What would you do if you only had six months to live?
This question, with all its variations, has always been a favorite of mine, but I never really gave it the time it deserved. I would only give it superficial consideration. Now that I’ve really thought about it, I see how powerful it is.
I came across that question in a book of questions not too long ago, and soon after that, I read the book, “Veronika Decides to Die” by Paulo Coelho. Both of these really got me thinking about what I would do if I knew I didn’t have much longer to live – because for all I know, I don’t!
In Coelho’s novel, the title character, after a long period of ennui, comes to the conclusion that she has nothing more to gain by staying alive. And so, one morning, she decides the time has come to kill herself and she overdoses on sleeping pills. Her attempt is not successful, however, and she ends up in the hospital with her heart irreversibly damaged, allowing her only a few more days to live. In those days, faced with the knowledge her time was running out, she learned what it really means to live and what it was she had intended to throw away.
What would I do if I were in Veronika’s position?
What would I do if I knew that the life I’d lived was coming to an immediate and definite end?
How would I spend my time? Would I treat people differently? Where would I go? Who would I want to see? What would I want to say to people? How would I treat myself? What would I want to experience – or not experience anymore?
It’s a powerful question because when it’s answered honestly, it reveals what really matters to you. And when I made my list and really thought about it, I wondered what the hell I was waiting for. If death’s arrival would prompt me to do it, knowing that I’d never get to do it again, why is it not important enough to do right now? What have I been waiting for? The perfect timing, to have all the answers, fearlessness? HOPELESS!
And so I decide to die. Not because there is anything wrong with the person I’ve been. It’s just that the person I am now, and am becoming, is bigger than that. The person I am now has more to do, more to experience, and more to offer. And so I willfully put to sleep the Jeff I’ve been.
A couple of weeks ago, I flew to Tampa to meet with a few potential roommates I met online. I chose with my gut. Tomorrow morning, I’ll be on a plane back to Florida and I don’t know when or if I’ll be back to stay. Independence and a sense of autonomy were two big ones I knew I had to taste again, and so I’m throwing myself in to a situation where I’ll be forced to practice self-reliance and to do things whether I want to or not; whether I’m afraid to or not; whether I think I can or not. I have a sneaking suspicion I’m far more capable than I’ve been leading myself to believe.
I chose Tampa not for any reason in particular. That it is near the ocean and that I don’t know a soul there were its big selling points. It could have been anywhere, really. It’s the spirit behind the move that matters. The main reason is that the idea occurred to me and I couldn’t find a reason not to.
The way I’ve been is coming to an end. It’s the death of who I’ve imagined myself to be and of my preconceived notions of what it means to live as me. I am afraid. And that is more than okay. It’s just one of life’s symptoms, nothing more.
I will jump.
The Universe will catch me.