What would you do if you found out that you had one year, one month or one week to live? I came dangerously close to the sobering reality of my own mortality this past week and learned an important lesson about my time here on earth.
In One Week, Joshua Jackson plays a young, newly engaged English teacher diagnosed with stage IV cancer. Unwilling to become a patient, he sets out for one last adventure on a motorcycle from Toronto to Tofino.
This question is less abstract and theoretical than you might think. One thousand people lose their lives every day in Canada alone. Many of those people awoke this morning unaware that they are living the last day of the last week of their lives. One day, it will be you.
Living–really living–may be the only solution to that depressing problem. It's easy to get buried in the daily drudge. Any of us can design and execute the best week ever at any time. I don't think there is any real magic to this. It just takes awareness of our unique set of preferences and a way we like to move through the world. Then we stay open for the opportunity and pounce when it comes.
I turned 54 this past week. Today I have been alive for 19,280 days. That's 2755 weeks. Of all those weeks, the seven days I just had were maybe the best seven out of the whole lot.
Tania and I are very clear in our vision for a life of adventure. On Saturday we went for a sunny fat bike ride with our riding group. Sunday we went for a hot chocolate and a matinee (I was one of three dudes in the latest Fifty Shades movie). Monday I climbed the most interesting frozen waterfall I've ever climbed: a sassy collection of icicles and mushrooms up an overhanging groove. Tuesday was my birthday. I sat in a cabin by the fire all day writing the third book in my blindspotting series, went for a massage and then had fois gras and my favorite champagne for dinner (and chocolate for dessert of course). Wednesday we skied down perfect double black gulleys and five years of lessons suddenly decided to click in. Thursday we went back country skiing in silky powder in an old burn near Floe lake. Friday I delivered five of my best coaching sessions ever with a slate of cool clients working on cool challenges.
That's a great week and I'd like more of them before I shuffle off this mortal coil, but I almost ruined the week over something silly.
I was upset after my last of three runs down perfect powder (contemplate that sentence for a moment). I haven't had much practice in powder and was having difficulty getting the technique the guide was trying to teach me. Typical first world problem. I was dropping into a morose and moody funk. On the way out we ran into another skier who had gotten separated from his partner a few gulleys over and had not seen him for over three hours. His partner, in his early sixties, had spent his final moments on earth alone, cold and suffocating upside down in a tree well.
I regained my perspective and feel embarrassed for my own pettiness and sad for a man I never met. Maybe he had the most epic powder run of his life. Maybe he had the best week of his life. I'll never know. And I don't know how many days or weeks I have left. Neither do you. I am gravely aware of the impending finality of my existence. At my age it is quite possible that the opportunities I have left to live the best weeks ever are dwindling.
Or maybe not. Maybe as we get older and get to know ourselves better, there is less time but more self-awareness. Maybe that's the key. I'm thinking about my day and my coming week right now.
The best things in life turn out not to be things at all but moments shared with the people we love. If you have something to do, get on with it. One day you will wake up to your last day on earth.