Famous Last Words

I had an interesting dream one night last month.  It came right after  I fell asleep.  I dreamed I was on a phone call to someone who wasn’t a family member or friend when suddenly I heard a strange noise and the room darkened.  I shifted to look out the window while still chatting and saw a huge meteor hurtling right toward my home.  As I dove for cover, fully realizing that this action would do me no good at all, I screamed “I love you!” to whomever I was speaking. In the briefest of instants, I recognized that those words in the context of our relationship wasn’t usually appropriate or fitting but I also knew that they would figure out that I had wanted those to be  my last words.

When I woke up, I immediately thought of one survivor of the Paris nightclub attack last year.  In an interview she said that as she lay on the floor, injured and playing dead in hopes the attackers wouldn’t notice and then kill her, she thought of all her loved ones and thought “I love you” to each of them.  She said she didn’t want her last thoughts to be ones of terror or anger but of love.  That is some amazing fortitude and presence of mind in the midst of complete terror and the belief that she wouldn’t survive.  Perhaps, despite it being months since I heard that interview, she inspired my dream.  She certainly inspires me in waking life!

In my dream and in this survivor’s reality, we threw positivity into the world in what we deemed would be our final acts.  This is so different from what I always feared would be my final words (“OH S###!!!”) in a sudden and scary situation like that.  It made me consider whether it might behoove me to start living as though every word could be my last.  I would love to be a person who remembers to love in the midst of fear and negativity.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the negativity of our world right now.  Things seem so crazy that a rogue meteor heading right toward you doesn’t seem all that far-fetched.  So how do we stay positive, how do we remember to be kind to others, and how do we practice self-compassion at all times but especially when we fail in these other two tasks?  It’s certainly a challenge to stay positive and the current political culture (in our country and others), media coverage of all things alarming, and the disrespectful behavior that anonymity makes so easy in social media make it even harder to stay sensitive to ourselves and others.

In Buddhism there is something called “Right Speech”, which refers to  being kind and truthful and careful in what you say and how you say it.  Being cruel or careless in what we say (or write, or post) can cut as deeply as a knife.  We see this all the time in bullies of all ages, in taunting and often anonymous on line posts that encourage our sensitive kids towards the unspeakable.  One thoughtless comment can last forever in someone’s mind and permanently change how they think about themselves ~ even if  the comment wasn’t intended to be mean!  Words are so powerful!  But positive words have power, too.

Going back to my last blog (about complaining!), sometimes what we say isn’t directed to anyone in particular but just releases negativity into our conversations.  While I’m all for venting when necessary (Just ask my sisters!  They’ll tell you!), sometimes depression, anxiety, or habit will make a negative comment or interpretation our first go-to in any situation.  Let’s face it, there’s a lot wrong with the world and we all have bad days.  Stepping back from the first grumbly response that comes to our heads when someone asks how we’re doing takes mindful practice.  We need to be ready to be responsible for our own right speech and ready to put a positivity into the world when we are able.

Sometimes all the negativity quietly spins within the confines of our own heads.  With many of my clients, we need to quiet the internalized critical voices.  I don’t refer here to paranoia but to paralyzing and behavior altering self-critical thoughts.  Usually these criticisms originated from some external situation or source from our pasts but they keep a choke-hold on us over time.  It’s hard to be positive when constantly battling our inner critic,  alarmist, or pessimist!

On occasion, clients and friends confide in me their regrets about what they last said to someone, not knowing that would be their last interaction.  This is a really difficult way to learn about watching our words when speaking to one another.  The loss of a friend or loved one is hard enough but more so when we feel badly about our last conversation with them.

I’m posing a challenge to all of us to be put more positivity into our conversations.  I’m suggesting we express encouragement, compliments, appreciation, positive feedback, and love.  Perhaps our combined efforts will help to slow and turn back the current negative cycle that many of us feel we are living in right now.  Is that too optimistic for our last week in a nasty election cycle?  I don’t think so.  Let me know how you’re doing and perhaps you’ll consider a buddy system in this challenge.  It might help keep you on track.  Let’s see if we can start a cascade of change if we all speak as if these will be our famous last words.

If you are having difficulty seeing your way towards anything positive, give me a call and let’s see if we can work together to understand why.  Then we can talk about how to live your life in a fulfilling way that helps you put a more positive self out into the world.