Death is coming for all of us, whether we like it or not. One day, you wonder if you’ll ever be a proper adult, and the next, it seems, you’re wondering where those lines on your face came from, and maybe realize everyone is just winging it with this whole life thing.
If we don’t acknowledge the brevity of life, we risk living on autopilot, missing out on opportunities, connections, adventures, and living our most fulfilling lives.
If you mistakenly think you’ll live forever, you’ll keep putting off those creative projects, you’ll keep postponing that vacation, you’ll keep saying, “ahh, I’ll get ’em next time.” Essentially, you’ll keep chickening out because you’ll convince yourself you have unlimited “next times.” I hate to be the one to break this to you, but you don’t. You have a finite number of “next times.”
You don’t have to go streaking in your neighborhood or spell out “I Love You” in rose petals on your crush’s lawn, but if you are sincerely and deeply compelled to do something like that, well, you’re gonna die, so do it while you have the chance.
I’ve been regularly consulting my death-bed self for years, since in the moment, our problems can get blown out of proportion. Fifty years of imagined life experience lends some valuable perspective, especially when we are freaking out about the present.
Use this deathbed exercise to help you live your life with more purpose:
Picture yourself on your death bed. Acknowledge the fact you could be unlucky and go tomorrow, but picture a best-case-scenario. For me, I’m in my nineties, at home, in bed, pretty thin and worn looking, but still have my red lipstick and jewelry on, still have a sense of humor, and am still sassy.
Now, think of whatever it is that’s bothering you, whether it’s a decision you have to make or a circumstance that’s stressing you out. Ask yourself, both the present day and death bed versions, “Will this matter in five years? How about in ten years?”
Now, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and picture yourself. Your youth is long gone. You have more wrinkles, but you still have a sparkle in your eye. You’ve overcome everything life has thrown at you. You’re still smiling, still cracking jokes. You are overwhelmed with deep appreciation and gratitude for the experiences of your lifetime.
What does this version of yourself have to say to you?
Ask whatever you need to, and listen for the answers. See what comes up.
Life is Short
I consult my deathbed self a lot. And more often than not, she says yes. She says do the thing, life is short. Fill it with the things that feel good, follow your gut, follow your heart, and don’t waste your time on things or people that don’t feel right. Don’t spend too much time hesitating. When inspiration strikes, take action. Forgive people and move on, she tells me often.
We are always faced with the potential of death.
So I encourage you to take this as an opportunity to think about what’s important to you, and what you’d like to do before you die. Write it down. Start making plans. Hold yourself accountable.
Is it important to you to express your creativity and leave your mark on the world? Is it important to you to spend time with family, and to let them know how much they mean to you? Is it important for you to travel the world? Is it important you leave your soul-sucking job and create your own income? Is it important to you to live off-grid, homestead style, and get back to basics?
Get in the practice of talking to your death bed self. See what they have to say. It doesn’t have to be scary and dramatic. Use a little dark humor and make it funny.
Oftentimes, the death bed version of myself calms me down, because I realize I’m freaked out about something that won’t matter in a year or so.
Your death bed self can be like the fairy godmother you never had but always wanted, offering you a little extra moxie when you need it.
But consider how limited our time here is. Just consider it.
Ask yourself these questions:
How do you want to use the precious time you have left?
How can I fill my time with joy and pleasure?
What do I want to give back to the world?
Who would I like to connect with, whether to make amends, express my appreciation and gratitude, or maybe even, the love in my heart?
What am I looking forward to?
If I knew my time was limited, how would I treat those closest to me? What would I do for them, with them? What would I want to say to them?
Live in the Present, and Befriend Your Future Self
We’re never guaranteed tomorrow. I encourage you to remember, especially now, that we are never guaranteed another breath, but my wish is that you remain hopeful for many more. Spend some time picturing yourself on your death bed. Get to know that version of yourself. Consult them often. See what they say.
If all we ever have is now, how can we better embody, appreciate, and live in the now of our current reality? What can we do now, so that when we look back on our lives we can say, “I did my best.”