"Remember that you have to die" is the translation from Latin and I recently purchased a coin from The Daily Stoic that says just this. I was recently re-introduced to Stoicism through Ryan Holiday's book "Ego is the Enemy" and it has taken hold of my soul.
Timing is everything and the coin was ordered several weeks ago and I found out later that is was back-ordered so it arrived on the same day that we were having our 16 year old black lab Wolfie put to sleep. Wolfie was an old and kind soul trapped in a dog and the decision to put him down was not and easy one. His health had been steadily declining for the past 60 days and we didn't want him to be in pain or suffer. It was already to the point that I had to help him stand up most times and he fell from time to time when he lost his balance. It was heartbreaking to see him look up at me when his legs wouldn't work with eyes that pleaded for me to make sense of it for him.
This past Friday we called the vet and he came out to our house. We took Wolfie's bed outside and he laid down under the willow tree. Lisa (my wife) and Zane (our oldest) and I gathered around and comforted him as we began the process. Wolfie is now buried under that willow tree that we can see from our kitchen window and it is comforting to know he is there and that he is no longer in pain.
I share this story because it a few months ago I wrote a post about how many days I figured I had left and how I wanted to ensure that every day counted. I believe that dogs are a great example for us because Wolfie was who he was right up till his last breath because he could not be otherwise. It is easy to say but very challenging for us humans to do and that is why I ordered the coin so that I can carry a physical reminder that we are not promised tomorrow so we must engage fully with every opportunity and make it all count. We should strive to "Die Empty" as Todd Henry explained in his book of the same name. He shared the following thoughts on how to accomplish it as well:
- You have a unique contribution to make to the world.
- No one else can make your contribution for you.
- Your contribution is not about you.
- Avoid comfort. It is dangerous.
- Take a stand. Don’t shape-shift.
- Your understanding of your “sweet spot” develops over time like film in a darkroom.
- You must plant seeds today for a harvest later.
To live like this takes commitment and a willingness to embrace ambiguity and uncertainty and that is where most of us run into a roadblock. We like comfort and and living each day as if it were your last can be extremely uncomfortable. This is not about the "you only live once" bullshit that people use to justify their actions. What I am talking about is living according to your values and vision each and every second of the day and not compromising the minute it gets dicey. It is not something that comes naturally to us because we don't want to stand out or make anyone upset or make waves so slowly we die inside a little each day.
We all have our masks and sometimes we catch glimpses of our true selves and others times we barely recognize the person staring back at us in the mirror. What would we lose if we woke up tomorrow morning and acted in alignment with our true vision of our ourselves? If we did offend someone and lost a few friends or clients, would that mean that we shouldn't have had them to start with? Here a few parting questions to ponder...
- Who's vision or values are you living out? (If you can't answer that question in less than 5 seconds, you answered the question)
- Can you quickly write our your vision and values?
- When is the last time you felt that your mind, body, and spirit were aligned?
- Would you be willing to act differently regardless of what others thought?
- How many days do you have left?
- Who will you be in those days?
Remember memento mori my friend, memento mori...