death gives our lives structure

I’m paraphrasing here, but I heard a sentiment today on a podcast that said something like, “death gives structure to our lives.” I wrote it down on a slip of paper, tore it off the pad and shoved it into my pocket as I left the office earlier.

Here’s why it stuck with me and I was compelled to bring it up:  To optimize choice, it’s suggested (based on computer algorithms) that we consider 37 percent of our options and then chose the next best option we come across. You can apply this to searching for a mate, a restaurant for dinner, a house…

But I’m in my mid forties. My life is, ostensibly, half over. And, as I shared with my children the other day, I am driven by fear. Meaning:  I am not driven by fear of water, fear of heights, fear of sharks, fear of injury… Nay, I am driven by fear of not experiencing all I want to experience while I am still physically able and alive. But, in truth, it is less fear than lust for life; I have already experienced so much more than many around me:  I have water skied, slalomed, knee boarded and tubed behind a boat; I have yet to wakeboard. I have paddle boarded and surfed in the ocean. I have also downhill skied, hiked, biked, learned karate, run, skated, tried and enjoyed many flavors and textures of food and drink… I have traveled, but not everywhere or even to every continent. In short, I am somewhat driven to experience as much as humanly possible.

Why call it fear? Mostly to contrast a “healthier” fear to one of my children’s sometimes limiting fear of heights.

By the same token, I am not afraid of living / spending my life alone. My desire for partnership is stronger than my fear of embarking on another round of online dating. If there is fear in my quest for partnership, it is only the fear of not giving my children what I believe so strongly they deserve:  a loving and healthy relationship model.

So these are the thoughts in my head as we embark on vacation number two for the year… I will embrace adventure for myself and for them, I will use my vacation time, and we will all get on an airplane no less than three times a year to explore all the wonderful places to see, meet all the people there are to meet and thrust ourselves into the world with abandon.

And then, when we come back, I will brave yet another round of online dating and see if I might be able to apply this 37 percent algorithm somehow. You’ll be the first to know!

what would you do if you won the lotto?

I’ve heard a lot of people lately sharing their fantasies of what they’d do if they won the lottery. What strikes me about these fantasies is their utter outlandishness…radical moves, big purchases — things like “taking a sailboat around the world” come from the mouths of folks who’ve never even sailed!

So here’s where I’m going to confess:  I buy a lotto ticket every so often and I have been known to entertain a fantasy shopping spree or two. Depending on the size of the prize, my big ridiculous fantasy is to have my own private island, preferably in the Caribbean and, ideally, near to Necker Island, family getaway and business retreat to one Sir Richard Branson. (In reality, I’m not such a recluse as all that, so I’m sure a place on St. Barth’s would do nicely. And then, the pragmatic me knows that it’s just as easy to go to rent a luxurious place, because being responsible for all the maintenance of yet another property is just not a necessary addition to my life.)

And my wildest fantasies are tempered by both an innate pragmatism and my spiritual practice. I have my own happiness to tend to, and I have children to raise to be decent, unspoilt contributors to society. Studies have shown that people who’ve won the lottery end up either as broke as before, completely miserable or both.

So here’s what I’d likely do (to preserve stability and happiness) were I to win great sums of money:

  • Buy a nice car, because I am a bit of a gear head at heart and I truly appreciate a nice ride!
  • Find a nice lot not far from where I already live and build a modern house, preferably one that incorporates sustainable design, quite possibly including reclaimed shipping containers.
  • Start a foundation to support women & children, both in developing countries / economies and in domestic areas of disadvantage (e.g. inner cities).
  • Spend more time with my children.
  • Buy art and support artists and creativity.
  • Travel more.

The reason I like to look at these things is based on a very simple philosophy:  I can make choices every day that support the way I want to live. I used to discuss this with my wasband. He might say something about winning the lottery and I would reply, “You already have. We already have.” We were blessed to be born into this country (in his case, he immigrated with his parents as a young child), to have earned an education, to have found someone special to with whom to share life, to have healthy children… These things, my friends, are winning! This is all that we need and more to know how truly, deeply blessed we are in this life! (…and, still, we manage to muck these things up.)

Another way to put it is, “How would you live if you knew that your prayers were already answered?” I ask myself such things regularly and then translate into present conditions. I may not have the financial wherewithal to buy a tropical island, but I can find ways in my current life to

  • increase the quality of time I spend with my children,
  • support art and artists, both locally and through and,
  • give to United Way and offer micro loans to women and children around the world through,
  • drive a decent car,
  • keep up my house and property, etc.

I think you get the idea… So this is the message I want to share with you. Live as if you’ve already won! Make the choices and take the steps that support your biggest dreams. Even if the steps you take are small, each one still brings you closer to the life you desire most.