Facing Mortality and the thoughts of the lessons it offers.

As some of you may know, my wife’s sister passed away suddenly last month. We weren’t terribly close – and perhaps therein is one of the great tragedies of it all, that at 44 years young, she left this plane of existence and in her place the vacuum of her existence highlighted the myriad of small things that left her estranged with her parents and distant from us and yet, in preparing to cremate her, we learned more about her and her life of the last 15 years in a few short days than in the actual 15 years of passed time.

My thanatophobia kicked in well and true – yet i managed to (mostly) hold it together for Ingrid and be there for her. However the whole event, along with my fears, depression and over analytical mind has brought out a few thoughts about how we live.

One of the many rules of life posts and posters I see are attributed to the Dalai Lama, and reading through them, some struck a chord.

The Dalai Lama is said to have stated that we should follow the Three Rs:

  • Respect for self
  • Respect for others and
  • Responsibility for all your actions

However, I’d like to re-order these around because I don’t believe you can respect yourself until you take responsibility for all of your actions and you cannot respect others until you can respect yourself.

Another item attributed to him is Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.

I’d take that far further and state we should not let a little dispute injure any relationship. I think it is far easier to hold onto a perceived slight than to remember the true generosities.

Following that logic is another gem from the Dalai Lama – In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.

It follows the same logic as the previous item. It is far too easy to forget all of the good that has passed. No one is ever so happy with someone that they thank them and then continue to raise all of the good things they did in the past and profusely rain gratitude on them for past deeds. So why do we do it when angry? It is just another way to add small kindling together in an effort to create a bonfire to light up your argument where a simple candle would have sufficed.

Looking at our (lack of) relationship with my sister-in-law and her husband, I realised a few things that are important

  • If you don’t make time, there will never be time 

    Life is always busy. Always. If we don’t want to wake up one day and say “we should have spent more time together” then you need to just plan to spend it. We now have a standing Wednesday night dinner with the Brother-in-Law, another set for Tuesday or Thursday with the parents, a Sunday night call to the in-laws … sure it takes two to make an effort, but I guess we need to offer the branch first.

  • Love is not without risk nor pain 

    There seems to be some kind of fallacy that love is an all powerful, magical force and that it somehow will make things better. I think that in fact, what makes it magical is that we will make an effort to make things better because we love someone, regardless of percieved insults, injuries or pain they cause.

  • A compromise is something where both parties lose a little to gain a lot. 

    If you are asking someone to give something up and you aren’t losing something in the deal as well, then it’s not a compromise, but blackmail. It really is as simple as that. If something is not important to you, then say so, don’t use it as a beating stick.

  • Deal with your own demons Your past is your past Don’t blame others for the demons you see. 

    It is easy to see demons in the actions of others. However, we forget that our past and our demons are just that — with an eye of objectivity, the reality is that the other person isn’t even aware of what your demons are and why they were triggered. 

  • Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer. 

    As per a few items already listed, if your first response is going to be angry, venomous or in any other way not calm and collected – perhaps silence is the best response until we’ve worked out what caused the reaction and whether we need to take another step or say anything at all. I recall the three rules of speaking at this point:

      • Does this need to be said?
      • Does this need to be said by me?
      • Does this need to be said, by me, now?

I’m sure there are many others – but that’s just a few of the things that have been rolling around the cavern that is my head …

Until next time, remember to live a good, honourable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to live it a second time.

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