Life, in the eyes of a medical professional, is determined by beats and breaths. This is true wheather the patient is a newborn babe starting out or a loved one taking their final breaths after a long and happy life. Pro-life and Pro-choice supporters can argue their views on when life begins. But most will agree when it comes to life’s final hours there is a great difference between having a life and living a life.
Living is in part what one chooses to do with the span of time between that first lusty breath and that final feeble gasp. Recently, a 29 year old female made the decision to die on her own terms. Facing an abbreviated life from a terminal disease she chose to live her final year without treatment. She made national news by announcing she had chosen to choreograph her own final breath. The date was set and after saying her good-byes, she quietly left this world.
Reading many comments on countless articles, before and after her death, left me wondering. No, I am not an advocate for –or against those states providing this death with dignity statute. I am also not a 29 year old cancer patient facing a death sentence.
Some say her decision was selfish, others applaud her actions. She chose to live in the short life span she had and end that life on a day of her choosing. Her actions define clearly the difference between life and living.
Finding myself facing one of life’s challenging change points–in no way near a comparison to what Brittany Maynard faced…I find myself wondering if my current life path will leave a legacy. No, I’m not suicidal, just taking inventory. Am I truly living or am I just alive? This question was posed to me yesterday as I was being examined by a new doctor.
After baring my back in order to listen to my lungs he paused. I assumed he may have been warming the stethoscope so as not to place the icy device against my warm flesh. He was not…he was reading my newest tattoo. Turning to look me in the eye he responded, “‘Live Loving the Journey’ (what is now inked on my back) That is a very good philosophy to have. Let us hope this evaluation will allow you to do just that.”
There was a feeling of peace as the exam continued. Much later his query returned…discovery came to me slowly. After years of role playing through dysthymic relationships, my new life philosophy emerged. I gambled, and took a risk in order to learn how to feel…to live being real for perhaps the first time. Was it the best decision? I will never know. What I do know is what it feels like to share passion, to listen without words and how to let go.
Time to take the emotional training wheels off. I’m better having memories of one genuine relationship than to have countless, faceless, meaningless ones. Even if it means for now my heart feels wounded. Learning to feel takes energy and action and yes, is not without pain. Feeling is the key and a giant leap forward on my journey.
So for now…Walls up, heart a bit battle worn and alone but still living the journey and learning to love.