What a strange title you might think. After all, if we breathe, we are all alive.
But what does it mean to really “live”? And how do we assess what “living” means to us at each stage in our journey through life?
I’m pondering this question with increasing frequency, particularly in relation to two elders who caught me off guard by so deeply appreciating my book Why Not Do What You Love? Small minded me, I never expected that those much nearer to the end of life would be among an enthusiastic audience for a book about creating a more joyful and satisfying future for oneself. I perhaps, was wrong.
First let me tell you about Dennis, my former long term neighbor, who is twice retired. Once from his very successful career as an engineering project manager and next from his very satisfying retirement activities of rescuing abused dogs and doing fine carpentry. He was 80+ at the time. Having reviewed a copy directly upon publication in 2010, Dennis called me within 24 hours saying that he wanted two more copies for his adult children. He hadn’t been able to put the book down, as it had helped him to review the arc of his life and the way he had lived it. He judged himself to have done very well on the “do what you love” scale. He had concluded he had known how to “live” and was still practicing. Clearly he wasn’t making any more plans, but he had given himself the gift of honoring the life he had lived.
I thought Dennis an anomaly.
Three years later I now reside in community with other senior independents, most older than I. My new neighbor asked for and purchased the book last week. He’s 92! In our very brief conversation, he shared that given the residencial complex we share will likely be his “last stop,” and he intends to “live” for the rest of his days as opposed to just exist. A worthy goal, it seems to me. He thought the book might give him some ideas.
I can’t wait until our next conversation to see what form his “living” is wanting to take.
And so I have been encouraged to pose the question more widely in this post.
What does it mean to you to really LIVE? What choices are entailed in the decision to “live?” And how do you take time to do it?
At this point, I am looking at the question from a new angle, and not taking it for granted that I know my own answer. The question just won’t let go of me. So I’ll accept it as my goal and see what I start noticing.
What I am getting clear about is you are never too old to contemplate the doing of what gives you joy and meaning,whether it be looking back to assess or looking forward to commit. I thank my two elder friends for being such good models for that.