How should I go?


Taking a little detour here from “we.”  Going back to a “me” topic.  Well, maybe there is some “we” as well.  In any case…

Sometimes I wonder how I would prefer to meet my own death.  I don’t mean method of death.  Movie series like Final Destination or Saw, and countless others seem to gruesomely explore these possibilities.  It’s human nature to wonder about how we will die, that is what makes such movies alluring, but that is not I am talking about today.  What I am talking about is the “when.”  What I mean is I sometimes wonder how much time I would have from my knowing that I was dying to when I actually kicked the bucket.  If I go in a flash, I won’t be pondering my demise with acute urgency.  If I take years, indeed I would feel the pressure to tie up any loose ends.  It really doesn’t matter at this point, because I have no knowledge or control of how the end will come.  At this point, nobody has informed me that I have a terminal illness, or asked me to perform a life or death mission.  At this point, my death is completely in the hands of fate, and completely out of my control…completely unknown to me.  As far as I know, it is not imminent…although, I could be hit by a bus tomorrow.

It seems that when it comes to my eventual death, there are two main issues I think I should focus on:

  1. Being Ready
  2. Loose Ends

Being Ready (Preparing for Death)

Shouldn’t I always be ready?  Isn’t that one of the essential tenets of living the philosophical life?  Shouldn’t I always be ready for my death?  What is the difference if a doctor tells me I have 2 months to live or not?  Aren’t I dying already?  I am in the process of death right now: my hair is graying, my stamina in just about everything is less than when I was 18, I can’t eat spicy food any more, I am unable to even tolerate eating ice cream (which I still love).  In short, these are all signs of my slow and eventual demise.  Nature is already telling me, “you are going to die.”  The only difference from that dreaded doctor news is the time span and the assumed authority (we tend to believe doctors when they tell us we aren’t going to make it, even though many defy the odds).

So, isn’t my goal to mentally be that doctor?  To stare myself down and say, “you only have about 40 more years to live, maybe less…maybe a LOT less.  It could be days, we just aren’t sure.  I’ve got to be upfront with you, there is a slight possibility that you might not make it through the day.”  It’s the truth, isn’t it?  Well, if I can admit that is the case, then shouldn’t I be ready.  Shouldn’t I always be aware that every moment is precious?  Absolutely!

"The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave die but once."--Shakespeare

“The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave die but once.”–Shakespeare

Loose Ends

Do I really need time to tie up loose ends?  When would be a good time to die?  Before my wife?  After?  After my kids are grown?  After they are married?  After grandchildren?  Great-grandchildren?  Certainly, after I purchase life insurance.  So many loose ends, and no way to tie them all up before I go, no matter how long I have.  And there is the heart of the matter…I cannot possibly tie up all the loose ends before I die.  Remember, that your life is on loan to you for the time that is allotted.  You can try and try, but there will always be more you may wish to have experienced.  For some, this life may be like that trip to Disney World, that they never want to end…but it must end, even though you wished you could have spent more time at the Magic Kingdom.

No matter how together you are.  No matter how prepared you are for your own death, there will always be things that are undone.  There will be loose ends.  In my case, I think my goal is to make that clear to those who might miss me.  First, I suppose is to ensure that they will miss me, by my action and character.  After that, I must remind them (albeit gently) that life will go on when I am gone.  Hopefully, some people will miss me, but most likely they will go on, maybe occasionally touched by the sadness of my departure, but mostly unaffected in their outlook on life despite my permanent absence.  This is my hope anyway, and I think for the most part, it is true.

There are two main points about loose ends.  First, that you will likely depart before you and others desire.  More importantly though, eventually most (perhaps all) will go on quite peacefully without you.  So, there will be loose ends, but I think most of them will be centered around your own desires to want a little more “magic.”  Most of those loose ends can be tied by someone else who remains.  Eventually, people will go to Disney without you.

This is how I should face my end:  Always ready, aware that there will be loose ends when I go, and that those loose ends will eventually be tied.

I Kissed my Wife Today (“We” Part 4)


Lately, my wife has had some health issues.  They might not be a big deal, but for all we know they may be something very serious.  There are still more tests and investigations to be done before there is complete clarity and relief.  More than likely, modern medicine will find some health irregularity, and then she’ll be treated and she’ll feel better, but that is only in the short term.  Eventually, either she or I will come face to face with our end on Earth, and the other must face this loss as well.  Eventually, one of us will somehow meet our maker.  The odds are good that someday one of us may receive some news that many are not prepared for, someday some doctor may look us in the eye and say that one of us is dying, and it could be very quickly.

In any case, I began reflecting on my wife’s health.  I  realized that someday she might not be with me.  Nobody likes to think of these things, but the fact of the matter is that those you love may be gone from you, sooner than you want them to be.  You would have thought that reflecting on this might have depressed me.  Quite the contrary, I chose to notice that my wife was with me today, and how lucky I am to have her.  I was filled with gratitude.  Completely filled with gratitude.

With this gratitude welled up inside me, I kissed my wife.  This was no normal kiss.  I really appreciated her, right then and there.  I really, really felt it.  The gratitude that I had was overwhelming.  Why was it so overwhelming?  Why had I forgotten how grateful I should be that she is with me?  I think it is because I had lost my awareness that everything is impermanent (Click here, then here, then here).  My time with her is transitory, just like everything else.

My goal as a Stoic sage is to always know that she is a gift to me.  Every moment, every day I should know that our time here together is limited.  As a result, I should feel grateful and relish every moment with this great gift to me.  A gift that has lasted 20 years so far.  I hope for many, many more years but it is only hope.  How long we remain together is out of our control.

In the meantime, I will appreciate every moment with her.

10 Things You Can Do Right Now to be Helpful (“We” Part 3)


Another way you can take care of the “we,” in your life is to go out of your way to do something nice for those closest to you.

In my first “we” post I listed who I considered to be part of my close circle (those who I consider to be the “we” in my life).  Remember:

  1. My spouse or beloved
  2. My children
  3. My extended family (Parents, Brothers and Sisters)
  4. Coworkers
  5. Neighbors (on my street)
  6. Close Friends

So, for these people you can do any of these things:

  1. Wash the dishes for them (I was thinking of my wife and kids on this one.  It might be a little strange to walk up to your neighbor’s door and offer to wash their dishes).
  2. Mow the lawn for themmowing
  3. [Offer to] watch the/their children while they take care of errands, shop, or go to the spa.
  4. Teach them about philosophy (or just plain right or wrong…like your kids).
  5. Ask them, “How are you doing?”  and really mean it.  Wait for an answer. Just listen.
  6. Offer your professional services at a discount or for free (accountant, tax prep, personal training, electrician or whatever you may be good at/certified to do).
  7. Let them know about opportunities that they might be interested in.  Of course, you would have to know them fairly well to have a good idea if it would be right for them.
  8. Help them with an annual household chore: cleaning gutters, changing air filters, raking leaves, removing a stump, changing oil.
  9. Talk with them, be friendly, make the effort to connect without being nosy or pushy.
  10. For your coworkers, help them with a work project when they need it.
  11. Always be tactfully honest with them.  (An example of not being tactful is if a coworker is having a “bad hair day” and you say, “Oh my gosh, your hair looks terrible!”  Depending on your closeness to the individual this might be OK, right?)

Washing dishes

Just a few suggestions for looking after “us.”  Of course some of these are more or less appropriate based on the situation.


Really, Really Listening (“We” Part 2)


So, how about REALLY listening to those around you?  Once you master that, then maybe you can go out and fix the world beyond. I cannot tell you how many times I have committed to doing this…to really listening.  I would compare this effort to speeding, when I was younger.  NOTE:  Now, I regularly drive about 5-7 MPH over the speed limit.  I do not do this for safety or because I think that the speed limits are correct.  It is just not worth it to me to get a ticket AND have my time wasted by a stop.  Anyway, back in the day I would speed EVERYWHERE, then I would get a ticket and drive around at speed limit-speeds for 6 months.  Eventually, my probation would expire and my carefulness would wear off.  Then, I would speed again.

This is a lot like how I listen in my life.  I am ALWAYS preoccupied with something (with a lot of things, actually).  My child, my wife, or a coworker will be talking to me and I suddenly realize that I was not listening.  Even worse, the talker will realize it and then ask, “Are you listening to me?”  BUSTED!  Whether I realize it or I am busted by the speaker, this is like getting that speeding ticket.  It is time to slow down and really listen.  But how do I do that?  My favorite way to do that is called Active Listening.

This is not active listening!

This is not active listening!

There are many way to actively listen, but here’s my technique:

  1. Stop what you are doing (no typing, watching TV, texting, writing, etc.).
  2. Turn and look at the speaker (as long as you are with the speaker).
  3. Really, really try to comprehend; stop thinking of other things.
  4. Do not formulate rebuttals in you mind.  Be open to what you hear.
  5. When there is a pause, repeat what the speaker is saying in your mind.
  6. When the message has been delivered, then you can paraphrase what the speaker has said to you:  “So let me see, what you are saying is…”
  7. Ask questions at opportune times, if you do not understand:  “One moment, did you mean that…?”
  8. Take the time afterward to reflect on what someone has told you.  If you are unclear, follow up with them.  This shows that you took the time to receive the message and have thought it through.

This is just one way to be virtuous with your “we.”  Your interactions with those closest to you define who you are.  If I am not listening to them, then I am not a good listener, and that does not honor those closest to me who are trying to communicate with me.