Death Is My Advisor -- by Bernadette Swanson

I was recently facilitating a class based on Robert Brumet’s book Living Originally. One of the practices is entitled, “Death Is My Advisor.” Within the chapter are a series of questions that we are encouraged to work with. I had the attendees answer them as homework so we could share our experiences in class. As I was journaling my answers, I was surprised by my response to one of the questions, “What is important for me to finish before I die?” I thought my answer would include some of the myriad of to-do’s that clutter my brain each day and seem to weigh me down, those things that never allow me to be “done.” Instead, none of those things made the list: not the breakfast nook seat cushions for which I have the replacement foam and fabric, not the weeding in the garden, nor the water damaged spot on the ceiling in my bedroom which won’t get fixed until we have the popcorn texture removed. Those plus dozens of other tasks didn’t make it onto my list.

I was stunned. All those things that tug at my daily guilt of not doing enough were exposed as short-term tasks, not important in the big scheme of things. So what made my list? Here’s my journal entry:

 
I want to break out of my self-imposed limitations and fears. I want to be able to decide to do/try something and then just do it—not hesitate, talk myself out of it, hold back, let fear stop me, get embarrassed when things don’t work out “as planned.”
I want to freely say “I love you” without reservation, pause or fear of rejection.
I want to not let my thoughts of others’ opinions stop me from doing/trying something.
I want to be audacious and bodacious! I love the word bodacious. It’s fun and energetic.
I want to be able to laugh freely, with others and at myself.
I want to stop reading ulterior motives into others’ actions. It’s my opinion that matters about my life.
 
This exercise made me realize that checking items off a to-do list does not carry the weight of living a good life that stretching myself out of my comfort zone does. To be fully alive, we need to be willing to grow into new ways of being and new ways of seeing life.
 
Holding back and being safe certainly qualify as ways to live, but they limit our lives and keep us in a perpetual state of fear. We are afraid that things might change. Guess what? They always do, no matter how hard we try to hang on.
 
The idea of Death as my advisor brought to mind the image of Ebenezer Scrooge (from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol) in the graveyard looking at his tombstone. He pleads with the specter of Death to know if his life made any difference. Isn’t that what we all want, to make a difference?
 
Playing safe doesn’t get you there. Stepping out to bring your best self into each situation will make a difference. It will allow you to share your unique gifts and talents with others. Each of us came to Earth school to share what is ours to give. That is what is important for me to finish before I die.
 
April 29, 2014