By Lionel Fifield (The Brisbane Relaxation Centre.)
Many years ago I was participating in a workshop and the presenter asked us to consider the situation of being told we had only 3 or 6 months to live. She asked to write down what we’d want to do and complete in the weeks left to us.
In this group was a woman in her late 50s who began writing with great focus and much enthusiasm and then told us how she would use those weeks.
I could see her excitement and feel her energy for making some very meaningful visits and trips, connecting with people she longed to see and doing things which in her heart were of real value. I thought to myself, “How great”.
As she finished reading that list and inspiring us with her enthusiasm and goals she suddenly slumped – her face changed – her body lost energy, and I’ll never forget her next words, “Unfortunately I’m not dying so I can’t do any of them”.
How would you have felt if you’d heard her say that? Would you have been even more determined to write your own list and then would you review it from time to time to see how you’re going?
A counsellor friend told me of a woman who was always highly stressed and anxious – she worked like a slave in order to take care of her husband and two alcoholic sons, none of whom worked. She was so worried about who would care for them if something happened to her. Suddenly one day she did die. The most interesting outcome was that her husband and two sons she felt so responsible for found jobs within six months – the two sons gave up alcohol and all three learned to look after themselves.
I have met many people who, as a result of a crisis, a diagnosis or sense of stagnation have made significant moves, inwardly and outwardly, and you can see it in their eyes and how they walk. They are more alive as they explore gifts, dreams, qualities and talents suppressed since childhood. Some have become involved in jobs or hobbies totally different to how they had spent their lives previously. Others have, step by step, faced fears of communication and vulnerability so they could make connection with themselves and others as never before.
I heard a story that touched me deeply; it was of a woman who, in her 40s, had been diagnosed with cancer and expected to live for only a very short time. She made the most remarkable and unexpected decision. She left her home and her partner and started a brand new life, and yes, years later she was still living.
So who puts the limitations on us? Who gives up our dreams? Who says what we can or we can’t do? Friends and relatives may often tell us what they think we should or shouldn’t do with our lives. BUT who is responsible for our lives and whose life is it?
Nelson Mandela confronted innumerable personal hardships as well as family, political and national problems during his 27 years in prison and then afterwards as President of South Africa. Every day he made an inspiring self-empowering statement. I am master of my fate, I am captain of my ship.
What a reminder for us all.
—Lionel Fifield (The Brisbane Relaxation Centre.)