Twenty-nine-year-old Brittany Maynard had planned to take her last breath on Saturday, November 1, 2014 — two days after her husband’s 30th birthday. However, just today she decided she’s still feeling good enough to stick around a bit longer. (11/3/14 Update: Brittany did end her life on November 1. 2014. May she rest in peace).
Upon learning of the painful way that her terminal brain cancer would end her life, Brittany relocated to Oregon — one of three states in the US where physician-assisted suicide is legal under the Death with Dignity Act. She has the necessary pill in hand, and, when she decides that her pain has become unbearable, she will end her life, gently and peacefully, in her bedroom, with her husband, family, and best friend around her.
I’m one of the 9+ million people who watched her video where she shared her decision to do this. You can see it for yourself here.
“Consider life and what’s of value to you to make sure you’re not missing out,” Brittany says. “Seize the day. What’s important to you? What do you care about? What matters? Pursue that. Forget the rest.”
I’m so grateful to Brittany for her courage and willingness to share her journey. Her words are powerful reminders to not sweat the small stuff. As you think about how you want to spend your life and the precious time you have here, do your actions match? Do you allow yourself to be navigated by others’ expectations, whether family, friends, or society in general?
In contemplating some decisions in my life, a friend recently asked me, “If none of those obstacles were in the way, would you want to do it?” My answer? “Hell, yeah.” “Well, there you have it,” she said.
I’m sure you have dreams, goals, and desires that you’d love to see come to fruition in your life. So what’s stopping you? Now, what’s really stopping you? We can come up with all sorts of reasons why we can’t do something. It’s worth looking under the hood to explore the fears that are creating these obstacles.
- Are you concerned about what others might think?
- Does your idea seem crazy or irresponsible?
- Do you not know how you’d even get started?
Whatever your block is, it can be broken down. And truly, it needs to be broken down so you can see it for what it is instead of what it appears to be.
Taking the examples above, consider this:
- What do you fear people might think? Because you can never be in the heads of other people, there’s a good chance your answer to this is projection of what you think; more specifically, of what your Little One is conjuring up. See, your crafty younger self may be stirring that pot to keep you stuck right where you are. Remember, to him or her, any change is bad — that is, until you assure them that they’re safe with you, and that you’ll love and support them all the way.
- Whose definition of “crazy” or “irresponsible” are you using? I’d wager a hefty bet that it’s the voice of your mom, dad, siblings, friends, teachers, or other primary people in your life. As we learn to navigate this world, we look to those around us to guide us, often following their example. However, one size does not fit all. It’s time for you to go shopping for some new perspectives.
- Feeling hard-pressed to even begin is another clever way the scared part of us keeps us frozen. We’re here and we want to be there. We go to black-and-white thinking, forgetting that all the gems live in the gray space. Instead of saying, “My dream is to live in Europe for a year,” or “I want to find the love of my life,” consider what the small steps are that will move you in that direction. Start by brainstorming a list of ideas to get you there, and then sort through them to keep the good ones and toss the rest. Now, identify what your very first step would be. Perhaps begin by choosing which part of Europe calls to you most, or letting friends and family know you’re on the market for romance.
Brittany’s story shines a light on the fragility of life. Let’s honor her suggestion of pursuing what matters and forgetting the rest; of seizing the day. Anything truly is possible. It starts with believing it, and comes to fruition by acting on that belief.
Until next week, keep taking those small steps to Live Out Loud.