I’m quite certain that many of my regular readers will be dodging this post – not really a sexy headline I guess So HUGE well done from me if you’re still reading. I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time.
We’re all going to live forever right? We are all hugely important and that job/status/new shoes/money making enterprise – will make us happy forever and ever.
Well I tried that years ago and none of it worked. New job title = happiness level seven for about three weeks. New sports car = nice and still fun to drive. But life changing? absolutely not. I’ve been very poor and pretty well off – I prefer the latter but only because it provides more choice. In hindsight one of the happiest times in my life was trying to scrape a living by working as a freelance TV journalist/presenter – one of the most ruthless and insecure professions there is – whilst being a single parent to an 18 month old and a five year old and trying not to be evicted.
I dug myself out of that scrape and never missed a shift on the news desk. Surviving all of that in tact and keeping the house, my sanity, my children safe, fed and clothed – remain one of my proudest achievements. And in truth I don’t think I’ve ever felt happier since. It was something about knowing that the only person I could rely on was me – and that actually I was pretty good person to rely on.
I’ve spent Christmas/ New Year in deep reflection. It’s been incredibly hard as when you go inwards you have to look all that internal pain and chatter square in the face. I thought a lot about death; as death has been such a close companion of mine since I lost my Mother when I was 19. I have felt physical pain as I think about the people I’ve lost and felt myself, at times, sinking into despair. But I held tight and didn’t look away as the creeping depression was telling me that I was running away again from the central core of who I am.
But not now. I have emerged, after three weeks, more alive, more vibrant and full of energy than ever before. I feel ready now to unleash that dangerous woman inside! Good God don’t we need more dangerous women out there – ready to be bold, brave and challenge what is going on in our World in that magnificent way that us women work.
I truly believe that when life starts to get too difficult to cope – a short period of retreat is the only, and by far the healthiest, option. There’s that wonderful saying the only way out is through…
As a mid-life woman I know I have – like so many of you – huge skills and talents that I want to unleash. I am almost entirely fearless around confronting issues I care deeply about – my only enemy to this is self pity and despair and I, like so many others, need to take care of this part. There is only one benefit from seeing your child, and other children, die from cancer – nothing ever again will be that scary. And I survived and now owe it to everybody to roll up my sleeves and get working for a better World whilst I still have breath in my body.
I truly do want to be completely used up physically, mentally, spiritually when I’m finally laid to rest.
As an a la carte Catholic – with a strong and growing interest in Buddhism – I find huge comfort in the spiritual teachings around death. And yes even us Catholics have some good things to say about death. Most importantly they don’t dodge the issue and pretend that it isn’t going to happen.
One of the big blocks to getting better treatment for children with cancer – and there are unbelievably many blocks to this – is that the subject is just too awful to contemplate. It is so much easier to turn away when there are lovely glittering things to look at instead. The result is that it is so difficult to mobilise the kind of fierce challenge that is needed to say IT IS NOT OK FOR CHILDREN TO NOT GET ACCESS TO BETTER TREATMENTS BECAUSE THEY DON’T MAKE MONEY FOR INDUSTRY. Nice simple message that.
Likewise there are huge problems getting treatments for anybody who has a rarer illness – too few people = not enough profit. And if you’re over 65 and get some horrid illness you too will be discriminated against because you’re more like to have other illnesses which mess up the clinical research data. The result being you’re not considered lucrative enough for the pharma industry.
We really all should be involved in these kind of debates. It really is about our life and death and we need to take responsibility and look beneath the surface.
Over the past few weeks I’ve practised what I’ve long preached – meditate on death each day. This is a fundamental instruction from Buddhism and they believe – as do I – that this single action done daily is the one thing that can release us from so much internal pain and suffering. If you really thought you were going to die today would those extra few pounds, that annoying work colleague, that perceived slight from somebody you don’t know – really matter?
Contemplating death is the best medicine I have ever taken. It beats therapy, anti-depressants, massage, everything – hands down. We will all die, the only thing we don’t know is how and when. I intend to be like the Buddhists and ensure that my death does not creep up and surprise me ….. I want to be ready each day. And by doing this I know I will find the very best of who I still want to be.
I’ll be talking much more about this in 2020 – I do hope you’ll join me and please let me know your thoughts either here or send me a private message.
5 thoughts on “Why thinking about your death is key to well being”
Lovely piece as ever, strong lady, thanks for showing how it is.
No I don’t leave messages on blogs but it surprised me that I was logged onto this one as my old cancer blog, which I walked away from after I was ill. Now I’m ill again and several friends have asked me if I’ll blog again about my experiences, I don’t know if I’m brave enough.
Yes like you I’ve been thinking death and meditation, I had a great conversation with a meditation buddy at New Year, I dream about meditating in my room after the builders have gone.
Tally ho, onwards and upwards!
Good post! Having just lost a loved one last month, I understand what you’re saying about thinking about death as a means to living well.
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So sorry for your loss Priscilla and thank you so much for your comment.
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Really enjoyed this piece. It resonates right now.
We all get a day older, every 24 hours, if we’re lucky that is. And yet, we, as a nation seem to sweep ageing and death under the carpet. Those conversations, where we so delicately skirt around topics like …’your Will’.
The commercial outlook of the corporate organisations in health care is of great interest. Like all businesses, they do indeed need to make money. They need to pay bills, salaries and above all reinvest in innovation to develop new treatments for the future. They are however, very profitable and are accustomed to high margins.
I would like to believe that patient power can drive the agenda more. Young people across the World should be given the best possible treatment, regardless of cost. Without healthy, well balanced young people we have no hope.
Off to mediate on my mat every day!
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Thank you Jane:) Really interesting to hear your view on the commercial side. I think Cochlear is a company that drives amazing innovation and manages this very well. Other companies not so much. I absolutely agree that it is industry that drives change – I just think in some areas maintaining obscene profits are paramount. As consumers, people who will get ill at some point, we all need to be more active in shining the spotlight on these things xx