Friday, June 3, 2011

the root of it all

At my first job as an animator, I did a lot of overtime and really wanted to please people (and myself) with good work. A lot of people worked long hours, but you were never forced to do it. One evening, at quitting time, I told one of my co-workers I was staying late, as usual. She packed up to go and as she walked out the door, she said to me something like,

"When you're lying on your deathbed, are you going to look back and think 'I'm really happy I stayed and worked extra hours that night?' Or do you think you would look back more fondly on the couple hours you spent outside in the sun instead?"

I think that one comment pretty much closed the door on my long-hours-studio-animation career.

Since then, I've used the "lying on the deathbed looking back on my life" image many times to make all manner of decisions. Thanks, animator-lady-with-the-red-hair-whose-name-I-can't-even-remember-any-more.

Here's another deathbed tidbit that really gets to the root of it: A dear friend of mine is a nurse in Whitehorse, Yukon. She's seen a lot of births and a lot of deaths. She observed that one of two things happen in the last moments before someone departs their body: Either they become completely content and at peace, or they die stricken with terror, fighting and wrestling, literally clawing and grabbing with their hands to try to hold on to their physical body.

. . .

That pretty much lays it all on the line for me. Everything I do in my life is just a lead-up to that final second in my body. It's about finding a way to exist, even for one moment, without fear, without attachment, with complete acceptance, and surrounded by love.

. . .

I saw a great article yesterday, written by another nurse who has spent years nursing the dying. In her experience, the most common regret anyone has on their deathbed is:

I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Every male patient she nursed (and many women as well) said

I wish I didn't work so hard.

Rounding off the Top Five Lifetime Regrets were:

I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

I wish that I had let myself be happier.

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