March 25, 2015 by Zara
End-of-years and birthdays are always reflective times for me.
I feel very fortunate to have the life I have. This birthday, though, I am feeling especially grateful for two extra precious gifts. The first, that I am friends with death. And second, that I have found my bliss in dance and music.
Let me elaborate.
Everyday, from the moment we are born, we are actually also dying. We seldom think of it this way. And to talk of death on a birthday might seem morbid or untoward. But this is precisely the fear-death culture that must be overcome.
Anyway, one reaches this point in life where suddenly you realise you’re closer to the end of life than you had thought, and every single waking moment feels intensely precious. If you’re lucky this dawning happens sooner rather than later. And suddenly you are super-fastidious over whether or not each of those precious moments are spent on the right things, the things that count.
You rejiggle life priorities. And make life arrangements to match. It could be a career change, or moving, or being more selective about relationships and maybe even possessions, or starting to say no to some things so you can say yes to others, or committing to doing more of something even if it might be inconvenient or hard. This is what I mean by making friends with death — becoming really deliberate about living because you know you’re at the very same time dying.
The second gift, I consider almost a miracle. Because many drift through life possibly never discovering what their bliss is, and possibly never knowing that they should really search, even fight, to find it. It makes me sad to even think that, because life is somewhat an empty shell then (though one might not realise it’s empty).
‘Your bliss’ is the thing that makes it feel worthwhile being alive, that makes you come alive even. I say it’s a miracle to have it because the odds almost are against us from the start — we’re taught by society to follow certain prescriptions and life paths that may never be meant for us. And we are taught to value non-intrinsically valuable things like money, property and ownership. And pressured to fulfill first our parents’ expectations, then our employers’, then maybe our partners’ expectations, definitely also our social groups’ expectations, and sometimes also our religion’s or god’s expectations… the list goes on.
All too seldom are we encouraged to ‘know ourselves’, to discover what brings us deep joy, to find what our own special ‘thing’, expression or contribution to the world is. How many of us are encouraged to be true to that inner calling, and even more rarely are we given space to just ‘be ourselves’. So to have discovered what my special sauce is, and to be able to enjoy it, is an invaluable gift.
So my birthday wish is that many too will find their special sauce, and get to enjoy it in copious amounts! And that eventually our whole culture will become one that values the quality of time spent living (versus existing, or having the good esteem of others, or contributing to the economy), and that we will construct societies where people can live flourishing lives with the freedom and support to pursue things with self-chosen meaning (SO not what we have now!).
To close with one of my favourite poems, Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day“:
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Lots of love from my happy place,
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