Look Beyond Your Life
Look beyond your life to create the one you want.
I don’t know when it began but I have been obsessed with the notion of death.
My own, my family, my friends. Those I will never meet.
I don’t know if it’s because I’m the child of Holocaust survivors.
But the fragility of life is imbedded in my genes.
And yet, though I ponder the subject often, the finality of death still shocks me.
How can it be that this person was here and alive, and in a moment, their breath is gone, their heart stops.
There is no more loving, laughing, crying. There is nothing but absence.
And the remains.
Recently, I attended the funeral of my dear friend’s father.
The funeral began with the song “I did it my way” by Frank Sinatra.
I was engulfed in tears.
I think about death in part because I believe it motivates me to live more vibrantly, to not take anything for granted, to not get caught up in the small stuff.
Even though I sometimes do.
But mostly why I think about death?
I imagine what I will leave behind.
How will I have lived?
How will my loved ones fare?
Did I make the world better?
Or have I played some role in it being worse off?
I don’t pretend to be perfect. I drive an SUV.
I teach my kids that when they spend a night at a friend’s, leave it in a better condition than when you arrived.
I encourage them to do the same for our earth.
This is because I think about how the state of the earth will be when I’m gone...
Take a moment, close your eyes and imagine that you are no longer alive.
When you look beyond your life, the idea of your absence spurs all kinds of thoughts.
What does the world look like without you in it?
Were you on the road to accomplishing the goals you set out?
Have you spent your time happily?
Your money wisely?
Were you engaged in fruitful relationships?
Did you treat your body well? Pay attention to its needs?
Did you travel, laugh, love?
How about the people you would be leaving behind?
Are there loose ends?
When you bring yourself back, what kinds of things sifted out for you?
Are there any gaps that need attention?
Do you want to engage more with your community?
Heal old wounds?
Spending time imagining your non-existence is valuable.
You are forced to evaluate how you spend your time and contemplate whether you are living in sync with your purpose.
You are taking a pulse on your life satisfaction.
Now, close your eyes again.
Imagine that you’ve lived your life, you are 90 years old, and you fall asleep to death.
What kind of world are you leaving behind?
Were you engaged in making it better?
Did you follow your dreams or did your dreams follow you?
Did you make an impact?
Did you want to make an impact??
Have you left instructions about the song you want played at your funeral?
Imagining a world beyond you can be humbling and eye-opening.
One day, we will each be gone, as we all head toward that same eventuality.
Is the world you left behind one that you are proud to leave to those who remain?
Do you notice a difference between these two scenarios?
Looking beyond your life now, and looking beyond your life decades from now may provide different insights.
Perhaps you’re on the path you’ve always wanted, and old age will be welcome.
If you are discovering there is room for tweaking, there’s no better time than the present.
After all, you’re here! You’re alive! You’ve got the ingredients to make change, should you want that.
There’s little that you can change at 90.
While cleaning out my childhood home last summer after my dad passed away, I sorted through thousands of photos of happy times, musty clothes, silverware that hadn’t been used in decades and about 50 magnifying glasses (he had macular degeneration).
I learned that one of the best gifts I could leave my children is a smaller mess with less stuff, and I’m working to make that happen.
There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called Yesterday and the other is called Tomorrow. Today is the right day to Love, Believe, Do and mostly Live. ~ Dalai Lama
Karen Bernstein Shoshana, FDN-P, CHHC is the founder and lead health expert at wellnessgirl.net, where she helps women overcome chronic stress and fatigue and consistently sleep through the night. A former attorney certified in Functional Diagnostic Nutrition and subscribing to the Functional Medicine platform, Karen approaches health through a lens of logic and investigation, using lab testing, in-depth health history, and intuitive coaching to get to the root of the problem and engage her clients to become the CEO of their bodies.
Expert topics include digestive and hormonal health, nutrition and lifestyle health. Karen has been featured as a health expert in the Huffington Post, MakeItBetter.Net and is a contributing writer to everydayHEALTH.com.