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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

You don't have to find out you're dying to start living

I woke up today to a video shared on Facebook which resulted in 20 min of tears. It's a last days documentary on special boy name Zach Sobiech who just passed away yesterday after a fight with Osteosarcoma.

He really hit home on a few things I've been learning recently. I really like how clear his thoughts were for this documentary and for how he lived out his last days.

He starts off saying that we all think we're invincible, but not the superman kind of invincible, but "invincible like - I'll see you in 5 months".   Then realizing, that some of the plans you have, "it turns out, that sometimes you can't do that." That the only moment you have is right now and that you really need to live this moment to the fullest. And it isn't about the destination, it's about the journey. Maybe there isn't a final destination afterall.

It's really true when you are pushed to your limits and know for certain that your time is numbered, the unimportant issues and distractions float away and what you're left with what's important to you. He  eloquently summarized what the purpose of life is:
"It's really simple actually, it's just try to make people happy. Maybe you have to learn it with time or maybe you have to learn it the hard way. But as long as you learn it, you're going to make the world a better place."
I've been really lucky that I've not been diagnosed with a terminal condition but have been battling diabetes and cancer. The hardest lesson for me on how to cope was accepting that you can't control anything except the present moment. Tomorrow, next week, next year, death, after death are all unknowns and that's okay - it doesn't mean we have to be scared of it or spend this moment fretting about it or resolving to do nothing because the end result will be the same. I'd say my biggest fear in life has been uncertainty - I've always been driven to stack the odds in my favour and "predict the future". I've even opted to rig my own demise and failure for at least I'd get a certain outcome instead of embracing the unknown. It's a pretty silly endeavour when you actually recognize it. Zach addressed it at the end of his documentary:
"Death is just another thing on the agenda. You're scared because you don't know what's next or if there is a next. So it's kinda like sitting in the dark so you can either choose to be freaking out or you can relax and fall asleep"
That's the thing, really looking inwards to knowing and accepting yourself (all the strengths and weaknesses and quirks and embarrassing things) is probably how I dug myself out of a deep dark hole.
When you do listen to yourself - your body, mind, soul - will tell you what it needs at this very moment. I gotta say I'm still learning this - and in a few rare moments when I'm able to get rid of the noise of everyday life and try and listen to myself and what's important to me, the answers that come back are always insightful.

What I really have come to realize extends Zach's advice, is that the best gift you can give yourself and the world is to be fully present and acknowledge yourself and other people. I had gone to an Oprah talk last month and she said, that the universal question of every one of her 30,000 guests on the show was, "How did I do?" Everyone wants to know:
"Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?"
So to make people happy, you have to truly mean it when you give someone this validation: Yes you are important to me. And at the end of the day I'd dare to say that this is the universal tried and tested gift that keeps on giving.

I bet Zach didn't realize when he expressed himself through his music on YouTube and shared his story through Soulpancake he would inspire the whole world (at least 3 million and counting).

Even though there are so many negative connotations of the hyper connected Internet we have today: creating a space for internet witch hunt for wrong suspects, social media addictions where people share only glamourous moments that will generate likes rather than authentic moments (guilty as charged of food photos), and the mass spending time making Harlem Shake parodies, I can't help but think about one of the positive things: the ability for Zach's story to reach the world. Think about it, this video has the ability to trigger tears with almost every human being around the world and get each person to reflect on whats really important to themselves and how they can relate to Zach. With this video that we can play on repeat daily, we have a reminder that you don't have to find out that you're dying to start living.

My creative outlet has been in my writing. And the support that you've (yes you, reading this :) given me has been tremendous and helpful. I'm truly grateful to take this opportunity to tell you that against all odds, I've reversed the complex atypia hyperplasia growth in me and have now reduced my chances of cancer from 30% to less than 1%.

It's a blessing to have reversed diabetes and cancer within this past year and you'd think it makes me more aware of every moment and live each like its my last. It would make this blog have such a happy ending :) However...I'm finding that I forget! We all still have to experience daily life and interactions and stresses which could slightly cloud and derail our focus from only the important things. And I try and remember not to be so hard on myself that I forget or fall off the wagon every now and then and just try and hop back on. I find that surrounding myself with a loving support network and reading books from Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra has really helped me get back on the right path.

Stories like Zach's today serve as a good reminder to remember that we don't need a crisis to know what's important. Zach, may you rest in peace, I'm really grateful that I got a glimpse of your light.

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