Let's Talk About Death, Baby + Marriage / Consumerism / Adulting

Salt-N-Pepa

Let's talk about you and me
Let's talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
Let's talk about DEATH.



Nothing is certain but DEATH and TAXES. That's what they say. (I don't know who they are, but I do know they say this.)

I beg to differ.

There are many people on the planet who don't pay taxes:

Tribes in the Amazon rainforest. They have no idea about modern society, let alone taxes, because they aren't part of the 'system.'

People with low income, many deductions, or many dependents, also don't pay taxes.

And people who are very, very rich, often don't pay taxes either. "More than half of the tax revenue lost to the most common tax exclusions stays in the pockets of the richest one-fifth of Americans."

So back to my contrary opinion: there are many people on the planet who don't pay taxes. But everybody dies.

Therefore: Nothing is certain but DEATH. Period.

"Alright Jasmin, you've made your point. But why are you talking about this? Isn't it a bit morbid? Why should we think about death?"

So as to better enjoy life my darlings.

In thinking about death - in immersing ourselves in the reality of the end - and in accepting that - for those of us who choose to believe it - although our souls will go on, our bodies and the identities they currently hold will perish, well there's freedom in that.

WE HAVE TO START BELIEVING IN DEATH SO THAT WE CAN START LIVING.

"Well thank you Captain Obvious! Of course I believe I'm going to die someday."

My counter argument to your possible eye-roll of my obvious statement: We believe in death intellectually; we don't believe in it emotionally.

Intellectual Understanding: To have knowledge about something.
Emotional Understanding: To have the ability to apply the knowledge one has.

(I don't care how smart you think you are or how many degrees you have; if you know shit but can't apply shit, then you're not such a big shit.)


Still don't get what I'm trying to say?

Ok, let me put it to you this way: If you really believed you were going to die someday - not INTELLECTUALLY but EMOTIONALLY - would you still be doing whatever you're doing today? The way that - RIGHT NOW - you're choosing to spend your time, and who you're choosing to spend it with - if you really believed you were going to die, would you still do the exact same thing and surround yourself with the exact same people? Like, NOTHING WOULD CHANGE?

If the answer is no, or even if there's a slight hesitation, then you've proven my point.

Most of us believe in a life of longevity with no obvious ending which allows us to take life itself for granted.

"There's always tomorrow."

No, there isn't. One day, there won't be a tomorrow.

Life is IMPERMANENT but we humans - AGAINST ALL ODDS - insist on believing in FOREVER.

Yeah we do. And I'm going to prove it to you.

FIRST MOST NOTABLE PIECE OF EVIDENCE OF OUR ERRONEOUS BELIEF IN FOREVER:

WASTING TIME

We spend so much time KILLING TIME. If time is to life, as money is to our bank accounts, then killing time is the equivalent of setting our paychecks on fire.

We think there's an infinite amount of time to be who we really want to be, and to go after the things we really want. There isn't. The older I get, the more I realize that although the days and the weeks often seem long, the years have a sneaky tendency of flying by.

If we truly believed that time was finite, then we wouldn't spend so much time KILLING TIME.

The more time we kill, the more we say with our actions: "I BELIEVE IN FOREVER."


SECOND MOST NOTABLE PIECE OF EVIDENCE OF OUR ERRONEOUS BELIEF IN FOREVER:

MARRIAGE

If you get married...


Despite rising divorce statistics, everyone who walks down the aisle believes that somehow, they're going to beat the odds.

(That's because most of us don't believe we're average, and therefore will never be included on a list of statistics. But if no one is average, then everyone is by default.)

All evidence points to the contrary; beating the odds is not the norm.

In the United States, there is one divorce approximately every 36 seconds. That's nearly 2,400 divorces per day, 16,800 divorces per week and 876,000 divorces a year.

Want more interesting stats?

This article is particularly fascinating.

* Percent of total life spent married based on 80 years, which is the average life expectancy in most first-world countries.

My current city of Ottawa (which - shockingly - is on the list - we are never on these lists) clocks in at 13.8 years or a total of 17.25% of total life. That's slightly above the worldwide average, but nothing to get overly-excited about since our divorce rate is 48%.

Even if you're lucky enough to live in Rome, the average marriage will end by the time the kids go off to college.

Notice how none of the *percent of total life numbers equals 62.5%? That number, or close to it, should be the equivalent of a lifetime of FOREVER with someone. (Based on the estimate that one gets married at age 30 and lives to 80. "But Jasmin, some people get married older!" Fine, then that percentage should still read 50% - married at 40, live to 80, half your life. None of the numbers are even close to that.)

As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing in our society that proves how much we believe in the idea of FOREVER as our willingness to commit to marriage in spite of the statistics.

I want to make it clear that I'm not against marriage. I'm generally for it, and given the opportunity, I might very well give it a shot myself.

What I'm trying to say is: if we consider the facts, then doesn't our willingness to commit to forever with one person seem...eh...somewhat delusional?

Bride in satin and lace wedding gown takes nature walk in vineyard. Seems plausible.

THIRD 
MOST NOTABLE PIECE OF EVIDENCE OF OUR ERRONEOUS BELIEF IN FOREVER:

CONSUMERISM & OUR TOTAL SURPRISE WHEN THINGS FALL APART (whether objects or relationships)

We're gearing away from being a forever society - gotta have it now, gotta have it fast, and if it's broken throw it out and get a new one. (Toaster, relationship, whatever...)

Things just aren't made like they used to be.

For some things, that's great. (i.e. Computers.)

1955 - WHIRLWIND MACHINE: The first computer with RAM

For other things - like our desire to expend effort to fix the things which are broken (whether objects or relationships) - not so much.

Things used to be built to last; companies would brag about how durable their products were.


But...there's no money in durability.

Companies need repeat customers. But if a company builds a high-quality, super-durable ANYTHING, the consumer may never need to re-purchase said product. We have the technology to build the best of everything we produce, but again, there's no money in durability.

ENTER: Planned Obsolescence

Planned obsolescence...is a policy of planning or designing a product with an artificially limited useful life, so that it becomes obsolete (i.e., unfashionable, or no longer functional) after a certain period of time. The rationale behind this strategy is to generate long-term sales volume by reducing the time between repeat purchases (referred to as "shortening the replacement cycle").

The Story of Stuff


"Yeah ok Jasmin. So things aren't built to last anymore, I know this. What's your point?"

My point: if we know that shit breaks, and we haven't been conditioned by society to invest time into maintenance or repairs (of either objects or relationships), why are we then surprised when things fall apart?

You think we're not?

Ok, why then are we annoyed when something breaks?  Or disappointed and angry when relationships end? It was inevitable right? Everything - including us - is on borrowed time.

We should EXPECT things not to last IF WE DON'T INVEST TIME INTO FIXING AND MAINTAINING THEM and our Consumer Society has trained us not to invest time into fixing and maintaining things because there's no profit in that. (Think of all the money there is to be made if, over the course of a lifetime, a consumer has to buy six toasters and three wedding dresses.)

If we expected things not to last (i.e. if we didn't believe in FOREVER) then when things do break, which they will, we could just shrug and say "Oh, I guess it was time for this toaster to die / for this relationship to end." The fact that we react at all to things falling apart implies that we expected things to last.

Ah-ha! Again with the belief in FOREVER. There's no getting away from it.

To be fair, it's not entirely our fault. Consumer Society sets us up with this expectation for its own profits. EVIL SOCIETY...!!

Consumer Society fools us with fairytales, only to lead us to disappointment, but then steps in again to offer to fix the disappointment it's created with new promises.

RELATED TANGENT: Let's take a moment to blame Society for everything that ails us, shall we?

Consumer Society produces and sells a staggering amount of distractions and time wasters - CANDY CRUSH? ANGRY BIRDS?? (A society that's distracted, and either unfocused or focused on meaningless things, is easy to control "That's right, let's lull them into complacency with colourful objects on the screen so they don't notice we're taking over the world...)

Consumer Society sells fairy tales - it sells WEDDINGS - not marriages. Imagine the sales pitch on marriage "And here is the day you will have the stupid argument about who didn't close the lid on the jar of pickles." Imagine the new De Beers Diamond Ads "Diamonds: Because they will outlast everything including your mortgage payments."

Consumer Society sells a bling-bling shiny lifestyle. "Fix what ails you with our products. And guess what? Next season, we're gonna have new stuff for you, and you'll never be able to keep up because NOTHING LASTS FOREVER AND WE'RE MAKING SURE OF THAT!" (Insert diabolical cackle.)

Consumer Society gets away with it because it's not selling things, it's selling feelings based around the idea that we should be happy all the time (we have a product for that) and anything that's not making us happy should immediately be disposed of and replaced (we have a NEW product for that).

Consumer Society no longer sells QUALITY - it doesn't sell FOREVER - instead it sells FANTASIES and fleeting FEELINGS. (That's what the whole premise of the TV show Mad Men is about - the way that the advertising industry came to be and the ways in which it changed our society.)

Don Draper

Fantasy after fantasy...our happiness is just around the corner, if only we could get...to...that...carrot.

IMAGE CREDIT: Boardman Robinson

It's an endless cycle. That's what the rat race is about.

WHY DOES IT WORK?

Because we humans are like hamsters on the wheel of cognitive dissonance - that is to say we hold two contradictory desires at the same time - we want and need SAFETY and CERTAINTY but we also want and need EXCITEMENT and VARIETY.

IMAGE CREDIT: Habits for Wellbeing

Consumer Society leverages that fact.

But...what would life look like if we got off the wheel? What if we stopped chasing the carrot? What if we stopped believing in forever, and instead started truly believing that life was finite?

FOREVER IS AND ALWAYS WILL BE AN ILLUSION.

The greatest contradiction of life is that the only thing which is permanent is impermanence.




So. I've worked very hard to convince you of the fact that FOREVER is not a thing.

What am I going to do with that now?
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
- Steve Jobs

That.

That's what I'm going to do with it.

I'm going to tell you what I'm telling myself:

FUCKING GO FOR IT MAN.

Whatever IT is. We've got nothing to lose because we're all going to die.

We think if we live life like shrinking violets, never having taken any chances with our lives and our hearts, we will SOMEHOW be protected from death.

We think if we avoid life's pains, and get to the end of the journey unscathed, that we will escape death.

And so we fail to live.


The other fallacy is - not only in not believing in death, but is in believing that if we become special enough, worthy enough, we will escape it.

"Death will happen to everyone except me because I'm a snowflake / indigo child / supermodel / CEO / PhD...."

If we have enough money.

If we are thin and attractive enough.

If we are successful enough.

If we are educated enough.

If we are IMPORTANT ENOUGH we will be saved from death through our material possessions, our accomplishments, and our status in society.

AND THE PEOPLE BOWED AND PRAYED TO THE NEON GOD THEY MADE
IMAGE CREDIT: Ken Kaminesky

We worship the things, and we worship the people with the things.

But...I've got some bad news for you: Death doesn't give a shit if you were the CEO of some big company or a local plumber. It's coming for you because it's coming for all of us.


DEATH IS THE GREATEST UNIVERSAL LEVELER OF THEM ALL.

It's how I managed to stop thinking - FINALLY - that other people were better than me.

Company X (my former place of employment) had a hierarchical system the likes of which I've only ever seen in the military. "Proper protocol needs to be followed, proper channels adhered to, you cannot go above your commander... ahem... manager's head."

I was a shit disturber and generally flipped protocol the middle finger. (I know right? Nothing about me gives that away.)

Other people would jump like trained monkeys when someone of a higher 'rank' entered the room. I did not, especially if I disliked the 'commander.'

I would smile knowingly (mostly on the inside, although sometimes I'm sure I allowed my grin to escape thereby causing me to look like a jack-o-lantern) as I thought to myself "One day, you're going to die, just like me. And nothing - not your title, not your money, not your perceived sense of self-importance - will save you from that. Although society says that we're not equals now, one day in death we will be. You won't escape it anymore than I will, so I'll be damned if I allow YOU - or anyone - to make me feel as though they're better than me because of the false and shallow metrics that this society has set-up."


You know who disliked me the most at Company X?

The 'commanders' who bought into their own sense of self-importance (aka who were 'drinking their own Kool-Aid') and saw that I DID NOT BUY INTO IT.

It would piss them off. I could almost hear their thoughts: "Didn't you get the memo?? I'm more IMPORTANT THAN YOU, so bow to me SLAVE."

IMAGE CREDIT: Stallio via Flickr

("Oh, you must be exaggerating Jasmin." Unfortunately I'm not. I worked with a lot of men who were misogynists through and through. And women who were power hungry, and who, because of the environment they were in, chose to act like men.)

Now I know better.

No one is better than me.

No one is better than you.

I judge people based on how they treat other people. PERIOD.

If you're a dick with money and an MBA, you're still a DICK.

If you're a bitch with big tits and a fancy title, you're still a BITCH.


CONFESSION: One of the reasons I didn't get renewed for a third contract with the first cruise line I worked for was my outright refusal to study the VIP lists.

I worked for a five-star, ultra-luxury cruise line.

I was supposed to study the VIP lists.

I was supposed to know who the VERY IMPORTANT PEOPLE were on each cruise, and make sure they were well taken care of.

2004 - Me on the ship. (Far right in the sleeveless gown with the bling around my neck.)
I was the only person in the ship's crew expected to wear ballgowns and cocktail dresses ever night.

That's not how I chose to operate. If people were friendly and approachable, I talked to them, went above and beyond for them. If they were assholes, I avoided them like the plague, money be damned.

That was not ok with the cruise line.

But it was ok with me though.

At the end of the day, I'm the one who has to look myself in the eye and be ok with me. I'm not an ass kisser. I'm not a social climber. I'm very down-to-earth and unpretentious and I really like that about myself.

RELATED TANGENT: When I was working at Company X, I organized international luxury conferences for very rich people. I know that one of the reasons I was always so well received is that these people could tell I was genuine and that I didn't want anything from them. (I'm pretty sure wealthy people are surrounded all day, every day by people who want something from them, so meeting someone who's just happy to talk or listen is something they likely don't encounter often.)

2018 - Me in the bathroom of my suite at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar during a conference.

Death happens to rich people just like it does to poor people.

Death happens to skinny people just like it does to fat people.

Death happens to kings just like it does to the plumbers.

Death happens to educated people just like it does to uneducated people.

Death happens to people who own penthouses in New York City just like it does to people who sleep on benches in Central Park.

No external thing can ever protect us from the fate that awaits all of us.

So...why not take chances?

Why not live the BIG JUICY LIFE you're secretly dying to live? (Cuz you know, you are dying...a little bit everyday.)

Isn't it better to die from the pursuit of the things we love and which set our hearts on fire than to die from fear of failure or ridicule?

As Steve Jobs said "You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

And I want to clarify that the BIG JUICY LIFE and following our hearts isn't just about a big career move, or taking some other leap of faith. It's about having the courage to be vulnerable and to say how we feel.


It's about having the courage...

TO BE HONEST.

TO BE AUTHENTIC.

TO BE FUCKING REAL.

But we're so SCARED of taking chances with our lives and our hearts. So afraid of being vulnerable.
Vulnerability is hard, and it's scary, and it feels dangerous, but it's not as hard, scary, or dangerous as getting to the end of our lives and having to ask ourselves "What if I would have shown up? What if I would have said I love you?"
- Brene Brown

What if every action we're thinking of taking was measured against this thought:

"If I do this, one day I will die anyhow. If I don't do this, one day I will die anyhow. If I do it or don't do it, I will die. But in the meantime, am I truly ok to live with the regret of not having done it? Because one day when I'm about to die - if I'm lucky enough to have that foreshadowing - the things I will regret the most are those I haven't done due to my own fears and faulty priorities."



Bronnie Ware was a palliative care nurse whose patients were those who had gone home to die. She was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. She wrote a blog post about it which later turned into a book based around those themes.

An excerpt from her blog post is below.

The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all... Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to themselves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.





You know what I wish someone had told me when I was growing up?

That none of us ever feel like adults.

We're all just children inside.

I always thought one day there would be something I did, or some age I would get to, where suddenly I felt like a grown-up. That there would be a threshold I would cross and everything would feel different and make more sense.

There isn't; I'm a few weeks away from my 39th birthday and I still don't feel like an adult. I know I've changed. I know I have more information than I did about myself and about life than I did in the past. But I don't feel different. I don't feel like an 'adult.'

My image of an 'adult': someone in a suit, usually on the phone, who takes everything VERY SERIOUSLY.


The Guide to Being an Adult (if there was such a thing) would probably dictate that real adults ought to appear as though they've come out of a generic box so as not to ruffle any feathers.

They must wear generic clothing: even if their wardrobe is tailored and expensive, it has to be bland. Nothing must stand out in any way.

They must take themselves very seriously and look preoccupied at all times, as though the worries of the world rested on their shoulders. (These people quite possibly believe this to be the case.)

They must not smile, but if they do, it's to be a disingenuous half-smile at an inferior person's attempt at humour, so as to appear both amenable and superior. (They would never, ever attempt to crack a joke themselves, because that would be inappropriate. Real adults take life far too seriously to ever consider childish things like LAUGHTER.)

They must have a blasé attitude about everything, must never show enthusiasm for anything, and must live at a baseline of flatlined emotions.

These types of  'adults' appear to be bothered and offended by life itself, with its persistent refusal to fit into a neat little box. Life is most definitely NOT FUN: it's an ordeal to be gotten through.

Company X was full of 'adults' like this, who appeared to have had their emotions lobotomized and seemed to radiate a feeling of superiority that said "I AM BETTER THAN YOU BECAUSE I FEEL NOTHING."

If that is the definition of an adult - and I do believe that it is in the corporate world at least - then I do not fit that description in any way.

People judge me for not being grown up enough. I know that. Not everyone mind you, but enough people, and especially in a corporate environment like Company X.

Evidence of my non-adulting:

I show my emotions and get excited about fun things and sad or disgruntled at unpleasant things. (Because I haven't allowed 'adulthood' to lobotomize my emotions.)

I enjoy marshmallows and sometimes eat them for dessert. (Adults don't eat childish foods unless they are in a group of children, and even then, they make it very clear to those around them that they are not enjoying it. Heaven forbid.)

I think fart jokes are funny. (Farts no - but jokes about farts, yes. Adults find bodily functions distasteful and people who acknowledge that they exist to be cringe-worthy.)


In the coworking space I work from now, I've seen a few people (but only a few) actually sneer at my non-adulting: I smile often at everyone, I hand out baked goods I've made as a way of introducing myself ("Oh...that's so...cute..." Gimme me back my cookie bitch!) and I talk to the dogs (because it's a dog-friendly office) as if they are people (Because, to me they are.)

Stella, my furry soul sister

The adultiest adults I see are usually the ones who are flaunting their importance to the world. Which is sad, because only people who feel insecure about who they are need to rub other people's faces in the external metrics of their worth.


They, like me, have realized that there's no 'adult' feeling that arrives at our doorstep one day. The difference is, they think they're the only ones who feel like this, that everyone else is a legitimate, confident grown-up, and that they have to act the way they do in order to "fake it till you make it."

Dude - we're all faking it. No one feels like an 'adult', ever. We're all winging it, so sit down and shut up.

Where does it say that being an adult means taking life for granted? Because only when we take it for granted can we take it that seriously.  We can't take life so seriously...well seriously enough to participate fully in it, but not so seriously that we forget to willingly make fools of ourselves as we throw ourselves wholeheartedly into the experience of living it.


If we embraced death, then we would realize the humour of life itself. Death is, in a way, the biggest joke of all, because no matter what we do in life, we're all going to die.

That's the best reason I can think of to laugh and enjoy the ride. It's a messy but beautiful, amazing, at times heart-wrenching and soul-shattering ride, but still, this is an awesome journey called LIFE which we all have the privilege of participating in.

WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE.

Doesn't that make everything else seem trivial? Doesn't it make fear ridiculous? Doesn't it provide more incentive to literally stop and smell the roses? To notice things and people, and everything that's happening around us?

Notice life. Look up. Pay attention. Maintain that sense of joy and wonder. Walk through life boldly and fearlessly, the way that a 5-year old confidently walks out the door to conquer the day in a Batman t-shirt.

Don't allow yourself to die with questions left in your heart.

Because it will all be over faster than you know.

IMAGE CREDIT: Quartz



NO ONE WINS IN THE GAME OF LIFE.

Because this isn't a video game; we don't get to earn extra lives. We need to stop living as though we think we can.

One life, this life, that's it.


I want to tell you this now, to shake you up so that you don't have to wait until the Grim Reaper knocks at your door before you realize what you really want out of life.

LIVE FEARLESSLY.

LIVE AS THOUGH YOU'RE GOING TO DIE. Because you are.

Regularly thinking about my own death brings me tremendous peace.

Is that weird?

Maybe.

But any thought which gives me more space in my soul, and which allows me to breathe easier is a thought worth thinking and believing. And regularly reminding myself of my own and other's mortality makes me feel very Zen.

That thought is a constant reminder to recalibrate my priorities, moment to moment. To ask myself - does this matter? Like, really matter? Like, one day I'm going to die, and in that moment, is this what I'm going to want to remember? Usually the answer is a big fat no.

I measure the importance of the things in my life against Death. And with Death as a metric for importance, everything pales in comparison.

I feel as though I can walk taller in the world, knowing and feeling that I am equal to all because we are all unified in this one undeniable truth: WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE.

Though we may be divided in life, we will be united in death.


Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
- Steve Jobs

LOST SOUL MEETING WITH DEATH

Don't live a life that leaves you wishing for more.

Live a life where at the end, you can say "FUCK YEAH! I did it all...twice...with bells on!"

IMAGE CREDIT: Theatre Network

Yeah, you come here, gimme a kiss
Better make it fast or else I'm gonna get pissed
Can't you hear the music's pumpin' hard like I wish you would?
Now push it
Push it good
Push it real good

IMAGE CREDIT: Gareth Southgate, Everything MFC

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