Living on borrowed time, according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, is defined as:
to continue to live past the time one was expected to die and be likely to die soon.
When I first introduced this concept in my book, The Gratitude Blueprint, and taught the course, many of the students were surprised. It is a concept that most people usually aren’t prepared to think or talk about and I was not asking them to talk about it but to embrace it. I believe that this concept of realizing we live on borrowed time is crucial to a life well lived.
Let me explain. Life cannot be measured in years or days because it flows from one moment to the other, from one breath to the next and nobody knows how much of it we have. The reality is that it is not only the sick and old that die. When I was a little girl, life seemed never-ending, and thinking in terms of how much time I had left, never occurred to me. I think it is because as children, things seem infinite. As the years pass and we grow older, however, the entire concept of life and how much more of it we have left becomes more pressing.
Living on Autopilot
Not too long ago I was living life on autopilot. I think that is how most people live. You wake up, go to work, return home, and you tend to family and other responsibilities. On weekends you go out and see friends and a new week comes and you start all over again. Honestly, how often in your day, week or year did you think about living? Do you ever stop to think in the morning that today could be your last and how fortunate you were to have opened your eyes to a new day?
Most people never connect to the fact that each day is one more day that we get to live, one more day we borrow from life and many don’t get to do it. All this changed for me about seven years ago when I experienced a chronic painful illness and didn’t know how many more good years I would have to enjoy life if the illness got worse. This is when I began to research death and dying and the more I learned the less scared I became but something else also happened. The more I connected to the fact that I could leave this place any day, it made me want to live with so much more passion than ever before.
When my kids hear me talk about dying they ask why I talk so much about it when to them it is such a foreign concept, as it was for me at their age. Here is the thing. I don’t speak about death and I don’t teach people to embrace their impending departure to be morbid, dark, or negative. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I teach people to embrace dying so that they embrace living with intention and gratitude. When we accept and understand that each breath we take is a privilege and that we don’t know when our day will come, it makes us embrace life with more passion. It makes us not want to waste a single second worrying about things that truly don’t matter. Death to me is what makes life so incredibly delicious.
This is why it is important for me to teach others to not fear death and to connect with the fact that we live on borrowed time. You see, most people I know are extremely reluctant to talk about death and dying because it is the one thing humans fear most. Yet, for me to talk about dying has become very natural because indeed it is. One hundred percent of us will die one day so dying or suppressing that fact seems absurd to me. I believe that if we learn to accept death and dying as a natural part of life, as breathing and eating is, then it can help us live a happier life.
Let me ask you something. If you knew you were going to live forever, you may live differently than if you knew today could be your last, wouldn’t you? Perhaps the things you value now would change once you start to live life from this standpoint.
- Have you asked yourself what you would do if you just had today?
- How would you spend it?
- Who would you want to be with?
- What would you say to those you love?
If you have not asked yourself these questions, your assignment this week is to really think about them and hopefully choose to live as if today was your last. I embrace dying each day so that I can also embrace living. Tell your loved ones what they mean to you and what is important to you so they can continue on with your legacy. Remember, it’s not just the sick and the old that die. So why not talk about what is important now that you are still alive and well?
Savor the Day
Knowing that I am living on borrowed time makes me savor the day more. We are guilty of going through life on autopilot and in doing so we miss out on so much because we think we have all the time in the world. But in reality, we don’t. I was in Volterra, in the countryside of Tuscany recently where I really had time to think about this concept of living on borrowed time, and this is why I am writing to you. Waking up to the splendor of such a place made me even more grateful for life. I just sat there sometimes for hours just looking at the horizon, thinking how fortunate I am to have had enough life so far to see such a magical place with the people I love and make those memories with my girls.
My message to you is this: Acknowledge dying because in doing so, it may make you appreciate living each day more wholeheartedly. Get in the habit of thanking life for each day you get, knowing that today could be your last. As Steve Jobs said in his speech to the graduating class at Stanford in 2005, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” Live the life of your dreams. Do what you want to do, experience the world, and check off your bucket list. Hopefully, you get to have many healthy, wonderful years ahead but in the event you don’t, live with no regrets.
Don’t leave anything you can do and say today for tomorrow. Life can feel short when you are having fun and that’s a good sign that you are living well. When you can go to bed and feel grateful for a day well lived, a day where you did all you could to savor each moment, then that was not a wasted day. I hope this message touches you in some way and since nobody knows what the next moment holds, let me express my gratitude for your time, your support for my work and if I am fortunate enough, I would have planted some seeds in your mind and heart to start embracing dying so you can intentionally embrace living as if today was your last.
With gratitude, Waleuska