I recently had a phone conversation with my sister about life and death and all that muddled up stuff in between. We were talking, specifically, about the lost opportunities in our lives, the things we don’t say, the people we aren’t kind to, the people we are too kind to… basically, asking each other if we had limited time left—a month, let’s say—what we would do differently.
Because it’s my sister, one of my best friends, I had to answer honestly. I told her I would quit my job, throw away everything I own, toss the dog in the car (find a good, non-mobile home for the cat—he would not like this adventure), and I would drive around seeing as much of the world as I possibly could and sharing it with other people. I wouldn’t care if people thought I was being impractical or immature. I would stand on the tops of hills with my arms wide open, hugging the wind. I would go to cities I’ve only read about, find local shops and restaurants to explore and drink a lot of good coffee. I’d explore the natural world, do some of the hikes on my bucket list, meditate in places where I can’t hear anything but the world—the real world—around me. With photos and words, I’d share what I found and hope that someone somewhere saw a glimpse of the world’s awesome, tragic, messed up beauty through my work.
And then, when the conversation was done, I went back to life. I finished my drive home, unpacked from my weekend away, cleaned up my apartment and went to bed. Conversation done; door closed and locked.
But I didn’t quite stop thinking about it. Not the quitting my job part—I generally enjoy my job and know I still have a lot to learn from it. But the rest of it—the adventure and joy and freedom and all those emotions that become faded against the backdrop of Monday through Sunday.
And it made me start to think about my life, the way I’ve structured it.
I wait, that’s what I do. I work now and play later. I focus hard so that later I can relax. But then there’s always something else to do.
And I don’t want to live life in shades of black and white and gray. I want to live in the whole spectrum of Technicolor.
I don’t have to wait. I don’t have to wait to share the absolutely tragic beauty of the world around me.
What would you do, given a month or a year? Or a day? How would you live if you knew you were dying?