This coming Sunday, I will pay my last respects to yet another friend and mother of two young children – another life gone too soon. Today, I am sending prayers to a family member who is undergoing surgery for breast cancer literally as I type this. And I’m still feeling the heaviness of the lives lost over the course of the past few months, particularly of a mom friend who also left behind two children, and of a woman who – while I was pregnant – accosted me when I tried to stop her from driving drunk in the neighborhood (read about it here). I never pressed charges. My hope for her was that she would be able to fill the void she had been using alcohol and drugs to fill it with. That she would find peace. That she would be able to live a full and fulfilling life.
She died of an overdose last month.
She also leaves behind her two young children.
My head is spinning from all of these events, and on top of all the feels, I’ve been riddled with thoughts of my own mortality. This has had both positive and negative effects on me. On the one hand, I’m freaking out and being a hypochondriac about any suspicious looking spot on my skin, or symptom that could mean something serious. But on the other hand, it is really forcing me to live in the now. Because I know this much is true:
There is nothing as sobering as death to help remind us to live.
The thing is, death is just a completion of the circle of life. And as much death as there has been close to home lately, there has also been a lot of life. I have three friends who are pregnant and expecting between December and April, and more still who just welcomed lives into the world.
Still, I seem to be more focused on the lives lost than on the ones created, and the other day, I was struck with a simple yet powerful question. I’ve asked it of myself before, but never before has it had such a profound and deep seeded impact on me:
“If I learned I was dying, what would I wish I would have done? Said? Been? How would I have wished I could have been? What risks would I wish I would have taken?”
And then I asked the all important question:
“What is stopping me from doing it now?”
Right then and there, I decided that I had to make a concerted effort to live like I was dying. To be the person I want to be now. Not five pounds from now. Not a million dollars from now. Not when I’ve sold a million copies of my cookbook (though that will be pretty cool).
So, who do I want to be?
Well, I don’t exactly know who I want to be. I know I want to be someone who loves deeply. Who cares deeply for myself and others. And I know I already am that.
But I could use a little less comparing myself to others. A little less insecurity. A little more groundedness in my own awesomeness. And a heck of a lot more compassion for myself.
As I was sorting through my thoughts in answer to this questions, two words came to my lips. I said them out loud (even though I was in a restaurant bathroom):
Grace & Integrity.
I’ve always said that integrity is my number one core value. And it is. But it’s not the full picture. What is missing is grace. Whenever I feel both graceful and filled with integrity, I feel whole.
I’m never thrown off my integrity game. It is just who I am. I’ve embodied is as a cree, a manifesto on how I live my life. But I am often thrown off my grace game. It hasn’t become doctrine. And I want it to.
No matter who I interact with in the world (including and especially myself), no matter where I am, no matter what I am doing, I want to bring grace and integrity to the situation. I want to lead with that. I want to embody those two qualities. From there, everything else will follow. If I can do that, I can do anything.
So from that point on, I have made that my mantra. Grace. Integrity.
What are your words to live by?
We only have a few months left in this year. And I know that traditionally, we save up our mission statements, goals and resolutions for midnight on the first day of the New Year. But I say to heck with that!
As 2017 comes to a close, it’s not too late to make some of those changes you declared on New Year’s Day ten months ago. The year isn’t over yet. It’s not too late to make changes!
Who do you want to be? What do you wish you had accomplished this year? Is it too late to start now? It may be too late to finish before 2018, but in my humble opinion, it’s certainly not too late to start. You don’t have to wait for the New Year to make a fresh start. You can start now. Every day is an opportunity to start anew. Heck, every moment is an opportunity to do it!
So let’s go. Right here, right now. What are the qualities, the words you want to embody, to live by? What kind of an impact do you want to have on the people around you? What were your goals for yourself for this year? If you’re still passionate about them, start them now! And if you’re not, make some new ones. And start them now too!
If you dare to (and if you want some accountability – more on that in the next post), please share them here. Let me and your peers help to hold you accountable to them. Let us help you to become the person you want to be, to do the things you keep saying you want to do.
There is no time like the present. And to loosely echo the words of William Wallace, we all die. But how many of us really live?
With love, grace and integrity,