Entering the Last Year of My Life
How I'm Confronting My Fears and Prioritizing My Health, Finances, and Ambitions
Today is my 47th birthday, and I'm slightly terrified. Not of some vain fear of aging or anything like that, but something more personal. You see, on July 14, 1996, my mother died, and that was the day immediately after her 48th birthday. I have a ridiculous, unfounded fear that this means I have 366 days left to live - and so I'm entering the last year of my life.
Totally irrational, I know, but I just can't shake this thought.
As a professional life coach and writer, the best way I know how to process this irrational fear head-on is to learn from my mom's choices and recalibrate my eyes to my own paper. So, it’s time to ask myself a series of questions. What if this is indeed my last year on earth? What would I do differently?
Over 25 years after my mom died, I'm still angry with her for not taking better care of her health. I know you’re never supposed to say such thing of your dead parents. There's something about the whole funeral experience that promotes people into sainthood status.
But if I'm being truly honest with myself, I'm still pretty pissed off about this. She died of smoking-created lung cancer that metastasized to her brain. And we know now that she was very sick and in incredible pain for far longer than any of us realized because she refused to go see a doctor.
And I'm a total hypocrite. While I've never smoked a day in my life, I certainly cannot claim to be someone who prioritizes her health and fitness consistently.
But I want to be.
So I'm going to do something about that.
If this is indeed my last year, I want to improve my relationship with my body.
After my folks split in the mid-80s, my mom became financially codependent on her siblings, parents, and friends for the remainder of her life. She worked incredibly hard, but she was deeply irresponsible with her money. We’re talking about an almost constant cycle of borrowing money, spending it immediately, eventually paying it back, getting a tax return, overspending on things we really couldn't afford, lending money out, defaulting on bills…again, getting everything repossessed…again, and then borrowing money…yet…again.
We were constantly broke and panicked about money. I promised myself that I would not perpetuate this cycle. My financial situation is significantly improved one generation later, but I could still take some strides to fully get my financial house in order.
So, in case this is my last celebratory birthday, I'm going to upgrade my approach to my personal and business finances so money isn't a perpetual concern.
My mom was certainly not the most ambitious human - at least according to my definition of ambition - but she prided herself on her impeccable work ethic. She was super punctual, always worked twice as hard as required, and rarely took a sick day. (Unfortunately, her strong work ethic benefited her employers more than herself. However, that is a story for another day.)
While she always worked really hard, she really didn’t care about getting ahead. She just wanted her coworkers to know she was reliable and her kids to understand the value of having sweat on your brow. I definitely inherited her work ethic. And like her, I have a tendency to put my work ahead of my well-being. Unlike her, however, I have ridiculous ambitions.
If this is my last spin on the big blue marble, then this is the year I apply to speak on the big red dot (aka a TEDx talk). And this is the year that I write another book.
Maybe even two. Hmm.
Tackle Your Fears Exercise
As a coach, I have a tool that I want my clients to use to think through and analyze any fear that they're having instead of just sitting in it and feeling it. I call it the Tackle Your Fears exercise, and it seems like this is a good opportunity to apply that tool myself (aka eat my own homemade dog food). Here goes…
Name that Fear: I'm afraid I'm not going to live a long and healthy life.
Worst Case Scenario: Don't do anything about that fear and follow in my mom's footsteps. Though that's highly unlikely.
Best Case Scenario: This silly blog post you’re reading right now will inspire me to get my health, money, and ambitions dusted off and reprioritized, radically changing my life for the better.
Where do I have complete control: In almost all of the above, I have complete control over what I choose to do. Whether or not I make commitments, every morsel of food I choose to eat, every day I decide to go for a walk, whether or not I apply for a TEDx talk, whether or not I make time to write my next book, and what I choose to do with my money.
Where do I have influence: I don't have complete control over my health. Let me just say perimenopause is a bitch, but I certainly have influence over those symptoms.
Where do I have zero control and zero influence: I suppose this is the acts of God section, and I'll just leave it at that.
What I am going to do about it: Well, first of all, I'm going to confront my fears head-on. I'm going to challenge my relationship with food and improve my relationship with my body. I'm going to pursue my ambitious goals, including applying for a TEDx talk and writing another book. I'm going to take control of my personal and business finances to eliminate ongoing concerns. And I'm going to prioritize my health, perimenopause symptoms be damned.
I encourage you to tackle your own fears using the same exercise. I have a free download that walks you through it in more depth, but here it is in a nutshell… Name your fear, think through the worst-case scenario, imagine the best-case scenario, identify what you can control, what you can influence, and what you can't control or influence, and then ask yourself, "What are you going to do about it?"
Pondering the year ahead as if it could be the last year of my life might seem like a morbid way to spend my birthday, but confronting my fears about my own mortality and prioritizing my health, finances, and ambitions is the best way to honor my mom's legacy. If this is indeed my last year, I want to make it count. I aim to live every day to the fullest. I hope this coaching exercise can help you do the same.
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I worried about that too - my Mom died when she was 79, but I made it through. I have outlived everyone in my birth family. I have one grandmother who lievd to be 84, but I plan to outlive her as well.