Waiting for My Real Life to Begin

The life and times of a girl named Swishy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

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.


At 12:07 AM, Blogger Manic Mom said...

OK! Wow. Love this post, but you made me a little sad too, even though we are IMing each other at this very moment! Tonight in bed, I was talking with Ajers because he is turning ten on Friday. I said, "I can't believe you're almost 10." He said, "I can't believe you're almost 40." Shit, that hit a chord. And we just found out friends of the family's 11 year old son was just diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma, so thinking about this death stuff really sucks. I wish the unknown wasn't so scary. I like to think about the afterlife, heaven, whatever it is to you as the best of everything here on earth, and then some. Like I'll be able to relive the joyous moments any time I want to. I can view/watch all the things I missed on earth. And I truly believe that every person you love on earth is already there in heaven awaiting our arrivals, cuz if the afterlife is everything you love on earth, then wouldn't they all be there with us?

OK, I am now not sure this was a good post to read before bed because I can't stop thinking about it.

I wish it weren't so scary to know we're all going to die someday.

XO, thanks for an immensely thought-provoking post my dear Swishy!

At 12:10 AM, Blogger Manic Mom said...


OK, so what are some of the things you are going to do that you haven't been brave enough to do?

At 1:12 AM, Blogger Manic Mom said...

I know, I know. It's 12:11 a.m. and I haven't gone to bed yet. But I did just find this, how random:


At 6:03 AM, Blogger michelle said...

that was the best episode of oprah i have seen in a long time ... i usually don't watch, but i was home early and put it on. it really resonated with me, too ... i wish that i could live life to the fullest and be more positive ... but what's stopping me? the girl particularly amazed me ... her positivity and sense of well-being just flowed through the television. she just made me want to live my life better than i am.

At 10:01 AM, Blogger Tuesday Girl said...

I am mad I missed this Oprah. I saw the woman's documentary Crazy Sexy Cancer and it was great.

At 10:29 AM, Blogger Angela WD said...

Swishy, what a cool post. Thanks for that reminder to live life to the fullest.

You know, when I'm dying, what I'd really like to think is that I made the world a better place by being alive. I mean, not just to my family and some friends, but really helping the world somehow. Talk about your big dreams!!!

At 10:59 AM, Blogger Monnik said...

I saw a little bit of this episode too. It is an amazing message, though.

And to your 'getting through' point... Don't we all find ourselves in a rut where we just want to get through the week, the month, the holiday season, whatever? I agree - life should be more about 'getting to' do something than 'getting through' something.

Great post!

At 12:04 PM, Blogger Rob said...

A really great post Swishy. So many thoughts are swirling through me head after reading that I can't really do a cogent reply.

Which means it was a really good post.

I guess I will throw in that I lost my mother when she was only 45. It happens. I'm 44. It makes me think.

At 12:22 PM, Blogger Tanya said...

Thats really inspirational. I like that, I try to live in the moment and enjoy everything for what it is. Even the nights spent at home playing on the computer while my husband is doing homework. I like to live my life, but I also try to be content with the things that it is.

At 12:40 PM, Blogger Sherry said...

Swishy, Kris and Randy who were on Orpah are both very inspirational...I'm glad you saw the program and posted about it.
Having walked the cancer plank over the last 2 years, I "get" this...and sometimes it takes a crisis like this in our lives to make us realize what we have, what we value and how much time we waste on "nothing". As a survivor it always makes me feel good when others hear the message and say "oh I GET that" and then make conscious changes in their lives...before they reach a point where they are forced to.
Thanks for posting this...it was excellent!

At 1:35 PM, Blogger Scribe LA said...

Swishy! You hit it out of the park, as per usual. I always look forward to your thoughts on the world and your ability to remind us of just how simple life can be if we let it.

At 2:06 PM, Blogger Manic Mom said...

I have a question...

Can I give myself permission to poop?

I have to go. Bad.

At 2:06 PM, Blogger Manic Mom said...

Not really. Just thought I'd lighten up the mood over here!

Hee hee.

OK, so I really do have to go, but not that bad...

At 2:48 PM, Blogger Trish Ryan said...

Interviews like that really put the all the stuff that can stress us out into perspective. Imagine that woman's answer when people try and convince her that the most important thing in life is to work 60 hour weeks to fund your retirement plan?

Per usual, you've inspired me :) I think the thing I want to do differently, this week at least, is enjoy the little stuff. I've been thinking about your post with the picture of the blonde hair clips and the ocean spray. I've got similar stuff that makes my world a happy place--I'm gonna spend more time enjoying the fact that when I get out of the shower, my tourmaline ionic dryer is waiting there to make my hair full & shiny. Not earth changing, but still, kinda fun.

At 3:21 PM, Blogger Drewpy Drew said...

I think the Tim McGraw song "Live like you were dying" gives a very nice view of this. When you die, you aren't going to say "I'm sure glad I spent all that time at work." You want to say things like "I have skipped rocks on Loch Ness", "I saw Billy Joel and Elton John at the Tacoma Dome", "I swam with sea turtles on Maui", and "I did push ups at 10,000 feet in the rocky mountains".

I know we all have things we have to do. Just make sure to do the things you need to do.

Peace out.

At 3:46 PM, Blogger Golightly said...

I love it. Permission to live. Great post ;)

At 3:51 PM, Blogger Jess Riley said...

That's a wonderful reminder...thanks, Swishter!

At 8:50 PM, Blogger Beth said...

Swishy!!! I LOVE this post! I didn't see that oprah show, but it is so true. I try to live everyday like it's my last...never say "goodbye" to my kids without an "I love you" thrown in there too...I think when you get to that point..you won't say that you wished you had more money or spent more time at work...it will be about friends and family.

Love you Swishy!!!

At 11:01 AM, Blogger Patti said...

when i was diagnosed with melanoma, the tests to determine the staging took a week. my oncolgist said worst case would be i had six months left. six months.

boy was only 15. i wasn't ready to go. husband and i were planning on growing old together. i wanted to stay. i wanted to live.

during that horrible week of waiting, husband and i made plans for my death. isn't that a horrible thought? except it turned out to be a freeing experience, one that i have carried with me since.

when the week was up and we were back in the doc's office for all the results, i was told that it looked like i would live to be a very old woman, unless, you know, i would not. but melanoma speaking, i was going to be ok. stage 1.

since that moment, i have often wished that everyone could have an experience of near death without dying. persective is everything.

prior to the experience i focused on what i didn't have, or what i hadn't done. after the experience i was focused on what i did have and what i had already accomplished.

the most unusual side effect of thinking i was dying zeroed in on chocolate cake. i wanted to eat more cake. it has since become the medaphor of my life: more cake!

life is terminal, that is a given. my wish is that we could look around us and see what is is that we are blessed with, and to fully live in that joy.

great post...

At 11:32 AM, Blogger Steph said...

Great post! Love it, and putting life into perspective once in a while is a good thing, we all need a little nudge once in a while. A little reminder. I lost my sister (age 24) 4 1/2 years ago in a car accident and since then I have realized that life is way too short and the most important things are family and friends. LOVE. Don't forget to tell the ones you love that you do. I LOVE ALL MY BLOGGY FRIENDS! Thanks Swishy!

At 12:52 PM, Blogger Eileen said...

Great post. Too often we spend our time thinking about what we could/should do instead of actually doing it.

At 3:44 PM, Blogger Shauna said...

Great post! I can identify with this. For the last while, I've felt like I've been just trying to get through the next day, week, month. Before I knew it my kids were growing up and I realized I was wishing the time away. I don't think life will ever slow down, I just need to learn to grasp the good moments and make the most of them.

Thanks, Swishy, for the reminder.

At 4:16 PM, Blogger TTQ said...

4 years and 5 months on borrowed time. I am doing everything different these days. Dream Big. If you don't you will never get the chance to have what you always wanted.

This (LIFE) is not a dress rehearsal!

At 4:53 PM, Blogger Jenster said...

Wow! What a great post, Swish. I wish I would have seen that Oprah.

Since my "awakening" I've started writing more and taken up a hobby I loved when I was younger - photography. And I don't care if my kids ever think they're too old for a little mama love. They get it ALL THE TIME! Then again, they had a scare two years ago, too, so I think they're okay with it.

And I know for a fact I'll never be able to do or experience every single thing I want to do or experience, but I'm going to have a blast working my way through the list!

At 6:58 PM, Blogger Beth said...

Siwshy!!! I had a dream about you last night!!

I went to a friends house..he was a having a party...and it turned out that you were his sister! I just saw you in passing and I thought to myself, "Hey! that's Swishy!" so I followed you all over the place trying to get to you and say HI to you....I never did get that chance. But I DID see you leaving your house, your hair caught up on the top of your head all cute, and you had on jeans and a sequined top, so I knew you were going out for the night...

does this dream say "stalker" much?! creepy!

At 1:17 AM, Blogger KATE said...

I'm not an Oprah watcher, but I guess I should be. I wish I had seen that post! So good to hear.

& to Manic, it scares me too at times, but I agree; all the people we loved in this life will be there waiting to greet us!

Fabulous post thanks for the thought provoking post! Love it!!

At 3:27 AM, Blogger Swishy said...

Such wonderful comments everyone! And Manic ... I am going to answer your question. I know most of them, but I am still thinking, too. But I WILL answer it.

And Beth, HOW FUNNY! I love that! I hope I looked cute!!!

At 4:14 PM, Blogger Andie said...

that just makes me want to travel teh world and charge it all on my credit card and say "to hell with it all!"

my dream is to travel and see the world. Like those people who did the 1000 places to see before you die thing.

Oh, if I only had the $$$$


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