“I love you man, but I don’t want you to play guitar at my funeral. Nothing personal. It’s just becoming a cliche.”
“No, I get it. Plus, I’d have to play Joni Mitchell for you — totally out of my range. I only needed three chords for Bob Dylan today, the whole song fit right here,” and he flashes his cheat sheet of blue painters tape with chords scrawled on it along the arm of the guitar.
My brother and I are developing funeral banter, which doesn’t really happen until you’ve had a few under your belt.
Some part of me thought—maybe hoped—this one would be easier. It was my sister-in-law’s brother. We made small talk at extended family gatherings over the years. He died months ago. This was a memorial, not a funeral. It was one of many things-to-do on our schedule during this holiday week.
I realize now (of course, duh, how did I not see it coming?) that the minimizing I did in my mind was just a form of protection. There was plenty to feel, as the fullness of his life unfolded during the service, and the impact he had while here rippled through the room.
I am fascinated by life—all facets of it. It finds it’s way into everything I do. The first website I ever built was called The Sensual Life. I have a tea company called Ducky Life. And now, this new expression of my work is called MAD Life. In many ways, this new chapter is a culmination and articulation of three decades of exploration I’ve done on the topic of . . . life.
Or, maybe more accurately, aliveness.
Because if you’re breathing and you get up every day—you have a life (as a noun). But it doesn’t necessarily mean that you feel alive (as a verb).
Whether we realize it or not, we have these built-in occasions when we take our own pulse. At a funeral—as we remember the person’s life, we can’t help but ask ourselves, “How am I doing in my one, precious life?”
On our birthday — as we blow out candles and make a wish. As we reflect on our age and our accomplishments (or maybe lack thereof) and resolve to adjust accordingly.
And . . . now of course, at the turn of each year.
“What is it with people and all these ‘resolutions’ of things they’re going to start or stop on New Year’s Day?” complained my youngest daughter, who is prone to epic and insightful rants. “It’s just a day. It’s not this linear thing; it’s made up. If you really want to change something, just pick any damn day and do it.”
She’s right, of course. Every day, every moment, is available to us. So, why do we wait? For the birthday, the funeral, the changing of the year?
Or sometimes worse. The fateful diagnosis. The unexpected car accident. The moment when the fabric of our lives tears—and we can’t hide our aliveness under that comfortable blanket of numbness anymore.
Our beating heart is exposed. Our weakened pulse. Along with all of our fears and hopes and dreams—everything that is always right under the surface. Just waiting for us to turn the TV off, put the goddamned phone down, and listen already.
This is my wish for you today: find your aliveness, and vow to hold onto it, no matter what.
That’s it. Nothing fancier than that. Nothing more—or less—impressive. Trust that it’s enough to be mad alive. Trust that it will reveal the way for you. Resolve all the open questions you’re carrying.
Change your life from a noun into a verb. Be danced by it.
I want this for you. I want it for me. And, if enough of us do this, I think it changes everything for all of us.
Happy New Year. Or happy Monday. Or happy, whatever. Just . . . happy being alive day.
Let’s start there. Again.
A version of this post was originally posted on MonicaDay.com and is republished here with permission from the author.
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