if you push in, something will pop out the other side

“When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is – everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.

I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.” -Steve Jobs

It has taken me most of my natural life to get to this place of understanding. To truly and deeply understand that my time here on earth is limited. And, that I am (in fact) here to create a life that waxes and wanes with each experience – to create something that I can be proud of by leaning in and seeing what pops out on the other side.

I know this today more so than ever. And, while it is not always wise to compare lives – as I embark upon my 40th year of life – I hold a deep reminder, I lost my father at the age of 54 and my mother at the age of 45.  I had the experience of walking each of them to the end.  My father through a terminal illness that lasted for three months. My mother through a lifetime of struggle through addiction that took her life at the age of 45. I can say this with ABSOLUTE certainty – they were both ready to go when the day arrived!  There was such peace at the end of each of their respective lives.

These two experiences gave me such a deep hunger for living a full life.  For freeing myself of the societal bondage of thinking everyone around me knew the secret to life. They don’t and neither do I.  But, I have committed myself to finding my own secret of life.

Life has given me every opportunity to lose hope and faith. Now, when I get into such places, I have to stop and “check-out” (the check-outs can be a trek across the world or just a brief drop out) to a place where I stop listening and hearing what everyone else believes I should be doing – or better yet trying to figure out a way that I can “fit in”. I don’t want to fit in. I don’t want to listen to everyone else.

My resolve is to keep leaning in and seeing what pops out on the other side. A funny thing happens when you embark upon this journey – you meet other like minded people who are leaning.

So, why not, lean in and create something – create a life that you can be proud of!

In Great Gratitude, Brandi J.

~life~

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Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. ~Steve Jobs

I read an article a few years ago about regrets. The article was written by a palliative nurse whose very job was to assist people through the dying process. The article stopped me in my tracks and forced me to stop and think about my own life. If tomorrow were my last day would I be faced with any of the regrets.

The Five Regrets of the Dying:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

I was 36 when I read the list of regrets. I knew a bit about life, regrets, and a bit more about death.

My father was in palliative care when the year I turned 18. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer and transitioned to the other side of life three very short months later. The process of watching him pass was heart breaking and life changing for me. My father was my best friend, my confidant, my cheerleader, and my daddy.

I remember the struggle he went through immediately following the diagnosis. I also remember the very moment he accepted life on life’s terms. The end was coming and there was a peace within him and throughout our home that I had never felt before. His death was precious, sweet, and made me realize how truly incredible this journey we call life is meant to be.

This year, I will turn 40. I think of my mother and my father often. My mother passed at 45 and my father at 54.  These numbers (45 and 54) continue to rumble around in my very soul.  The truth is… I have no idea what age I will be when the end comes. And, for that very reason, I wake up each day and think – if today were my last day – would I have any regrets? And, as much as I wish I knew the answer, I simply do not.

So, I work each day to ensure that I am living a life that nourishes my soul.

And, I respond to each of these regrets in my own words:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

In 2012, I sold most of my possessions and traveled to Bali, Indonesia.  My plan: My plan was to not have a plan! I went off the grid, traveled alone in a foreign country, sat on beaches for hours upon hours writing in my journal to try and figure out who the hell I was and what the hell I wanted in my life. It was the most amazing experience of my life!

Then, I came back to the states and found myself running around trying to fit back into the woman’s life that left only a few months before. Alas, that woman had changed from the inside out and there was no going back (wish someone would have mentioned this to me). Today, I am thankful that I can’t go back. And, while I would not be truthful if I told you that I had it all figured out. What I can share with you is this. I have more trust  and faith in myself and my decisions (even when they are outside of the “normal” boundaries). I beat to my own drum and feel a bit like the Jim Carry character in liar liar! If I try to be dishonest to fit in or be accepted – I find myself immediately (most often very loudly) stating that I don’t subscribe or believe in this or that – And, I am 100% fine with being accepted or rejected. I (me) only get one shot at this thing called life and I will spend the rest of my days living a life that is true to myself.  Carpe Diem! 

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

I think each and everyone of us can relate to not working “so hard”.  I come from a farming family. We were taught the value of hard work at a very young age. And, I am ever thankful for having this insight.  Thus, I have zero issues with hard word.  But, what I do seek and strive for is to find meaningful work in this world. A great work ethic will take you far in this world. I have worked hard at every job I have had the pleasure of occupying. At the age of 32, I could have been classified as a work-o-holic! My job was my life. Everything else was secondary to my job and my performance. I am proud of this and feel as though this taught me valuable lessons that will continue to take me far in life. But, today, I find myself searching for something more than a title or a salary. 

I once had the pleasure of meeting a man in a group therapy session. I was learning how to deal with the grief of my parents and this man was there dealing with the death of his job. He had a long successful career at IBM. He had retired. He sat in the chair beside me, head between his legs starring at a nice watch he had been given as a retirement gift from the company that he gave his life to. He made mention that he had lost his family and lost the years of being a part of his children’s life because he spent too much time working.  

I search for the answers to this one. The only conclusion that I have come to thus far is I live for experiences and I live less for material possessions and things. I cannot take any of the material things with me – experiences are where it is at! I’ll keep updating as I work to figure things out – a work in progress, I will always be!

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

I simply love loving! If we have met – there is likely a time when you have heard me say ” I love you!”. I say it, I say it often, and I truly do mean it when I say it. I haven’t always been gifted with expressing my feelings.  I had a life changing experience with a family member a few years ago that changed my LIFE. My mothers elder sister.  After the passing of my mother, my auntie and I did not speak for a few years. It was a choice at the time that was healthier for the two of us because we simply did not know how to talk. There was so much pain over my mother’s death. I was home visiting my family and ran into her in the local store. My usual modus operandi would have been to turn the other way and avoid her and the difficult situation. But, in that moment, I made a different choice. I walked straight up to her, kissed her on the forehead, and told her I loved her. Then, I promptly walked away. I had NO idea what changed inside of me. She found me in the store moments later and invited me to the holiday dinner she was hosting. I joyfully accepted and spent a wonderful afternoon with her. A few short months later, I would receive the call that my auntie had been killed in a tragic automobile accident on her way to work that morning. I sat in the corner of a conference room in the fetal position as my other auntie screamed on the other end of the telephone telling me of her passing. I was so incredibly thankful that the we had the opportunity to heal old wounds. This has validated and resolved me to ALWAYS express my feelings – NO MATTER WHAT THE CONSEQUENCES! 

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

I feel like the most blessed woman walking the face of this earth – in terms of friends! I still keep in touch with childhood friends that lived on my street during my childhood, high school friends, college friends, and former colleagues. Friends very quickly become a part of the fabric of my existence.  I have met people from all over the world and feel blessed to call them friends (family!). The world really is a small place. Friends continue to be such an important part of my journey. I could NOT live without them. I have also learned a very hard lesson in life with respect to my friends. I realize that we are connected and drawn to each other during periods of our life, common grounds for friendships, similar hobbies, life experiences. I cherish each of them dearly and keep memories of our time together tucked nicely in my heart. I keep in touch as often as I can and honor that we are all living busy lives.  We shared a slice of life.  We created memories and those I take with me forever! And, I keep in touch as often as I can. I need to do better! I will work on this one. 

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

A life lesson that I have to continue to work on. Who in their right mind would make the choice not to be happy? But, it happens to the best of us. I have to work on this daily. I once had a practice of creating a gratitude list each and every single day (before I got out of bed). I would start with the letter A and go through Z listing all the things I was in grateful for. My mind wonders into the past and the future and this is when I find myself unhappy.   I just spent the better part of five days playing in the mountains with my partner. There is little time to be unhappy when you are surrounded by nature and the beauty of the mountains. I captured photos of each of us stopping to smell the flowers! I will make this my life mission! To remain ever grateful for all things – small and large in my life. 

What about you? Any regrets? If so, can you (will you) work daily to change them.

In parting, I leave you with my life quote:

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” ― Hunter S. Thompson

I think I am on target to slide in SIDE WAYS yelling – What A Ride!

In Gratitude, Brandi J.