Maybe You Learn How To Live When You Learn How To Die

looking up at New York City lights, city lights, learn how to live, live like you're dying
Joshua Earle

When you learn you are dying,

When you receive the diagnosis that changes everything,

When you’re standing face-to-face with the demons of your past,

When you realize it all will someday end,

When you understand that your time here is limited,

When you find you’re not guaranteed a number of days,

When you discover your breaths are running out,

you suddenly learn how to live.

You suddenly learn the value of the people around you, how much they mean to you, and how you get so wrapped up in the monotony of your daily life that you forget to tell them that. You suddenly learn the importance of giving thanks, of sending prayers of gratitude for the miracles, of celebrating the little things, of kissing and hugging someone you care about just one more time.

You suddenly learn that this life here on earth is so precious and short. That people come and go, sometimes unexpectedly, and so much time is wasted watching dreams and dates and days pass by rather than reaching out your fingertips, grabbing hold of what you can.

You suddenly learn that life is about living, not existing. About doing, about chasing, about believing, about hoping, about enjoying, about pursuing, about trying and failing and continuing, despite the chaos of it all.

You suddenly realize that you’ve spent an exorbitant amount of time wishing rather than seeking, and wondering ‘what if’ rather than attempting to make plans come to fruition. You suddenly realize you so often fall victim to fear.

And when you’re facing the last days of your life, none of that seems to matter anymore.

Not what has scared you. Not rejection. Not failure. Not closed doors. Not broken promises. Not pain. Not emptiness. Not being ‘safe’ or ‘right’ or ‘careful.’

What matters is the new paths you embark on, the chances you take, the opportunities you pursue, the words you say, the love you share, the bodies you kiss and hug and pull close to you.

Why is it that we only live when we are so close to dying? Why do we hold back until our days are numbered, until we find we only have a few moments left to say and do the things we always wanted?

Why are we scared to mess up, to make mistakes, to fall down? Why is that we lose our faith, or forget how beautiful the world is, even in the mess and painfulness?

Why do we waste the time we have, thinking we have an infinite amount?

Lately I’ve been staring myself in the mirror, watching the way my eyes blink, my mouth moves. Lately I’ve been writing poetry just because, and singing in the shower with the music loud. Lately I’ve been sharing drinks with friends, hiking mountains, watching sunsets, putting my toes in the sand. Lately I’ve been dancing, been laughing, been practicing forgiveness and self-care and putting myself first sometimes.

Lately I’ve been taking chances and chasing dreams and not living so fearfully because I know I’m not guaranteed any number of days. Lately I’ve been speaking with purpose, loving with intensity, doing things that scare me because why the hell not?

Lately I’ve been learning how to die—how to grab each and every moment and cling to it for as long as I can.

Lately I’ve been learning how to live. TC mark

Marisa Donnelly

Marisa is a writer, poet, & editor. She is the author of Somewhere On A Highway, a poetry collection on self-discovery, growth, love, loss and the challenges of becoming.

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