Permission to live
So I was up late last night, and the 1:30 a.m. repeat of Oprah came on. I flipped the channel because it was supposed to be a Dr. Oz special report on death, which sounded depressing, but when Dr. 90210 proved to be MORE depressing, I flipped it back. And I am so, so glad that I did. They mistitled the show topic. It wasn't really about death, it was about life. And it wasn't depressing or sad at all, it was uplifting and empowering.
There were two guests on the show: a woman in her early 30s with stage four inoperable cancer, and a man not much older in the last stages of pancreatic cancer. And they talked about life. They talked about how the things they regretted were the things they didn't do, rather than the ones they did. They talked about how important it is be happy and have fun. They talked about how one of the things that stood out to them most was the inherent goodness of all people--how they might not show it to you at first, but give them time, and it'll show. The man, a professor at Carnegie Mellon, gave his "last lecture"--the most valuable lesson he wanted to leave with his students. His lesson? Achieving your childhood dreams. And the woman talked about how, when she found out she was dying, it was like getting permission to finally live. To do the things she'd always wanted to do, to be as happy as she wanted to be, to live the life she'd imagined.
That part--the idea that finding out you might not have a lot of time to live is like getting permission TO live--really resonated with me. Her point was that we are all going to die. Life, as she said, is terminal. She happens to have a little more information--she knows she'll probably die from cancer--but other than that, she's no different than the rest of us.
So I thought, well, why don't we all live like that? Why don't we all just go for it more often? And I think it's because you have to be incredibly brave. You have to put yourself out there, you have to take risks, you have to be the one taking accountability for your own happiness, and it's scary. If you're told your time is limited, well, then you have nothing else to lose. But otherwise, you can tell yourself you have forever. Or at least 30 more years. Or 20. Or 10.
I panic sometimes about not having enough time. There are so many things I want to do, so many things I want to be, so many kinds of happiness I want to experience, I sometimes wonder how I'll get it all in. I am still chasing my dreams, and I am glad for that, because so many people abandon theirs. But I DO find myself "getting through" things. I think, just let me get through this day, let me get through this week, let me get through this year. I don't want my life to be about getting through it. I want it to be about savoring it, about soaking it up, about wringing every last bit of joy I can out of it. I think every single person on this earth has enormous potential, so much you can't even believe it, and it is never too late to start realizing it.
So, I am challenging myself and all of you to live a little more. Pick something you've always wanted to do and do it. Chase a dream. Take a chance. Do something scary, do something you know deep, deep down you should do but haven't quite gotten the courage to do yet. If you want, put it in the comments, but if you don't want, that's OK, too. Just do it.
Give yourself permission to live.