I started seeing a therapist.
At my second appointment, I talked to her about my fear of death and dying – the afterlife – God – hell – anxiety about every little physical twinge – my inner hypochondriac that tells me that the symptom I’m feeling will probably snowball into a terminal condition or drop me dead in my tracks. She looked me in the eye, shaking her head and said, “Who have you lost in your life?”
I talked about Brice. My mom. Grandpa Joslin. And then we talked about God and growing up in a Baptist church and the fear that it instilled in me. “You had lots of fire and brimstone. I grew up a Methodist,” she said. “We had it a little easier than the Baptists. We could at least dance and drink.” I laughed. “I choose to believe in a loving God,” she said.
We talked some more about God and death and anxiety and then she asked me, “What does a good life look like to you?” I said, “That’s a hard question”. “Yes, it is”, she replied. “Think about it this week and write it down.”
I thought about it all week – trying to pinpoint what it meant to me to live a good life. I laid in bed and thought ‘what do I want to remembered for? what do I want my obituary to say? what do I want to be said about me at my funeral?’ It was an interesting exercise, because in spite of the fear that I have about death, when I actually started to think about my life and write about it, the fear started to dissipate.
And then came the flash flood of quotes. You know them. There are thousands of them. They are found on pillows, framed on the wall, on cross-stitch patterns. They fill up my feed on Facebook and Instagram. Hell, I’ve used them on previous posts.
“Life is made up of two dates and a dash. Make the most of the dash.”
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but the moments that take your breath away.”
“All men die, not all men live.”
They sound so wise. And yet here I am going through a bit of a crisis not being able to define what I want my dash to be – feeling a bit stuck and almost like I’m wasting time. Shouldn’t I be doing more with my time? And in the dark spells, I’m not even thinking about the time I have, but just worrying that it’s going to be over before I’m ready for it to be. It’s like a trap – get her stuck worrying about the end of life so she won’t enjoy life itself.
We go through day to day living life, but do we ever stop to think about if we are enjoying it? And is enjoying life and living a good life the same thing? I think it should be. I have an image in my head of the woman that I want to be – or who I think I want to be. But I’m not being that woman. Which means I need to make some changes. But what?
I am 52 years old. I have 4 children and two grandchildren. I graduated from college. I’ve lived in Colorado, Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alaska, Nevada, California, South Korea. I have been married to the same man for almost 33 years. I am a certified public accountant that doesn’t like accounting, although I am pretty good at it. I have run a couple marathons and an ultra marathon. I like to write and read, and would like to do more of both. I know how to knit and crochet. I contribute $20/month to the Nature Conservancy. I like to cross-country ski and play golf even though I’m not very good at either. I like to cook and think I make better biscuits than anyone else.
But there are so many other things that I want to do before I die.
Write a book.
Learn to play a guitar.
Travel to Europe and Iceland and Machu Picchu.
Walk the Camino in Spain.
Volunteer at a hospital, holding babies and reading stories to little kids.
Jump off a cliff in a squirrel suit.
Run a hundred mile race. Sing a song at karaoke. Learn to paint. Spin clay on a pottery wheel. Go to a yoga retreat. Have a garden. Go in an ice cave. Hold a monkey. Touch an elephant. Take a photography class.
All great experiences that I would love to have – but a bucket list of accomplishments and experiences doesn’t define a good life. Neither does succeeding in my career or how much money I made or spent. It’s not about what church I went to or how often I went or my list of good deeds. It doesn’t matter what school I went to or what kind of car I drive or how big my house is.
I want to be remembered for spending time with my kids and grandkids. I want to be remembered for being silly and dancing and singing in public. For making up new lyrics to old songs. For talking to strangers and making friends in the grocery store. For making good cookies and the best pie crust. For taking lots of pictures and being in lots of pictures. For not being afraid to try something new and doing what I set my mind to. For having some little nugget of wisdom that gets remembered and repeated. For giving great hugs. For always having something positive to say but not being afraid to tell someone to fuck off. For being willing to apologize and accept an apology. For being a good friend and a great wife. For being kind and generous and spontaneous and sassy.
I don’t know if that defines what a good life is to me – but it’s a good starting point. And it might inspire some change and improvements in my life. And isn’t that the point of going to therapy.