Your best self

“I’m dying.”

Shocking piece of rhetoric, this.

Well, okay. Just to set the record straight, I, personally, am not dying. But those were the interrupt-my-day words I serendipitously stumbled upon in, of all places, the liquor store.

They were spoken by a man with inoperable, stage 3 pancreatic cancer. He was buying booze for his own life celebration and inviting people — complete strangers, myself included — to his FUN-eral, where bands would play, history would be reemblazoned and a lifetime of memories discussed and appreciated prior to this man’s eventual, impending demise. Sort of a eulogy while he was still alive. Good for him.

I went to it, this FUN-eral. Oh, and I probably would do the same thing if I were in his life’s-gonna-end-in-a-few-months shoes. Invite people to a party — not as an ego-booster to tell me what a great guy I was, but rather, to remember. Remember the good times, mostly. Reconcile the bad ones. To say the things that needed to be said. And, to think. To laugh. To cry. To pray.

Then, just today, a mere 15 hours later, I learned of the death of the CEO of one of the divisions I work for. Heart attack. Oh, did I mention he was only 41 and the picture of health? Skinny but not gaunt; muscular, really. I knew this man. He had a good perspective on life, a family man, a respected leader, rode his bike to work every day – one of those really good guys. But, gone now just the same.

Finally, when I got home tonight, I was at the scene of an accident that happened seconds earlier — I was so close that I heard the wheels screeching and the dull thump of collapsing metal and crunching plastic. Turns out, everyone appeared to be okay, but as with any accident involving thousands of pounds of moving metal next to flesh and bone, those walking away should feel extremely blessed.

Hard to take it all in, really: A predicted death, an actual death and the cheating of death — all three within 24 hours.

Bad things come in threes, right? We’re done with this death stuff, right?

I think God gives us these opportunities to take a bit of life inventory — if we’re receptive to them, anyway. To take stock in our lives. Our decisions. The impact we make on ourselves and others. The memories we imprint.

But sometimes do we worry too much about stupid shit? Yes, guilty. Do we call each other names too much, speaking when we should be listening? Yes, guilty again. Does our best self really understand that life’s finite-ness is really the greatest of gifts – one that illuminates the awesome power of free will – and not a ticking time-bomb that our worst self sometimes imagines?

Or, are we mindful enough, often enough? Mindful of what matters? Of the treasure trove of goodness that every day presents to us — just waiting for us to accept it? To embrace it? To count it as just one more flower in life’s grand bouquet of goodness?

Fear saps the creativity and lifeblood out of our bones. It is the opposite of hope. Of God. Of all things good. Oh, and yes, we manufacture 100% of it. Don’t give me that shit about fearing a bus barreling toward you. Your behavior in that situation is a reaction, not a fear.

No, fear is decidedly placed by us: Every. Single. Time.

Fear is a choice.

If you think about it, virtually every decision we make or action we take is reversible, if need be. You really can un-fry most of life’s decision-based eggs. So then why the fear?

Look, your soul doesn’t fear. It can’t fear. It doesn’t even understand how to fear. Your soul knows what’s right every time. There’s a lot of power in that, so embrace it. Know that your soul is the essence of All Things Good in you. But it’s your brain — your fear- and insecurity-manufacturing brain — that needs the re-tooling.

Trust your soul and change your brain to reflect all the goodness that already envelopes you simply by definition of your existence. You are not an accident and God doesn’t make junk. Your soul is the wellspring of every ounce of goodness in you simply because God put it there — whether you believe that or not.

Oh yes, if you change your ways and become stronger, you might anger others as they’ll not be used to “the new you.” Don’t wait around, though, fearing what others think as you change, or even, gasp, what they’ll say. If you’re true to your life’s guiding principles (which, by the way, should be written down) to your soul, that’s all that matters in the end.

On fear, change and your narrative

Once you let go of fear, you’ll find yourself emboldened. You’ll make new friends. You’ll make old friends respect you in new ways. And even if some old friends leave as you change, that’s a great thing as this New Truth informs and reveals those who matter most. As Colin Powell is quoted as saying: “Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.”

Oh, and speaking of what gets said, take a look at what you say to and about yourself. Remember this: you are your own narrative. What you say about your life has exponential power beyond what you might imagine in changing your own life and impacting the lives of those around you.

You are your own narrative

No, it’s not that you need to impose Stuart Smalley-like cheesball thoughts about being good enough and smart enough, darn it. Rather, your narrative should be about the truth. The truth in your soul’s goodness. What you bring to the world. Why you make a difference. And, probably most importantly, the good you see in others and the blessings you count one-by-one.

But take the time to care for yourself, too. Go to that ballgame. Rekindle old friendships. Make new ones. Challenge yourself in new ways, scary ways. Say you’re sorry, if needed, and when you do, mean it from the heart and don’t add a single qualifier.

Feeling challenged yet?

My wife and I have this new approach to when we feel a fight coming on. We first try to imagine: “maybe my spouse has a point” and actively pursue that listening-focused path before defensively digging in our heels and preparing to volley counter-arguments as to why the other person is wrong. We don’t always succeed, but when we do, the results have been life-changing.

I’m asking you to do the same here. You probably felt a bit challenged in reading this, particularly if you don’t believe in God, don’t want to think about changing or are in love with your neuroses if only because they’re familiar.

Great. That’s a good start. That disconcerting feeling of being challenged doesn’t mean you have to change your ways; rather, it just shows that you have an open mind to at least think about your current life in new ways. You’ve read this far, after all – something must be clicking.

Love those around you. A lot. Be kind and gentle in your approach most of the time, creating a non-judgmental environment where others want to actually confide in you, engage with you – maybe even love you back.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not at all trying to convince you to be a pushover. You need to be strong and speak truth-to-power every time the situation calls for it. In fact, it takes a great deal of strength to do what I’m suggesting. It’s about being your authentic self – a self who’s loving and a soul who re-writes its own narrative and who appreciates goodness in all its forms.

Your best self, your best life

Rethink the toll that needless emotions exact on your happiness. Then, don’t ignore that itch; scratch it. Here’s a thought: smile at the janitor cleaning your corporate toilets; hell, maybe even talk with her, thanking her for making your work surroundings healthy, clean and livable, and then actively, mindfully listen to what she has to say.

Make your goal to radically think about the best life possible – the life you sometimes even fleetingly experience and, when you do, are so appreciative of. Then, ask yourself: “why can’t I have that feeling all (or at least most) of the time?” If you don’t have a good answer for that – at least one that’s not based in fear – congratulations: you’re ready for this change.

Remember: in the past 24 hours I’ve been a witness to a medically predicted death, learned of my CEO’s actual death, and was first-at-the-scene in the act of someone cheating death.

Powerful reminders, these. It certainly makes me think. Even though this didn’t happen to you, it should make you think, too, about what matters when all the pretenses, guilt and fear are stripped away.

Death is all around us, and life can be gone in an instant. That’s not a morbid thought; that’s a life-affirming realization that can kick in the doors of your world and create your new reality.

Your life – your best life – is calling you. Will you answer the call? If you do, you will never look back.

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