Halloween is a time when many jokes touch upon the afterlife, ghosts and gravestones and the dreaded zombie apocalypse. (Personally, I’m a huge fan of The Walking Dead.) But for many people, death is a subject they fear and avoid. “Recognizing that death is inescapable and unpredictable makes us incredibly vulnerable, and can invoke feelings of anxiety, hatred and fear,” says George Mason University psychology professor Todd Kashdan, whose research suggests that more “mindful” people – those generally more tolerant and less defensive – are less fearful of dying and death.
I’m having surgery soon and was asked to complete an advanced directive. It acknowledges the possibility I may not survive. It made me stop and think about death and how much time I may have left to do what’s important to me – importance being the operative term.
Enjoying the gift of life, contributing to a better world, seeing a grandchild born or maybe even, making that hole in one – the key to making the best use of life is knowing what’s important to you, which will drive what you want to accomplish. As someone once said, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there… But you may not arrive where you want to be.
Am I afraid of death? I can’t say I look forward to it, but on the other hand, I have no reason to fear it. William Hazlitt, an essayist who died in 1830, makes a good point about death: In a sense, we’ve already been there.
There was a time when you were not: that gives us no concern. Why then should it trouble us that a time will come when we shall cease to be? To die is only to be as we were before we were born.
In the same circumstances, some people will pronounce themselves happy, while other rue their situation. You don’t need lower expectations and you don’t have to be a born Pollyanna to be happy. What does help? Resilience, optimism, tenacity, a belief in one’s self (channeling Dr. Norman Vincent Peale) and one’s ability to shape the future, all can yield a happier life, all things considered.
We each have all the time we need, however long our life. I believe the key is how we choose to use it.
Is time on your side?