Here's introducing today's guest post 'Death and Gratitude' from Justin Borge!
I am afraid of dying. Even more so I’m afraid of those that I care about dying. I fear dying with regrets and my loved ones passing on before they are old, accomplished, and ready. This may not sound like a profound statement, but for me to honestly acknowledge and come to peace with this fear has perhaps been the most cathartic and helpful thing that has ever happened to me.
Death is on my mind all the time. On a daily basis I wonder, “did I tell my family that I love them today?” and “when was the last time I showed my friends that I value them being in my life?” If I were to die in my sleep tonight what would I have regretted about my life? Are there people I wish I had called more often? What about dreams gone unfulfilled or goals I wish I had acted on?
Because I think about death, I think about these questions, and these questions help guide me to be a happier, more content person. These questions have helped me to escape a life of depression and anxiety that lasted for over seventeen years. The acknowledgement that I’m afraid of dying with regrets and that I care about helping others to avoid the same has helped me to bring meaning to my life, and I am a happier person now than I ever was during a life numbed on high doses of Prozac or talking about what I wish I had with a therapist. Acknowledging that bad things really do happen to good people has taught me the most valuable skill when it comes to living a happy, fulfilled life. Gratitude.
Because I am deeply, deeply fearful to wake up to news that someone I love might have died unexpectedly and before their time, I become aware of just how grateful I am to have these people in my life in the first place, and I make every effort to let them know this. Be it from a car accident, an exploding propane tank or a malfunctioning skydiving parachute, I’m aware that these kinds of things happen. They could also happen to me. I am grateful for my time alive and healthy. I am grateful for things it might even seen odd to be grateful for. It helps.
One might think that living in constant fear of death would keep someone inside their home, afraid to take risks and instead just writing sappy love letters to people that they’re afraid of losing. While I am guilty of writing overly emotional text messages from time to time, coming to grips with the finiteness and preciousness of life has turned me from a sad, unmotivated, person to someone who no longer takes a single moment for granted (or tries not to, at least). Where the old me might wallow with self pity when friends would accomplish more than myself, the new me is proud of them, feels energized and lucky that inspirational people consider me their friend in the first place. That simple perspective shift changes “I’m not good enough” to “if such awesome people consider me their friend, I must actually have something good to offer.” When my partner and I have an argument, I remind myself how grateful I am to have a partner at all. I now see the argument as a learning experience that helps us grow when before I’d be guilty of sulking about us not being perfect for each other. When I am wrong, I apologize and when I do something well, I allow myself to be proud of my accomplishments. Because I’ve made peace with my fear of death, I am a better person. I am growing into someone I’m finally proud of, and I am grateful for it. I haven’t been depressed in over a year.
Justin Borge is (probably) a future Pulitzer Prize winner. As he owns no business, his networking cards simply state “Really Good Guy.” He is a member of the first class of students at The Wayfinding Academy in Portland, Oregon. Contact him anytime via his Facebook page, or by tweeting @BorgeClooney.