Thinking about my death is a useful tool when evaluating my live. There are many timelines to evaluate my goals and each timeline prioritize something different. On a daily or weekly basis it’s easy to focus on our immediate goals: take care of all of my chores, get an A on that math test, go to that concert, finish my taxes, etc. There is an endless list of short-term tasks and goals that can easily fill up our schedule. The problem is, if I don’t take a step back every once in a while, I can lose perspective on the bigger goals.
When I consider reflecting on my life from hospice care, all of those short-term accomplishments get washed away. For me, a lot of the bigger accomplishments like graduating from Duke, travelling around the world, and helping Dhamma Patapa get its commercial kitchen license, also seem to get washed away. I acknowledge each one for a few seconds, but then I dig deeper. Almost every time I perform this exercise I spend most of my time reflecting on the relationships in my life. More specifically, I contemplate if I did my part to share a loving relationship with my family, friends, and acquaintances, in that order.
One reason we let ourselves get caught up in weekly tasks is because, unlike relationships, we feel in control of them. When I take out the trash, weed the garden, and go grocery shopping, I can check these things off my list. When people graduate, get married, have children, and get promoted, it can still feel like completing tasks on a list. The real accomplishments come from going beyond the appearance of these accomplishments and really working on the quality of the relationships at school, work, and home.
The challenge is that we don’t have complete control of these relationships. We can invest a lot of time, energy, and resources into our half of a relationship and the other person could care less. It’s easy to give up. We try not to care. We try to wait for a better time to address concerns. Some people just don’t want to deal with these deeper issues and difficulties. It’s so easy to just give up. But when I reflect on my own death I ways wonder, “Did I do everything I could to make thing right?”
I’m pretty young, and I still potentially have lots of time to develop these relationships, but I don’t want them to slide off of my radar. I have family relationships that could use some love and some valued friendships that need more attention. When my Dad died, I consciously shifted my goals from people oriented to task oriented so I could get my feet under me and rebuild my confidence. Now that I’m stable again, with a lot of help from my Vipassana practice, it’s time to shift my priorities back to the relationships in my life. I’m not exactly sure how this will look, but I want to put in the work to figure it out. My meditation practice should help.