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Let’s Pretend We’re Dead

June 3, 2011
French Meadow Bakery and Cafe
Minneapolis

Two decades ago I picked up Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  Roughly 20 pages into the book, I got what I needed and closed the book.  I have a belief about books, especially self-help books–when we are in a state of receptivity, usually felt during times of transition or personal challenges, when we are open to listening to what this mysterious universe has to say–what we need to hear comes to us.

I was in college when I picked the book up, during a time of chrysalis, of growth from who I was at home with my parents to who I was becoming as a young woman in this world.  Pushed and shoved around by society’s propaganda of what is important–thin thighs, great clothes, money, power–I couldn’t hear that still, small voice inside of what I deemed  important for my life.

In the beginning of the book, Covey suggests we write our eulogy, first from the standpoint of a family member, then from the standpoint of a friend, a co-worker, and finally a neighbor.  He said that when we write our eulogy from these perspectives, then we will know how we want to live.

In other words, do we want someone to stand up and say: “Janna had the perfect body.  Her forehead was smooth and wrinkle-free through her 50′s.  She drove a hot car and her house was always clean and looked like a Pottery Barn showroom.  She was a powerhouse at work, getting more done in one day than an entire floor of the Wells Fargo bank building.  She always came in first in her mountain bike races and she could hold a handstand in yoga class for two minutes.”?

Yet.

These are the things we unwittingly become consumed by in this society.  These are the things that drive us, that make us crazy, that blind us from the riches of life and the immense power we have to positively affect the world right now.

In the wake of this tornado, my house is a mess, we have no money, I haven’t been training for my bike races (who cares?), I have more zits on my forehead than I had in puberty, and my writing life has come to a screeching halt.

And still.

I have an opportunity to spread light wherever I go.  I can still be of service to my neighbors.  I can still blow bubbles and just be with my daughter, or sit and make a lego spaceship and just be with my son.  I can still risk smiling to a stranger.  I can still hold doors open for people, I can wrap my arms around my husband, I can call up my sister and see how she’s doing, and I can make a loaf of bread for my neighbor who just lost her husband.  I may not be a famous, published writer, but I can still show up to work and guide students through their writing and into the landscape of their lives.

For a moment, let’s pretend we’re dead.  From that still perspective, let us silence the expectations of the world around us and be in communion with the eternal voice of our souls as we ask, “What really matters?” And bless us when we arrive at that answer for ourselves, when we re-enter this world, and decide to live our lives in a holy state of grace.

  1. Don’t worry. I would definintely say those things about you at your funeral if you wanted me to. But I would much prefer to tell stories about sneaking out with boys, crashing a bike on Newton Hill, your paper route, your unabashed joy and curious mind, your precious friendship, your love for your family and your generous heart and generous laugh. I might mention your semi-obsession with a certain crease on a certain part of your face, but only for fun.

  2. Thinking of you Janna! Your amazing and don’t forget it!

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