Last week, a good friend of mine passed away. I’ve known Jeannie since high school, over five decades ago. She was one of the few I stayed in touch with when I left my hometown and blasted off to discover who I was. Until recently, we connected by phone a couple of times a year.
I posted a notice on my high school website, and many were saddened by her passing, as most people are when responding to death. Though I knew I’d miss her, I didn’t feel like I was mourning. I know that sounds insensitive, irreverent, or even blasphemous, but I’m simply grateful for all the laughs we shared over the years. Why not find satisfaction in the fact that she was gifted with a long life? Jeannie herself told me more than once, “I can’t believe I’m still here.”
The value of death is that it makes us reflect on our own vulnerability and how important it is to live life fully every day. Jeannie’s passing also made me ponder how I’d like people to respond when I kick that almighty bucket. I sure don’t want folks moping around. Sure, we lose future stuff like conversations, hugs, smiles, and the comfort of friendship. But being a glass-half-full kind of guy, I’m all for focusing on the beautiful friendship that existed.
During the time we knew and loved our dearly departed friends, we collected treasured experiences—flashy little items we stashed in a little jeweled chest deep in our minds—one we can open and indulge in whenever we want. I hope when I transition, my friends will focus on cherishing the good times we’ve shared, not walk around feeling glum.
I’ve never been too serious about death, though I am certainly in no hurry to go on that adventure. I have always been more comfortable with death than with pain, sickness, or suffering. In high school I took a test to see what vocation I was best suited for. Mortician. Go figure. Sounds grim but those who know me can verify that grim is not my demeanor. I expect at worse, death is a peaceful nothingness and, at best, an ocean of infinite possibilities my puny mind can’t fathom.
Life’s too damn short to not enjoy it as much as we can, even when it takes a sharp turn and throws us through the windshield. There are so many luscious things to see, hear, taste, feel, and do, I hate to waste a moment indulging in grief if I can help it.
I’ve always maintained that if people want to have a memorial service when I die, make it a party—sing and dance and celebrate for God’s sake. I told my wife a while back, “I know what I want you to say at my post-croak-memorial get-together. Get up there and tell the crowd in a strong voice, keeping a straight face, ‘Damn! ... He’s dead!’” I imagine after the shock wore off and she revealed that I told her to do it, I’d get people laughing. Then they could enjoy the day as much as I was.
And knowing Jeannie, I bet she’d feel the same way.
This is Rich Israel speaking to you from a soft spot in my heart. I’d like to use this space to share inspiring musings and anecdotes about joy, honesty, friendship, integrity, and other subjects that can enhance the quality of our lives.
Because work occupies a good part of our time, I wanted to launch my blog with thoughts on how to adjust your attitude to make it more fun.
Most people distinguish work from play. But some dance to a different paradigm. The lucky ones do what they love, which is always best and at the very least should be a long-term goal for everyone. The smart ones who aren’t that lucky shift their attitude to love what they do. If we don’t take one of these tracks, we’re destined to live a dreary existence.
Sure, lots of jobs aren’t ideal. I’ve had plenty of them. But life is too short to spend any more time suffering than we need to. The trick for me is to turn work into play. Play is something we all inherently practiced from birth. And play has this great side effect called enjoyment, and any word with “joy” in it is worth pursuing. The happiest people I meet are grateful to just be able to work.
I’m not saying I always take this road, but I do make an attempt. When I signed with Sandra Jonas Publishing for my new book, Groovin’, the first thing I said to myself was, OH SHIT! WHAT NOW?
Actually, at first I was excited. At least for a few hours. Then reality set in, and that excitement turned into sheer terror. You see, selling a book these days of media overstimulation is a bitch. Letting people know your book exists takes a lot of effort, and even if you manage to get the word out, people don’t buy books the way they used to.
Nowadays you need a website and a blog and a mailing list. Then you need to produce interesting, helpful content if you want folks to take notice. Even though I love to write, I wasn’t keen on another career in marketing. I wrote my book because I had a bunch of fun stories I knew people would enjoy. But to get those stories out in the world, I was going to have to do some heavy lifting.
The thought of coming up with more content that people would take the time from their busy lives to read was overwhelming. I’ve worked with energetic medicine over several lifetimes in this body, so I started looking for something to give me the courage to combat my wimpiness. I have a lot of tools in my arsenal to help with emotional balance, but I didn’t see anything that quite hit the mark.
I went around and around and finally realized—and not for the first time—that only one thing would help. The answers we always seek are right inside. When I’m in balance, I have clarity, and when I have clarity and balance, I have everything else I need (including courage).
So I turned to meditation. I went inside and I meditated . . . and I meditated . . . and I meditated some more.
And when that clarity came, I was ready for the challenge. I no longer looked at the road ahead as an insurmountable task but as another adventure in the journey of my life. And damn, I love a good adventure!
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