Stop being dead and live again

 

The man stood on the bridge intent on killing himself. His life was in tatters. His business owed a debt it couldn’t repay and was tanking fast. He had just blown up at his family. He was in an existential mid-life crisis. He looked over his life; his mundane, disappointing life, and didn’t like what he saw. Not one bit. It was the end of the line. The man was desperate.

He jumped. He suddenly found himself in the netherworld between life and death, miraculously able to see what life would be like if he didn’t exist. It was a unique predicament. As he wandered through the scenes of his life, the people and places that meant so much to him, he was confronted with a deep sense of awe. Life without him in it, he discovered, had profound repercussions. He realized, in ways he couldn’t explain, that he completely missed the wonder of his everyday, ordinary life, right there in front of his nose all the time.

He suddenly became very desperate for life, his former life; his ordinary, harsh, and magnificent life.

The man made his way to the edges of his deathly existence and found himself on the bridge once again. This time was different. He wanted to live and not die. Like a geyser that erupts under pressure, the man desperately prayed to live again. “I want to live again” he desperately implored. “I want to live again”.

That plot line from the perennial holiday classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, speaks volumes about the story of our life as it unfolds, with plot twists both harsh and rewarding. Life can be so damn difficult that we can miss the magic of our ordinary lives.

I’ll be completely honest with you. This is a tough year for me. I turn 50. Well over half of my life is done. There’s a whole lot of life behind me. In addition, my oldest child, my son, graduates from high school. He will leave our home this year to begin the adventure of college. His regular presence is leaving our family after 18 years under our tutelage. I won’t lie. I’m going to miss him tons and it’s going to hurt like hell having him gone.

My battle with bipolar disorder has zapped much enjoyment and full engagement from the youthful years of my life. I loath it’s companionship. I spent most of my time protecting my heart from stress and strain for fear they would lead to the terror of bone jarring depression. The kind that hits you in the stomach with a fist that hurts so deeply you bleed despair. Let me tell you, you do not want to go there. So I stayed above the fray of life by being benign. That will keep me safe.

My career has never really taken off. I’m a very good public speaker, yet I’ve rarely used that gift consistently over the last 50 years. Since speaking before an audience is a vulnerable act, I wonder if I’ve avoided even that to keep depression from triggering its pain. I just don’t know. Maybe.

I want to live again.

I want to feel giddy holding hands with my wife. I want to “date” my daughters while they are still at home. I want to speak and impact lives. I want to live with exuberance and gratitude every day that comes my way. I no longer want to protect my heart with impenetrable armor. I want to be vulnerable. I want to deepen my faith in God. I want to be the best friend I can possibly be. I want to eat more ice cream.

You may have lost someone very close to you to cancer. You might have been laid off from a job you thought would last forever. Maybe you struggle with an invisible disability that’s drained a lot of your resolve. You might be turning 50 and regret much of your life. If your marriage is in deep trouble, it can live again. Are you starting a new career?  You can live again in it. You can live again no matter what. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, your life can emerge with a beauty and wonder you can’t imagine.

I want to humbly ask you to join me as I live again. I want you to live again to. Please pass this blog on to others. In it I’m going to begin exploring what living again is all about; how to live again in your family; how to live again in your job; how to live again with your family; heck, even how to live again laughing so hard milk comes out your nose.

I’m not sure where my explorations will take me, but I can guarantee you one thing- it won’t be dead any longer.

What are some ways you found to live again?

Posted in adaptation, Change, courage, depression, Depth, despair, Friendship, Future, Hope, love, Meaning, Mental Wellness, Religion, resilience, self-reflection, Speaking, spirituality, Story, success, the present, tough times
One comment on “Stop being dead and live again
  1. Joel says:

    Jeff, I’ll be cheering you on! Live boldly.
    I would add that I can relate to the desire, and that when I confront all of life’s possibilities and feel overwhelmed, my first stop is to rely on God’s grace and reconnect with my Savior. Everything else seems to fall into place after that initial step.

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Jeff Vankooten is a speaker and author focusing on the power of resilience to effectively engage the challenges of change. He helps leaders, businesses, and organizations develop the skills necessary to thrive in an increasingly unpredictable business environment.
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