I figure anything starting off with Paul McCartney material and a Guns N Roses anthem has got to be good, right?
Who is most afraid to die and why?
That was the question that held the foundation for an intriguing study I read about last week. The study results were released in 2016 by a group of British psychologists at the University of Oxford. These researchers spent over 40 years analyzing the lives, behaviors, and brain waves of over 26,000 people’s thoughts on death. The results were a bit ironic to say the least. The top two groups of people most afraid of death were the ones preaching the message from the alters of their religious sanctuaries on Sunday mornings. Yes, believe it or not, the most devoutly religious people were the ones who were most afraid to die despite their tireless affirmations that they know the real truth.
By a margin of 18%, the people subject to religious affiliations are believed to be more afraid of death then the people who believe in nothing at all. The study went on to highlight that the ones that fear death the most are the ones actually preach their religious ideologies more for themselves then to help others. The unconscious act of engaging in conversation with someone else about a philosophy comforted their own fears. They believe that if more and more people affirmed their curiosities that it would help internally justify their reality of having more questions about life then they do answers.
We’re so afraid to die that we forget how to live
After reading that study last week, I started making notes in my phone as I do when I can’t write then and there what I’m thinking and that was the first thing I thought about. As a whole, we are so afraid of death – of the unknown – that we forget how to exist in the here and now. We forget that it’s okay not to have all the answers. We forget that it’s okay to believe in things bigger than ourselves, a higher deity or not. We forget that it’s okay to live without fear. It’s okay to speed up, to slow down, to change directions, to shift views and opinions, and to just celebrate this life we’re living until we can’t live it any longer.
Deep inside we all have questions that life hasn’t answered, yet most people are too afraid to speak up and vocalize those questions. Not because they are necessarily afraid of the reactions of those around them, but more afraid of actually expressing their own fears out loud. We know that we’re all hoping for meaning, searching for answers, longing for purpose, and discovering ways to make sense of the road we’re on. We desire the understanding of knowing who we are and what direction our story is headed.
I wish I could say learning to celebrate life comes easier than the darkness that can cloud over you, but to say that would be naive and simply not true
On a vulnerable note, I feel under that particular cloud myself as I write this entry. In reality I’m going to be writing about celebrating life when right now all I want to do is just close my eyes and breathe.
I want to sit alone in silence, feel my chest tighten, my heart race, and my bones creak just so I know that I am still here. For once, I just want to be nonexistent. I don’t want to have to answer the test messages that keep vibrating next to me, I don’t want to have to wakeup to some alarm that dictates my wake up call. I want to release my mind of everything – fear, anxiety, blame, anger, sadness, confusion, doubt, and all the other emotions that devour my mind.
It’s just getting hard to exist lately. It’s not that I wish it all to end, I just want to slow it all down. I want to forget what it’s like to know that time is continually ticking, and be able to quiet my soul and let go of what’s beyond my control. I want to just be still.
We’ve all had similar moments where we just want to manipulate the clock of life – stop it, reverse it, advance it, recreate it, destroy it, whatever it may be.
During these moments I’ve tried to learn how to tune in with my own emotions. I learned that by doing so I eventually saw growth and progress out of whatever situation had me run down.
Learning to listen to your own voice above anyone else is the gateway to discovering what your thoughts really are, what your opinions really are, and where the root of them grows from.
The day I let go of what I thought I knew and opened up my mind to what I wanted to know, was the moment I gave myself the wake up call I needed after being so lost. I started searching inside and outside for truth, for passion, for an understanding of of the impact my footprint in this world can have.
Moments of self-discovery are hard, I’m not going to sugarcoat that. Self-discovery leads to leaving certain people behind in our lives, like a distant memory. This doesn’t mean this person didn’t have a special place in your life – and will always – but it means that the episodes where they co-starred in my life’s film have come to an end. No regrets, no harm, just self-discovery. Being the one to shatter your own heart and let down your own soul rather than allowing someone else to do it for you seems so tragic when written on paper yet we still do it to ourselves each and everyday.
I have personally had several period in my life where I genuinely thought the phantoms of my misfortunes were going to drown me until I couldn’t get above water anymore. Where my body would quiver until it just went limp. Moments where I was so lost that life seemed like a desolated planet you see in science fiction movies and I was just there, standing all alone, with no direction in sight. Yet here I am – living to see another day.
Learning to celebrate life as it unfolds begins with learning the mind, soul, and heart that is with you at every high and low of your story
If I could think of the single, most critical thing I have learned – especially suffering for years with mental illness and now a year with a physical illness – it’s the peace I have had to learn to discover in being isolated from everyone and everything.
Yes, I have some incredible people around me that I am beyond thankful for as I continue on through my battle with these illnesses but I also know that you have to be your own fighter. You have to be the one to pull yourself back up. You have to be the one who can set aside the “why’s” behind the terrible hand of cards you were dealt, and press on beyond the brokenness to find your worth.
You have to learn how to be okay with feeling things people won’t understand and having a dream that no one else believes in. Sometimes you’re going to be the only person in the room who sees a different perspective or who aspires to live a different life. You have to unleash your passion and fight like Hell in these moments even if you secretly don’t know how you’ll make it or how you’ll even get there.
You won’t always find people willing to continue to climb a certain mountain with you.
Sometimes you’ll have to climb alone. It’s exhausting, it’s tiring, and it’s draining but the views from the little peaks as you go along are well worth it in the end. Everything will slowly begin to make sense. You’ll be glad you made it even if you’re standing at the top alone.
It’s going to take time to learn how to be comfortable alone in your own mind and in your own space.
It’s human nature to depend on other’s for happiness and to let our emotions be driven by acts beyond our control. Be patient with yourself. Spend your mornings taking in the days air alone for a moment. Embrace the things around you as you go into work.
Let go of everything you are and really become everything you can be
When you really choose to let go, that deck of cards you were dealt will start playing out in victory formation. You’ll realize you simply cannot keep bad things from coming your way, but you’ll better understand how to handle yourself in those moments. You’ll learn that people will disappoint you, walk away from you, leave when you need them most, become you’d never thought they’d become – but you will have peace knowing that none of that dictates what you’ll do, how you’ll grow, or where you’ll go from here.
Slow down, find peace, be okay to not be everyone and everything at every turn and you will be everything and more