Updated: Dec 10, 2019
I'll always remember around this time last year, I was on my morning commute to work and I was admittedly checking my phone to play music on Spotify, which often means I'm flipping through songs like they're going out of style.
I don't like that I do this; I don't want to be someone who drives and is distracted by her phone, but one of my favorite things is driving to good music or podcasts, so I usually check my cell at least once or twice on my morning commute. That being said, I know how easily glancing down at your phone while driving can be disastrous in a matter of seconds.
As I was about to cross the bridge to get into Long Beach, the town that I work in, I looked up from my phone and noticed a crowd of police cars, ambulances, and a few bystanders staring at something in the middle of the street. It was a day that reflected January's nature; freezing, overcast and gray - one of those days where you want to stay in bed under the covers, binge watching shows on Netflix and vegging out because it's so gloomy outside.
As I slowed down to see what had happened, I noticed a wide open space in the middle of the street, on the side road right off of the main highway, before the entrance to the bridge. Despite the number of ambulances and cop cars, the space that inhabited the scene of the crime was barren and solitary. I stopped my car to see a black bag covering a man's body lying in the road with leather shoes sticking out from underneath it and his brief case beside him.
My heart had fallen into my chest and tears came to my eyes. I had never seen something like this before. How strange it felt to be driving past someone who had died and whose body remained in the street while police assessed the scene. How easily life can change in a second.
This man was clearly on his way to work; he had his leather shoes on and briefcase in hand, preparing to start his day. Did he have a wife or kids? Where would they be when they got the call that their husband or father had died in a tragic accident on his way to work? Did he kiss his wife and tell her he loved her or did they have an argument before heading their separate ways for the day? Was this his first day at a new job? Was he a good father? What did he do with his one, precious life?
All of these questions rushed through my brain and I suddenly felt overwhelmed with imaginary scenarios of what this man's life could have possibly been like.
Death is something that has always been my biggest fear. Not that it's an uncommon fear, it's the number one fear among society as a whole, but ever since I was a little girl, I always feared the people I loved the most suddenly dying. I've never been fearful of myself dying or what comes after death, really just losing the people I love the most.
I have this one vivid memory of being five years old and my mom leaving for a workout class, telling me that she'd be home at 7pm. I remember young, little Danielle, sitting on the couch in our den at 7:03pm, pushing away the blinds and looking out the window, freaking out that something may have happened to my Mom. I was an anxious kid for awhile until I learned to grow out of that demeanor as I grew older, but it's still something that haunts me from time to time.
To this day I've woken up in the middle of the night and the first thing I think of is what my life would look and feel like if someone close to me had died. I'll wake up in the morning and imagine who I would be without the people I love. It's something that I think about at least once every day, but I've learned to manage my anxiety around death by not giving into the fear surrounding grief and loss, but rather using it as a catalyst to live my life more fully.
I use this example of death today, as morbid as a topic as it can be for some, to illuminate how delicate, precious and remarkable our lives are. How meaningful this moment in time, right now, is for ourselves and others.
The first few months after I witnessed this man's sudden and tragic death, I remember passing the road where it happened and becoming upset, thinking to myself, Great, this is what I'm going to be reminded of and have to think about every day before work. I took this experience and labeled it as negative and daunting, often forcing myself to think of anything else before I crossed over the bridge into Long Beach.
I realize now that yes, death and change are scary, but instead of choosing to remember this man's death as dreadful, I think to myself, how can I live today that's more in alignment with my highest self and truth? How can I make my time here more valuable? How do I make others feel? What am I obsessing over and what have I not forgiven myself or others for? What do I need to let go of? What is the meaning of my life and how can I get closer to living with purpose? Did I tell my parents, my sisters, my boyfriend, and friends that I love them? Do I love myself? What can I do today that's different than yesterday? How can I change my life for the better?
When we look at life in these terms, with death not being our biggest fear, but rather another cycle and circle of our existence on Earth, we can use the unknown as reasons to live more fully, right now.
Call the person you haven't spoken to in years because of an old argument or grudge.
Tell your parents you love them and appreciate all they've done for you.
Let your friends know how meaningful their friendship is to you.
Let your partner know how they've changed your life for the better.
Thank your teachers, mentors and elders for their wisdom and advice.
Let go of the people and things that no longer serve you.
Say goodbye to the drama, noise and gossip.
Welcome the silent and the solitude.
Go after that one thing you've been putting off forever.
Make the small daily changes that create the big, lasting results.
Respect the process of life.
Understand that this moment you're living right now is everything.
When we're reminded of how temporary all of this is, we're more likely to go in the direction of leaving lasting impressions on others, ourselves and the world, forever.
What is it that you're scared of? How can you reimagine your fears so that they benefit you rather than bring you down? What do you do to conquer your anxieties? How can you live your life more fully?
I'd love to know. Message me here, on the blog and let's get talking about moving forward from fear and living our fullest lives.