“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” ~Norman Cousins
It seems on some level we must know that nothing lasts forever. That knowledge must be built into our DNA; surely our cells know their own mortality, that entropy is an unavoidable fact of life.
So why do we fight the inevitable? Why do we crave security and consistency? Illusion that it is, we look for promises where it's not possible for them to be made.
We buy all kinds of insurance, telling ourselves that if we spend that money, that bad thing won't happen to us and we'll be “safe.”
We sign contracts, “ensuring” that that piece of property will always be ours and that that relationship, personal or professional, will never be anything but what it is today. We pour money into tricks to keep us young, seemingly viewing aging and death as the ultimate enemy of happiness and success.
But what if we embraced change, not just as a necessary evil but even as a blessing?
At a tender young age, I experienced the most significant loss of my life, the death of a very dear friend. Robbed of the innocence and naivete of youth, in the decade that's followed I have learned far more painful, poignant, and enduring lessons that I know I would have otherwise.
That loss also resulted in one big giant fear of the ultimate change—I was terrified of losing the people I cared about. It was nearly paralyzing, and this fear resulted in a lot of ugly insecurity. Ironically enough, that very fear may be just an unattractive enough quality that it could have driven away my loved ones and become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I am eternally grateful to the ones who loved me enough to stand by while I discovered this, building my confidence so that I could change from needing, clinging, and fearing their loss to loving freely and letting go.
Whatever the nature of the relationship, there's something about two people letting go of each other, knowing that the other doesn't belong to you, that is so much more life-giving than those same two clinging tightly, bracing for the inevitable blows life will deal. It makes whatever comes that much more manageable.
We are inexplicably linked to the ones we love. Whatever our religious or spiritual beliefs, we can all agree that when someone is lost, whether through death or change, they are not gone, in that if nothing else they remain in our heads and hearts.
It is up to us to have the strength to remember that what has been has been real, and that it is not changed by the loss.
One of my favorite quotes is from Rainer Maria Rilke: “A person isn't who they were during the last conversation you had with them. They're who they've been throughout your whole relationship.”
It gives me great peace to remember that, even if we go to bed angry and one of us doesn't wake up tomorrow, it doesn't change the fact that we love each other.
There's a proverb about anticipation of a thing being better than the thing itself, and I think the opposite is true of the negative things we anticipate. Tensing our muscles and preparing for impact, the anxiety wears on our nerves, but eventually the dreaded event occurs and we weather it. Life goes on.
I firmly believe that behind every action lies one of two main motivators: fear or love. We act out of fear of loss, fear of change, fear of the unknown. Or, embracing loss, change, and the unknown as things outside of our control, we can choose to act out of love.
My challenge to you is to believe that love is greater, more powerful, and longer-lasting than whatever it is that's triggering that fear reaction. Believe it, and then act like you believe it.
Fear makes people predictable. We run from the thing that causes us fear, becoming sheep of sorts, running from the sheepdog without thought as to where he might be steering us. News stations use our fears to sell stories, politicians use our fear of the “other guy” to get our votes, and, quite often, it works. Why is this?
Fear is a safe bet; love, on the other hand, is not. When you're acting out of a genuine love, whether it's for a significant other, friend, child, family member, or life itself, you have a spring in your step, a confidence in your eye, and a fearless approach to whatever life hands you.
You, my friend, are unpredictable. You are a force to be reckoned with. Don't let fear rob you of who you could be.
Photo by BFSMan