world, but also feared that she might miss out on the adventure of a lifetime if she didn't go off to see the world….etc, etc. She wrapped it up by asking, "What do YOU think I should do?"
My husband, pouring her more wine, said, "Oh, darling, why don't you just relax and do whatever you want with your life? And don't worry if it turns out well or not! Who cares? After all, you're going to be dead in 90 years, anyway, so it doesn't really matter, right? You might as well live exactly the way you want to live right now!"
First of all, this sort of bluntness is why I don't necessarily recommend that people come into my husband's shop and ask him for serious advice about their lives…
Secondly, the woman misheard him. When he said, "You'll be dead in 90 years," she thought he said, "You'll be dead in 9 years", and she panicked in horror. "You're telling me I'll be dead in 9 years???!" she said. "How do you know that? Do you see it in my aura? How will I die? Oh my god, this is awful! I'm only 47 years old! I don't even smoke! How could you say such a thing? You don't even know me!"
So that didn't go well.
I winced when my husband told me this story. But then later I thought that maybe it hadn't been such terrible advice…?
I think sometimes we forget that we are merely temporary visitors to earth, temporary occupants of these bodies. We take our lives perhaps too seriously sometimes when we forget our ultimate destination (whether it's 90 years or 9 years, after all, eventually we will all be leaving this party). When we forget our essential transience — when we think that we're going to be here forever — all of our choices become so weighty, so significant, so intimidating…but we won't be here forever. So maybe it doesn't really matter as much as we think it matters? Maybe you can be a bit lighter about your choices, that being the case?
So what do you want to do before you go? What would be interesting to you? What would bring you enjoyment, or elevation, or transcendence? And what's to be lost, really, in giving new things a try?
We're just passing through life. Might as well check it out a bit while we're here, right?
As for me, I wanted to see some of life from the top of an elephant, so — when I was traveling in India —I did it. I'm glad I did it. It was amazing. I have a bunch of other stuff I want to do before I die, too. But I found this elephant picture this morning and it reminded me of my husband's encounter with that woman, and the beautiful, liberating temporariness of our lives, and the joy of opening yourself to the new and unfamiliar…and thus: THIS STORY.
Have a beautiful day,