I will not die an unlived life.
“I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.”
As I trotted off to the post office this morning, I happened to be listening to the radio. AM radio no less. I heard an interview with Dawna Markova, an author I had never heard of. I was moved by her beautiful stories of grace. How she was taught that if she held the moments most precious to her, to her heart, she could take those moments alone with her when she died. I was touched by her voice, by her wisdom and by her gentleness. Despite the awful interference caused by being surrounded by trees, (and the thoroughly awful radio interviewer), I was able to catch most of what she said and when I got home I tried to find a poem she had read (not written by her) on the internet. Unfortunately, that particular poem evaded me but I found the one above from her book, I Will Not Die An Unlived Life.
I always try to be open to Spirit and those little nudgings that we often feel but seldom take real notice of. I felt that this ‘happened upon’ interview with such a gracious and gentle author was a little message to me. Especially as I have a real thing about dying with my music still in me. It also reminded me of a conversation Doc and I had about fear. We talked about how our lives had been run by fear in one form or another. Doc said she thought that I seemed, if not fearless, then certainly less fearful than she felt at times. I replied that I thought it was just sheer bloody mindedness on my part. I simply refuse to be beaten by those things which frighten me. It’s not that I don’t feel the fear. I really do. It’s just that I’m so stubborn that I can’t bear to think that it can best me. So I tend to just jump right in and do it anyway (a la Susan Jeffries book). In fact, the only time in my whole adult life when I have been entirely fearless, in the truest sense of the word, is when I had lost everything and therefore truly had nothing left to lose. One can always be fearless when one has nothing to important to lose. I remember feeling an almost heady sense of freedom. As if I could literally make ANY decision I wanted to and the outcome would not really matter a jot. My heart had been crushed by sadness and grief and really I could not think much beyond the present day and the the present moment. It was a wonderful and strange and painful time but that was my one and only experience of being completely fear-free in life. It was probably the only time in my life that I was more than fleetingly aware of the present moment. This interview reminded me that our most important gift to ourselves is the grace to really live. To really, truly, bloodily, painfully, joyfully, strangely, audaciously, giftedly, sadly, weepily, trustingly live. It’s not that life will be without sadness or pain – we all know that isn’t true. It’s more that the very act of not allowing that to immobilise us, not allowing it to shadow the grace and light and joy available to us, is the very gift in itself. I do not want to die with my music still in me. Even though I don’t yet know what my true music is. We all have inklings, or feelings or simply curiosity about what our gifts might be but the test is then not to let our fear of failure (or of success) or of ridicule or whatever your particular demon is, prevent us from giving it our best shot. Maybe our music is simply our ability to live our own lives in our own way. Our very life itself is our symphony – the way that we, as individuals, live it, in all its guts and glory.
Once upon a time I dreamt of being an actress. I trained at the age of 30 despite being self-conscious and embarrassed about my age. I did what I set out to do regardless of what fear whispered into my ear about being too old, too fat, unattractive, talentless, stupid… I learned so much about myself. It was a painful and difficult and challenging year for sure – especially as it came on the back of the break-up of my long-term relationship – but what a year it was. I cannot look back on that year with anything other than pride at how far I came and how much I learned, despite the pain and the hurt and the unutterable loneliness. That sticks with me now when I feel frightened or when I feel that I cannot stand up to the next challenge because I am simply too tired, or too sick of fighting and of the seeming endlessness of the struggles. I have begun the slow process of learning to trust myself. Always trying to find acceptance of what and where I am. Always trying to give myself, in the words of a beautiful Ben Harper song, ‘Another day. Another chance to get it right.’ I’ve been listening to that song a lot recently.
Anyway, whatever my feelings are about my life right now and what is or is not possible, I reserve the right to one day go back to that dream and re-explore it. Not with any grand designs of being the next Cate Blanchett (though part of me swears that if I can’t be that calibre of actress then why bother) but with just a simple directive to learn and enjoy the process, no matter how matronly the body or how addled the mind.
Our dreams are just that – ours – no matter how many other people share the same or similar dreams, no one person could carry them out the way that we can. That is our gift to ourselves and to the world. So – hearing Dawna this morning was a timely reminder that its never too late, you are never too old, too tired, too much in debt, to hang on to those dreams you once cherished and nurtured. It’s never too late to start that long slow walk towards their accomplishment because even if it takes the next 40 years of your life, when you get there you will have achieved more than you could have ever dreamt of and no doubt enjoyed the most extraordinary journey to boot. At the very least, you will not die with your music still in you. That is more than most people will do.
And yes. I still dance when no-one is watching.
Now go and listen to this song.