Photo Credit: Bruce Mars, Unsplash.com

Written by Ryan Poling
January 22, 2020

I guess I never really took a long hard look at how fleeting life is. Maybe you can relate? I grew up in a hardened working culture that said, “It doesn’t matter what’s happening now, you need to save for retirement!” Saving for the future is good and all . . . but I for one took this living for the future thing a little too far. 

It all makes sense now, of course. I worked and saved and sacrificed and worked some more, all for the future. Well, here I am, the moment I’ve been waiting for. A beautiful place no doubt. I have the home of my dreams, everything I’ve ever wanted. A beautiful wife, an awesome, cute, playful, adorable, lovable furball named Chester who I can’t get enough of (you get it, I love my dog), and a successful career with many opportunities in front of me. I’ve just finally come to the place where I realized I don’t remember a whole lot other than work for the last 10 years of my life . . . more or less. 

Luckily though, I’ve been blessed in ways that most people don’t see. I have muscular dystrophy. Also lucky for me, it’s just inconvenient enough to force me into conscious breathing and impair some basic muscular functions, not bad enough to kill me. Or is it killing me? Okay . . . okay . . . I’ve confused you enough, I get it. “Is this a blessing? Is it killing him?” You have so many questions.

From Empty to Full

It’s been said by many over the years that in order to live your best life, you should “Die before you die.” More confusion . . . I’m getting there, just sit tight.

Living with this everyday is a constant reminder of the impermanent nature of life. Two years ago I was able to bring a glass of water up to my mouth and take a drink without a thought. Now my left-hand trembles (at best) and I even dropped a glass a time or two. I’m guessing–being that its progressive–I’ll have more broken glasses as the years go on. 

The point is, as my body is constantly reminding me, I won’t be here forever. This disease has shown me just how fragile life can be. It showed me that this whole living for the future thing’s really a sham! All those times I didn’t have trouble drinking from a full glass, taken for granted. All the years I spent working my life away and denying myself the balance I’ve just recently discovered being possible. Thanks again to (you guessed it) this wonderful awareness-creating disease. 

Now I must admit, it isn’t just this awe-inspiring muscle decreaser I have to thank. There’s been so much more, but I’d have to write another article to thank everyone. For now, we’ll stick to the atrophy. 

As my body reminds me of just how fragile this whole experience of life is, I can’t help but go back to the words, “die before you die.” I can’t say I completely understand it, but I do know that if it wasn’t for this blessed disease, I wouldn’t have half of the grit, stamina, or fortitude to make it through some of life’s biggest challenges. Including getting over where I come from. The mindset of the future.

People who know me may say, “You’re doing what? What about this or that? What about the person you used to be?” It’s taken this long to change and now that it’s started, something tells me more change is coming. But I now know that life’s too short and too fragile to just stay the same, and although flying uber rides seem cool and all, they aren’t quite ready to hit the market, and there’s a lot of life that can be lived and enjoyed in the meantime. 

A Lesson and a Blessing

For 10 years (or more), I punted everything to get to somewhere else. I love where I am now and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I missed so much along the way. I took so much for granted. No crying here, just understanding.

Moving forward’s always been my shtick. I still hold those words close, but now I want to move forward knowing that there’s an end. My body reminds me. Loved ones lost remind me. We all know the truth, but we deny it. We act like there isn’t going to be an end for us, like living out our golden years in retirement is “The End” but we don’t die, we just spend eternity playing golf and going to the beach. (Eech, not much for either of those, but you know, we’re all different.)

Recently I’ve had all of these thoughts about how I’m wasting my life with my current career, there has to be more yadda, yadda. I’ve been searching for “something else, something different.” But the truth is, nothing’s a waste that’s fully experienced.

And I haven’t been wasting my life by working a job I’m not completely thrilled with. I’ve been wasting my life by not fully being there. By always living for the future, I wasn’t living the only life I get. The one right here! The one right now

This constant reminder of impermanence has led me to an equally beautiful place as all the hard work and struggle of the last 10 years. Only now am I relishing in the details of right now. It’s shown me that the real gift is life itself. All of it. The happy times and the sad. There’s so much to learn and grow from, so much to explore. So much to dive into and explode back through the surface with, again and again. How exhilarating!

Thanks for teaching me about death and dying, muscular dystrophy. I may or may not die from this disease, and that doesn’t matter. What matters is that without it, I may have punted the next sixty years and still said you have to live for the future. I’m thankful to be twenty-nine years old instead of eighty-nine. 

I guess for me, I’ll spend the next sixty years or so (hopefully) playing in this new arena, asking myself if I’m living this one fleeting life as fully as I can. Not worried about when death will come, but how l live before it does.

What will you be asking you?

Photo Credit: Bruce Mars, Unsplash.com