I have often set out to change a habit in my life, smoking, drinking, nutrition, procrastination, and exercise – so the list goes. I have from time to time successfully changed a habit too. What I have noticed in my life and the life of others is that the habit of our living is deeply rooted and almost all of the time requires a profound, “life altering event” to trigger our personal power of choice.
Is death or imminent death enough of a motivator? Let’s have a look, ‘cause often we do sell our soul for more time on the promise we will live more fully, or more authentically, or more in harmony, or more in love, or more kindly, or more generously.
So do we?
Or do we default to the ingrained and unnoticed habits of how we have always lived?
The saying goes “ A person dies the way they have lived.” From my experience that is pretty much true. Though there are a few exceptions that I have witnessed, three to be exact, most others I have watched and supported give credibility to the above quotation. Most of us seem to die the way we lived. Though death is pressing in on us or on our loved one the default habits of our lives survive, and sometimes thrive, despite our best promises.
Why this happens is primarily because we don’t articulate what living more fully, being more authentic, living in more harmony, more in love, or more kindly looks like. The words roll off our lips as we ‘negotiate’ for more time for ourselves or for our loved one. We tend to make a lot of desperate promises for one more day, one more week, one more year of life. Yet when death happens or the treatment works – the pressure is off – we have a tendency to drift quite quickly back to the way we have always lived. Not having a new vision of how we could live our lives more fully or what more in love looks like we default to the ‘old’ way.
The all to familiar issue – little or no ‘real’ communication rears its head again.
We so want to avoid the raw discomfort of death, whether our own or the death of a loved one we rush to those pat promises;
“I promise to be more kind to my family.”
“I promise to treat strangers better.”
“I promise to stop putting things off for tomorrow.”
“I promise to be more generous.”
“I promise. I promise. I promise… just give me a little more time.”
We are simply unwilling to enter into to those uncomfortable yet very real and most important conversations. No one wants to ask the difficult questions that would lead to much better choices when ones comes at the issue from a quality as opposed to quantity point of view.
Because the experience for both the one dying and the family and friends supporting them is so subjective and so immediate we quickly loose our collective sense of perspective and our quality meter becomes unreliable and dysfunctional. Our sense of good seems to lessen and we being settling for an ever-lowering quality of life on the hopes we’ll get better – and many of us never do.
So let’s take the bull by the horns and have those uncomfortable chats. Let’s ask those uncomfortable questions.
“So honey if the treatments don’t work how would you like the remaining time of your life to look?”
“Dear one what do you want from us and from the healthcare system?” “What don’t you want?”
“How do you want to say good-bye?”
“What does living fully look like for you given your health issues?”
Have the courage and compassion to ask, and listen, and then simply act.