La Tela di Carlotta
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In the face of death, smile and let go

Aug 14, 2012

Photo: Drew Geraets

Death is all around us. People die every day. Car accidents, plane crashes, cancer, extreme sports gone wrong, shark attacks, gun shots, fatal robberies… we’ve heard it all. You can die crossing the same old street you’ve crossed every day for thirty years. My mom’s friend went to the beach on Sunday to spend a family day: her husband went for a swim, and drowned.

Yesterday my mum’s friend was married and today she’s a widow. The life she knew has changed forever. There won’t be a “we” any longer. She won’t have a shoulder to sleep on when she closes her eyes at night. She will have to watch her kids cry because they miss their daddy. She will cry because she lost the love of her life. She will have all the support of family and friends, and yet she will feel helplessly lonely.

I can’t stop thinking about it. Death has so many ways to show its face, but what can we possibly do in the face of death?

I think the answer might be less difficult than it seems—and maybe unintentionally ironic. We can live. I can live my life and not let my life live me.

I stress for silly things, my PMS makes me feel like the world is collapsing on me, my moods often change with the weather, I complain because I commit to crazy schedules and find myself running around like a headless chicken, I get upset at myself when my mouth says “yes” to a favor while my mind is screaming “no”, I regret when I eat too many sweets too many days in a row. I stress, stress, stress.

I keep telling myself and others that I’m improving. That I’m less pessimistic and negative by the day. That I’m learning to live stress-free and at a slow pace. And it might be somewhat true if we look at the small, daily achievements. But what about the big picture?

Let’s not be romantic. I can’t possibly live every day of my life like it’s the last one, and sometimes my silly moods will make me feel bad, affect my relationships, maybe hurt or distance the people I love and, ultimately, myself.

But let’s be honest. Everything falls away in the face of death and I can definitely learn to smile when I feel down, let go of stupid arguments, not let stress overcome me, not fight for something that’s not worth fighting for.

I keep thinking it may come down to learning two new behaviors:

  • Smile. I recently read that if you put on a fake smile when you feel down or stressed and hold on to it for long enough, it will turn into a real one.It may feel fake at first (something like grinning at the dentist), but maybe turning the corners of your mouth up instead of down will actually make you feel better. Why not give it a try?
  • Let go. I already have a key rule in my relationship: never go to bed angry at each other. But what if I could actually not get mad… at all?

Once, a friend told me referring to her husband “When he does something I don’t like, I just ask myself, ‘Am I getting a divorce over this?’. If the answer is no, then it’s simply not worth fighting over”.

Yeah, right. I listed a million case scenarios where NO, I wouldn’t get a divorce over an argument, but YES, I would still be willing to fight to get my message across. But what if I can get the message across without arguing?

Maybe I just have to learn to let go. Of my ego, of his tone, of my bad moods, of his words. Just let go. And maybe this would actually prove and show my love more than a million words or great actions can do.

I could be dead tomorrow. When it comes to myself, there’s no time for slow improvements and small achievements. So in the face of death I want to learn to smile and let go. ASAP.

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