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Arkady Grudzinsky

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If this were the last day of your life, how would you spend it?

It just occurred to me today that finishing my most urgent project at work wouldn't be on my to do list. I would love to read some thoughts or stories.

...After reading some responses, it seems that most people would do what they always wanted to do and take care of things that they value most. But why wouldn't we do these things in the first place, regardless of how long we have left? I don't mean it as a rhetorical question - it would be interesting to read some thoughts.

Topics: Values
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Closing Statement from Arkady Grudzinsky

I'd like to thank everyone who participated in this conversation. Lots of interesting thoughts and perspectives.

Perhaps, most notable conclusions:

1. At the end, we focus on what matters most for us, and for most people it's people we love - most people would spend time with family, friends, write letters, etc.

2. It should not matter whether we live the last day of our life or not. Perhaps, we should just do what we do any other day, like having a cup of nice tea, and enjoy the moment.

It's hard to summarize everything that was said here - worth reading.

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    Jan 22 2013: I think this question is profoundly interesting because these ARE the last days of your life, you just do not, or cannot determine the exact amount of time you have left.

    I have a friend who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He is not a young man, in fact it could be said, he has lived most of his natural life anyway. Yet, just the mere fact that he has been given a loose parameter of time wherein his death might fall, has changed the quality of life he lives each day. He may in fact have had the same amount of time without the prostrate tumour, he was morbidly overweight and high blood pressure.

    Yet the fact that he has been given a final date, itself has changed something in him. He now lives each moment to its fullest in complete joy. He does things everyday he may have been too lazy or disinterested to try before the diagnosis. In fact he lives now as we all should live, as if each breath we take is an eternal gift. The irony is, we often need an outside influence to put us into this perspective of happiness, and are often not able to find it ourselves. Why is that?
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      Jan 22 2013: Good point Joanne,
      We may never really know for sure how much time we have left here in the earth school.

      When volunteering in a terminal care facility, I often saw people who were given a certain amount of time to live, and sometimes, the projected timing was close to accurate....sometimes not. The extreme case that I remember, is a person who had an inoperable brain tumor, and was given 3-4 months to live. He lived for OVER 3 years!

      I think of every day as the possible LAST day of my life, and also, the FIRST day of the rest of my life:>)

      You insightfully recognize that we often need reminders. Could it be because on some level we think/feel we are imortal? Could be we are afraid to contemplate the end of life? Afraid of death? If we very seriously contemplate death, it often changes the way we live life. Are folks afraid of change? Probably many different reasons?
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      Jan 22 2013: This question is interesting to me in a larger context - how certainty or uncertainty affect our behavior. This question is at the core of many other issues of our society - economy, politics, security, religion. Certainty and uncertainty are fundamental to our existence. Both are related to our power and ability to change world around us. Examples are countless: Heisenberg principle, free will vs. determinism, omniscience vs. omnipotence, free market vs. socialism, planned economy, and social security, democracy vs. dictatorship. Evolution would be impossible without uncertainty (random mutations) or without certainty (ability of matter to reproduce itself in a predictable way). Etc. I'm getting too deep, thought...
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        Jan 23 2013: Thanks Colleen and Sean. Arkady, I think my story reflects a human paradigm around life and death that does play into the wider context you mention. Since we began to compete, to plan, to cherish gain, to count, we have become transfixed by these acquired skills to the extent we are governed by them. We do not live in the present anymore as do other creatures and still some humans. Within the struggle paradigm, the 'living in the future' framework, we fear death, we fight it and therefore succumb to being perpetually miserable as we struggle against something that is inevitable anyway. From this fear, all our social systems are born. Only as we each learn to be totally free within ourselves, will society begin to change.
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          Jan 23 2013: I'd say, people fear uncertainty most of all. E.g., some people are afraid of the dark. There is no difference between a dark room and a room with light. The only difference is that darkness introduces the "unknown" which is filled in with our imagination. Perhaps, people fear not the death itself which is certain, but the uncertainty of when and how it is going to come and what, if anything, comes after.
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          Jan 23 2013: Congrats Joanne. A nice way to explain it.
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      Jan 22 2013: Joanne, I agree with you. And I'd like to extend your idea: We should enjoy as a wonderful gift every good thing which happens to us. A good or nice dream; a wonderful breakfast; a gorgeous sky night; the glance or the smile of a baby; an hour spent in quiet and silence... and all this things. And the question is: Why we forget to do it so, and why we don't appreciate that kind of gifts? Why do we think this events are dued to us?
      Greets.
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      Jan 23 2013: Wonderful! Thanks for sharing this. I found life again at the doorstep of death and eversince try to live to the fullest as much as I can. If only we can learn from others and such expereinces and make ammendments today.

      I ask people to write a letter to those who matter to you most as though today was your last day. I believe it helps people refocus and allign thier life to what is most important to them and live a more fulfilling life.
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    Jan 27 2013: Arkady,

    I am one of the worlds luckiest people. Ten years ago I won the life lottery, I was diagnosed with stage 4 Head/Neck cancer. When you spend the better part of two years not knowing if this is your last day or not, you develop an entire different prospective on life.

    I live everyday as if it may be my last because it may be. If not cancer then just life itself.

    Don't be afraid of death, it will come for everyone. Don't waste time worrying about death, spend your time enjoying life.
  • Jan 22 2013: I'll just have a day of feast with family and friends.
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      Jan 21 2013: This is a very humble reply. I appreciate it greatly.

      But still, don't you think that we need to "leave a mark upon the Earth" of some sort? "Leave the camp ground better than we have found it?" Leave good memories? I'd say, spending the day with family and friends could serve this purpose.
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          Jan 22 2013: Well, if you have passion for tea or Zen, your answer makes perfect sense.

          ...Passion for Zen... Hmm... Something to meditate on. Thanks :-)
  • Jan 20 2013: I would walk the earth as far as I could and as long as I could to view this beautiful and, sometimes, cruel life one last day...

    I would dress myself neat and tidy before the time came for my depart...

    I would sing, cry, laugh, love, and live for this one last time...

    And I would write a few words to say my farewells... to all and every...

    I would find a corner to warm my heart before it turned cold for an eternity...

    When I closed my eyes I would whisper my best wishes to every living... wishing them loving lives of lasting happiness...

    For my self, I would wish my passing were with fearless ataraxia and forgiven quietude...

    Bearing a simple smile.. I left...
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      Jan 21 2013: hmmmmmm,a poet ,your,are....thanks for the great piece of work..it felt like I was there...
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      Jan 22 2013: I miss you already dear kindred spirit!
      • Jan 22 2013: Thank you, Juliette. For reminding me of how wonderful it feels to be missed and to miss someone (yes missing someone can be wonderful too). I can only imagine how much you will be missed (hundreds of years from now) with such a big heart. You can count on me as one of those that will miss you too even if all we know about each other are our names. Hope today is a bright day for you, kindred friend.
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      Jan 22 2013: Beautiful Simon....it feels very peaceful, and I especially like the part about bearing a smile......YES!
      • Jan 22 2013: Thank you for your kind words Colleen. It is such a great feeling to be heard and understood. I wish you now and always a heart full of peace, so that the fresh pain of losing a loved one can become bearable...

        And this is out of nowhere, but I have to say that you have a very beautiful smile Colleen!
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          Jan 22 2013: Thank you for your kind words as well Simon. "Smiles are contagious...be a carrier":>)

          I was told that after a near fatal head/brain injury, emergency craniotomy, kept alive with life support systems, laying on the bed in ICU, I was smiling and giving visitors a thumbs up....that feels good to know:>)

          My brother, who died 5 days ago, was still smiling and sharing his wonderful humor right to the end of his life. He is at peace, and I am at peace because everything we shared for 60+ years, is still very much a part of who and what we are. I am grateful that we told each other every single time we got together.....I love you....and we demonstrated that as well:>)

          Thank you again for your kind words Simon. Sharing smiles and kind words are very much a part of the life experience for me, and I totally agree that it feels GREAT to be heard and understood.....thank you.....thank you.....thank you.........................
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    Feb 1 2013: I have been noticing the words people use more then I did in before. The use here of the word "spend" is curious, not that it isn't a common usage of the word. Perhaps the question you meant to ask is, "If this were the last day of your life, how would you LIVE it?
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      Feb 1 2013: Language is a weird thing. Literal interpretation is a figure of speech. We have noses that run and feet that smell. We also spend time... How we manage to understand each other - go figure...
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      Feb 1 2013: Theodore and Arkady,
      I like both words...."live" and "spend", and to me, either seems appropriate in this context.

      Spend: "to use up or pay out; expend; to wear out; exhaust; to cause or permit to elapse..."

      If I knew it was the last day of my life, I would probably be both "living" it, and "spending" it.
      For me, it would probably feel like a transition time between living the human life experience, and permitting the body to elapse:>)
  • Jan 30 2013: I think I will carry on doing things I am doing now. I would get up early in the morning and practice martial art for about 1 hours and a half. I would keep at the routine, trying my best feel the fluidity of the move and practice whatever I have not been able to perform yet. For this one last practice, I would try to empty mind, let the strength and the flow envelop and manifest my moves. Of course, I am talking about the ideals, it doesn't mean I would be there even that is the last practice. But I would always try.

    Falling exhausted and tensed after the training, I would have a really good hot-cold alternate shower. Then sharpening my mind up with a good cup of coffee, I would listen to music that I like. While doing that, I would have breakfast with my whole family, smile with them, being relaxed and happy in their presence. After that, in a relaxed and flexible state of mind , I would love to listen to some debates on controversial topic like: How the Universe began? What is the meaning of life? and so forth. I would try to have my own opinion uninfluenced by others on each of this topic. I would spend my time reading a book I like in a cafe with a great view too. If I overhear some interesting discussions, I would try to join them.

    In the afternoon, I would get my soccer team to play for one more time, try to enjoy the connection, the ease in playing and the rhythm of the game. Everyone just needs to do their best and keep the team in their minds.

    In the evening, I would spend my time with my loved ones. Enjoy each other's company. And feel happy and lucky for having someone to share the last day with. :)

    Maybe at some moments, there comes a thought of this is the LAST day, things will be all gone. But I will try let those little moments go and dive in enjoying my last day with all I have.
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      Jan 31 2013: If this is how you spend most of your days, you are truly blessed. I'd like to know how you managed to build your life so that you can spend a few hours in the morning doing martial arts, hot/cold showers, and enjoy a breakfast with your family discussing philosophical matters. My mornings start at 6am and the next few hours are spent in a rat race to prepare breakfasts, school lunch boxes, making sure everyone gets to school on time, then spending most of the day at work trying to figure out which of the "urgent" projects are "the most urgent" while realizing that none of them make any difference for humanity. Then going home, taking one of the kids to a music lesson or a practice of some sort, making sure homeworks are done, bags are ready for the next day, dishes are clean, and trash cans are empty, checking the email and calendar for upcoming events like doctor's appointments, school events or other stuff of global importance, and then having my 6 hours of sleep to repeat the cycle.

      I don't feel like I'm doing anything that would matter on my last day. Essentially, this is the reason I posted this question. It is very possible that each of these things seem minor and insignificant, but at the end, after doing them them every day for many years, they do make a huge difference in someone's life. So, perhaps, I'd better keep doing them and avoid useless questions.
      • Feb 1 2013: Dear Arkady,

        The things I mentioned are in the list of things I would always want to do so I would try to structure my life around it. I am still very young, just graduated from college and no big commitment currently, so it allows me to spend time doing things I really really want to do.

        I am working for a Japanese company now, work will pick up soon, I think there will be less spare time. As for list of things I want to do in my last day, I don't think I could do all of them every single day but few things I know I would not trade for are martial art, reading and time with family and friends. They are things I love and treasure so much. I think they are things in my nature.

        Again please keep in mind that what I described to you is just an ideal day, and since it was supposed to be the last day, I include all the things I want there. Real life is vastly different but I think the matter is the quality of your experience, as long as you love your work, you enjoy doing it, you make the most out of each moment, then I think you have spent your time well.
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          Feb 1 2013: It may be a good idea to write how we would like to spend our last day early in our life and build our life so that we could do it after ten, twenty, or seventy years.
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          Feb 1 2013: Dear Ho Tung Manh and Arkady,
          You both seem to be very insightful, wise young people. It is indeed possible to structure our life around those things that are most important to us at any given time.

          As you say Ho Tung Manh, we may not be able to do everything every single day, and I have found in the life adventure, that my focus goes to different things at different stages. When my kids were little for example, they and my husband were my focus (family), and many other tasks and interests revolved around the family.

          There was a time in my life, I focused on strengthening the body to support a medical condition, which was weakening the body. The kids were getting older and didn't need my total focus as much, I still had other interests, and strengthening the body was a focus.

          Once the body was strengthened to a certain degree, it was a matter of maintaining the strength, the kids were off to college, I was still maintaining a couple businesses and careers, and I focused more on mental/emotional evolution.

          Throughout my life, all of these elements have been very much a part of the life experience, and various elements get priority at different times. And that is how we structure our lives around the things that are important to us.....that is how we mindfully, with awareness "build" our lives:>)

          Any day could be the last, and I was reminded of that fact 23 years ago with a near fatal head injury. I think/feel what is important to the living/dying process, is to know that we are doing the very best we can in any given moment, as we travel through the life adventure. When we get to the end of the line, it feels better NOT to have regrets regarding the life experience:>)
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    Jan 25 2013: Now,I know the feeling of heartshock when you suddenly are told you just have one day left.

    Tears come into my heart-deep-core,especially when i saw the follow saying"My observation while spending time with people who were dying, is that the most regret and sorrow, was because of what they DID NOT do that they WISHED thay had done during the life adventure"
    ,noted by colleen steen.

    For i am sure i 'll be that kind regretful and sorrowful person when i am dying.



    So,i would rightly go home and stay with my mum and dad.

    Take a walk with them on a quiet country lane of my village,

    And that is a long way,Having some heart talking,

    About old days,about sentiment of old days,about my thanks for them.

    Still together till "the time" goes down.



    My parents ,for my better education,did a lot of hard work those years.

    And they never said a complaint character about this,On the contrary,“you needn't sorry about it,we are very happy to do everything for you.It's also our responsibility”they told me.


    And beside,they give me all their love that my poor English couldn't write it out.


    I love my mum and dad and i am grateful for things they did for me.
    • Jan 25 2013: Parents...
      I guess we all are (at least) grateful for their dedication and love as we should be.
      I think we can never pay it back no matter how hard we try...

      Their love it so deep.
      The truth is, still, we don't know it until we really 'know'. People say that usually they realize how much their parents have loved them when they all pass away.

      There's a famous doctor in Korea who keeps saying that we shouldn't be unkind to our parents ‘cause if we were, we would regret it in our entire life when they’re gone. He says expressing our gratitude and love to them is the most important thing we should keep in mind.

      I from time to time think about them, but they almost always think about me.
      I’m concerned about their health when they’re really sick, but they’re worried about me a lot more times than I would’ve expected.

      Send my warm regards to your parents, and let’s take good care of our parents, Frankey.
      Liz
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        Jan 28 2013: Just now,i find my reply for you written on a few days ago is not on your below.
        I may lost my mind at the time.lol
        Did the cunning reply saw you?
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      Jan 28 2013: Dear Frankey, Your English is perfect..and you said all the things I would say...there is a lot more, for which, there are no words in language. Cherish walking with them on the country road now and remember to stop and share the sunset. Or make them take their shoes off and just feel the grass:)
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        Jan 28 2013: Hi Juliette
        Thank you for your inspring both to my English and my love for parents.

        This is enjoyful,walking,talking,Then stoping them on the grass,and letting sushine in.

        Your notes"listen, learn, love, live, create, eat, heal, thank. be myself "would be sure to make you perfect and your life wondering.
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          Jan 29 2013: Dear Frankey,
          Thank you for your kind words.......I wish you every happiness :)
  • Jan 24 2013: I would as usual tell my wife and my children how much l love them.l would also tell my parentts how grateful l am to have them.l would give away tons of stuff to my friends.
  • Jan 23 2013: I would play house with my little sister and give her a big kiss.
    I've been busy doing my work. I couldn't afford spending time with her lately.
    She's been asking me, "Play with me, sister. My dolls are waiting for teas. Would you like to join us?"
    My answer was, "Later, sorry. I'm busy, hon."

    For my last day, I want to "be" with her.
    Not just physically, but with all my heart.

    We might watch Toy story again. lol
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      Jan 24 2013: Dear Elizabeth,
      It appears that your heart is with your little sister all the time......hopefully, you can join her for tea one of these days.

      My brother died last week, a good friend's husband died this week, my neighbor just called me this morning....their daughter died yesterday....

      Don't wait dear Liz, to MAKE the time to spend with those you love.
      Love you,
      Colleen
      • Jan 24 2013: I'm so sorry, Colleen....
        Please accept my sincere condolences.


        Yes, I'll keep that in mind, Colleen.
        I should not wait until the very time comes...

        And for what it's worth, guess what?
        Today, I had one good day with my sister.

        :) She is happy. So am I.

        Love you, too
        Sincerely,
        Liz
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          Jan 24 2013: Thank you Liz, and I LOVE that you spent the day with your little sister:>)

          My observation while spending time with people who were dying, is that the most regret and sorrow, was because of what they DID NOT do that they WISHED thay had done during the life adventure.
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    Jan 21 2013: I'd probably gather a few people that I care deeply around at the mountain up somewhere, snowboard half a day, drink hot wine and discuss the meaning of life with them for the rest of the time. I will not open my laptop, my phone or any form of gadget. Nature and friends, that's about it really.
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      Jan 21 2013: Re: "I will not open my laptop, my phone or any form of gadget."

      What? No Facebook status updates, no Twitter messages, no checking emails, weather forecasts, traffic or news? Not even posting something "meaningful" on TED?

      You just confirmed my point that stuff that we spend entire days on, which seem so urgent, isn't what we really need or love. Thank you very much. Your plan sounds like what I had in mind.
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    Jan 20 2013: I have been here before and the sadest part is that it is more likely that the end comes by surprise and doesnt give you the chance to live your last day as you wish to spend it.

    But for those who become aware of their last day due to a prolonged illness they usually go through a process to accomplish their last wishes and pass the last moments in quiet contemplation and peace.

    I have posted my thoughts from my expereince here: http://despicablewonderfulyou.wordpress.com/2012/10/20/if-i-die-today/

    I found this quote in a hospital: I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again. ~William Penn
  • Jan 22 2013: Years ago this question embraced me. So I did a small thought experiment. We have all had one of those moments where our lives have flashed before our eyes (at Least I hope you have, because I highly recommend it) I sat and imagined one of those events and felt the regrets of things unaccomplished. At that moment I realized that those things must be the things needed to feel do or say.
    This culminated in a set of lyrics in a song that seem to flow very easily from me.

    Care, did you really care
    for me it was always something up ahead
    over the next hill or around the next bend
    always moving just to keep from standing still
    the stream runs dry as time passes by
    I really hate to admit it but all dreams die
    even if you think you can outlive the thought
    that all you've done is listen to my words
    well you have just missed the point
    so I'll try to be clear
    sinking twisting leaning back
    there you seem so relaxed
    shifting lifting arching back
    I see your muscles tensing to react
    I'll remember rhythm rhymes
    sharing lives and passing times
    and never think to question
    was it there I left a care
    all I know is I can swear
    that your dreams can feeling so alone
    So if I had something to tell you
    and you wanted to hear it
    I guess this is it
    if you have something to say
    you damn well better say it
    if you have something to do
    you better work your way through it
    because before you know it's
    "OVER"
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    Jan 22 2013: How would I spend it?
    Hmmm... Writing a goodbye letter to everybody whom I've met or haven't met, hopefully a letter good enough to reach those people and express love, thankfullness, give inspiration, hope and some deep thoughts I've managed to gather in my humble life. Then - positing it through different media. And then - hugging my boyfriend :)
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      Jan 23 2013: Just what I would do and suggested in my reply here below. But if we are not dying today, i still recommend writing this letter which I believe will help reallign our life here on to what is more important to us.
  • Jan 21 2013: Dear Arkady,

    I'm very glad that you have added a second part to your question, as I used to often find myself pondering what you have just asked: Why don't we do it now, our dearest dreams and wishes in our to-dos list? Why wait till there is no more tomorrow to do the things we want most?

    I think for many of us, the promises of tomorrow carry with its blessings heavy weight of boundedness.

    Because living now, for most, is assured by tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and the many tomorrows after that. You mentioned your current most urgent project at work wouldn't be on your list when you thought of that final day. So why are you doing it now if not because of the many tomorrows that will come after this?...

    Many are bound by our affinity with the shackles of tomorrows. We are inclined to be so. It is immanent within us to be so. And it is alright doing that, because very often living itself is making choices and letting go of the other choices we choose not to make.

    It is a funny kind of melancholy when our last day on earth might be, for many, the one and only time we are released from those shackles.

    After all if there is no tomorrow, what else there is to fear for yourself? What else to fear but the regrets of not being able to do what you want most?

    So for now, those dreams that won't survive the thoughts of tomorrows, have to be pushed back, in waiting. Until maybe not the last day of our lives, but until they are strong enough to stand the coming of tomorrows, and strong enough to stand against it.

    Simon
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      Jan 23 2013: Yes. Thank you for this comment. Philosophically speaking, past and future do not exist. Past is no more, and future is not yet. Yet, we are always concerned with these two non-existing categories ignoring what's in front of us now.

      With this in mind, enjoying a cup of tea as Mike Trainor suggests does make a lot of sense.
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    Jan 20 2013: I would call the people I love, tell them I loved them, apologize for anything I've done wrong, encourage them to go on doing good after I pass. In fact, I guess I'd arrange to gather them all to talk, cry, etc. Perhaps I'd spend a little time dancing while I was talking to them, as it feels good to dance.
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    Jan 20 2013: I think it all depends on what you need most? If it is me, I would like to stay with my parents.
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      Jan 20 2013: Dear Kate,
      I wholeheartedly agree..."choosing what to attend to and what to delay is a matter of priorities".

      The day before my brother died, 3 days ago, I was just leaving the house to visit him, when I got a phone call. I could have told the person that I was leaving to visit my dying brother, and he would have understood. However, I sensed urgency from the person on the phone, so I let the conversation evolve. In the back of my mind, I was aware that I have been with my brother a LOT during his challenge with cancer, and I was also aware that he was not lucid anymore most of the time. Who needed my attention more at that moment?

      I chose to listen, and talk with the friend on the phone for 2 hours. When the phone conversation was finished, I called to see how my brother was doing, and was told that he had lots of visitors that afternoon, and he was not conscious.

      I felt good about my choice to be fully present with the person on the phone, and it felt like everything fell into place, as you say Kate:>) I also get approached by total strangers, who share their deepest thoughts and feelings with me.....why? Because I listen and am totally engaged with that person in the moment.
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        Jan 20 2013: Coleen, amazing story. And amazing attitude. I know a person who noticed that people like to share their personal problems with her. Although, she is empathetic and can listen, she believes that often people sometimes use her as an "emotional drain". Often, after listening to other people's complains, she feels emotional stress, often because she perceives her own problems to be greater. So, she doesn't like it much when other people "dump" their problems on her.

        Do you ever think "Why am I having this conversation? Don't I have more important things to attend?"

        The company where I used to work had "10 principles" one of which was "do not suffer fools" meaning "do not support and waste time on small talk at work.

        I would be interested to know what you think about it. Unless, of course, you think that this is not worth discussing which I would totally understand :-).
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          Jan 20 2013: Arkady,
          People cannot "use" us unless we allow that. I don't like it when people "dump" their problems on me either, nor do I simply listen to "complaints". I will talk through challenges with people, and I will not be a "dumping ground".....that is a choice we can all make.

          Example:
          Years ago a person chose me as her "mentor"....wanted to learn something from me...
          We spent quite a lot of time talking, and it was clear from the beginning that she had "scarcity" issues. Her "problem" as she expressed it to me was that she never felt that she had enough....money.....time....things....etc.

          She was physically attractive, stylishly dressed, lived in a lovely well furnished home and was gainfully employed. I asked...have you ever been without clothing? Shelter? Food? Have you ever been without anything that you need? Whenever she complained about her "problem", I asked the same questions over and over again without sympathy. Finally, she told me that I was not the mentor for her. Apparently, she was looking for a "dumping ground" and sympathy for her "distress", which in my perception, she created for herself.

          No. I never think I have more important things to do than what I am doing at that moment. It is very interesting to be open to how a conversation evolves, and I like exploring the possibilities with an open mind and heart. I would not ever try to predict where a conversation is going.

          I can see the logic in a company not wanting to waste time on small talk. The next question is, who is to decide what is, or is not small talk, and what may really be important? That is pretty subjective isn't it?
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        Jan 21 2013: Coleen, I love your story. Ironically, you gave a very close description of the person I was talking about who believes, others use her to "dump emotions". Perhaps, we get this feeling when we exaggerate our own problems.

        Re: "Apparently, she was looking for a "dumping ground" and sympathy for her "distress", which in my perception, she created for herself."

        Apparently. But in her perception, the "problems" are real. And it is this perception that makes them real (remember our conversation on free will?)

        I share your philosophy that we should not exaggerate our problems. There are always people who are in far worse circumstances or go through far greater pain and suffering than we do. But saying that to a person who seeks our sympathy does not seem to help at all! To the other person, it sounds very insensitive, doesn't it? Response I usually get to this kind of philosophy is: "What do I have to do with those 'other' people? My feelings are my feelings. I came to you for sympathy, not to listen to empty philosophy. I am not going to share my feelings with you anymore."

        The book of Job comes to mind. Sometimes, the problems do seem great, but dwelling on them makes them greater yet. You may have avoided being an "emotional dump", but you have not helped this person either, have you? I don't blame you - your response was most logical and natural. But often it is not easy just to walk away from a person who we care about. Is there a recipe how to help a person like this to change perception?

        I hope you don't consider my post insensitive. I realize that you, perhaps, need sympathy now more than anyone else and here I am with my questions on how to show sympathy to others instead of, well, just showing it... So, forgive me if you feel that my question comes at a wrong time. My heart is with you.
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          Jan 21 2013: Absolutely Arkady,
          Whatever we "think" is real, is real for us. Yes, I remember our conversation on free will.

          If there is a challenge in our lives, we have the ability as thinking, feeling, intelligent human beings, to evaluate information and make choices. When an intelligent person stays "stuck" in a challenge, constantly complaining and distressed about the situation, that is a choice s/he is making.

          Sympathy:
          "an association, or relationship between persons wherein whatever affects one similarly affects the other; pity"

          This is probably why your other friend felt exhausted....s/he offered sympathy.

          I offer compassion and empathy....not sympathy. I am not here on this earth school to "help" all those who seek help. I did not "walk away" from anyone....she walked away from me because I was not offering sympathy.

          No, I do not seek sympathy.....ever. Compassion and empathy yes....not sympathy. I understand you my friend, and there is nothing to "forgive" because I have not "blamed" you for anything. My heart is with you as well my friend:>)
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        Jan 21 2013: I never thought of a difference between compassion, empathy, and sympathy. There is a difference between empathy and sympathy. Compassion and sympathy, however, seem to be synonyms. Perhaps, by "compassion and empathy" you mean reflecting feelings as an adult who may have had similar experiences, whereas sympathy means comfort and pity - something little children might seek. Is that right?

        You always manage to teach me something. Thanks.
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          Jan 21 2013: Hi Arkady,
          I always manage to teach you something? I'm learning at the same time my friend:>) Any interaction between people who want to learn and grow, provides that possibility for ALL participants. No two interactions/conversations are the same, so each new conversation offers a new opportunity to see, hear, learn something more. That is the fun of not getting "stuck" in our preconceived ideas:>)

          To me and the dictionary, sympathy has an element of pity ("something to be regretted" - from dictionary again), and also what I wrote above..."association/relationship between persons wherein whatever affects one similarly affects the other".

          In my perception, the feelings of compassion and empathy, allow us to connect with others because of our own similar feelings/experiences (putting ourselves in their shoes and imagining how they might feel), and we are not affected in the same way. In other words, we do not take on the other person's pain. That is the piece that can be exhausting.

          My perception of life, is that every experience is an opportunity to learn and grow, so I do not spend energy with "pity". I do not allow other people's experiences to "similarly affect me", nor do I have "regrets" for myself or others.

          I learned this years ago when volunteering at the woman/childrens shelter. After a day with woman and children who went through unbelievable challenges, I would be exhausted, frustrated, and depleted! I was taking on their pain. I realized that if I wanted to continue to support others in their life challenges, I needed to be able to keep myself healthy and strong, rather than let their experiences drain me emotionally. I could feel their pain because I had shared some of the same experiences, and it was not beneficial for anyone, for me to constantly relive my own challenges.

          Sympathy never means "comfort" to me because it has the element of regret, which I do not perceive to be very useful.
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        Jan 23 2013: Thanks for your comment, Coleen. Very interesting thoughts. I need to think about it.

        I'm not very sensitive by nature. I learned to be sensitive to other people's emotions, because my lack of sensitivity often affected my relationships negatively, and I feel bad to be in conflict with someone. So, I thought of sympathy as a positive trait. For example, in situation you described, I would feel bad if my friend decided that I'm not the person with whom she wants to share her emotions and seek reconciliation of some sort. Perhaps, it comes from some fear of being rejected and some insecurity. From what you say, it appears that I need to rethink this attitude and feel OK with being rejected from time to time. I am usually comfortable with that, but not with the people closest to me.
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          Jan 26 2013: Sorry for the delay in responding Arkady. With 3 deaths in my life in the past week (brother and two friends), I have been distracted.

          For what it's worth, I perceive you to be very sensitive, and I have observed your sensitivity growing, as you participate in these conversations. To me, sensitivity, compassion, empathy begins with really listening, hearing, and interacting with respect to otjher people, as well as being aware in our "self". It is about learning to be fully present on many different levels of understanding, which I observe in you.

          The level of sensitivity we can feel and project often does affect relationships, in many different ways. If you think of sympathy as a positive trait, so be it. I do not think/feel that sympathy, regret, pity is very useful, and I respect it if you do see it as useful. That is another choice we can make for ourselves.

          If a friend does not want to share emotions with me, I do not perceive it as a total rejection of "ME". In the example I gave, it was a choice not to share emotions with me because I was not reacting as she "expected", and therefor not giving her what she wanted, so I totally understand and accept that she would not want to share that with me. I agree with what you say....that there may be a fear of being rejected....insecurity. Many times we give people what we think they want in an effort NOT to feel rejected or insecure?

          When we seperate the rejection of thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions, beliefs, etc., from rejection of the "whole" of ourselves, it leaves us free to be honest with ourselves and others....it does not have to feel like "conflict"......it can feel more like understanding, compassion, empathy in a way that accepts the person and not the idea. Giving someone what we think s/he wants (like pity, regret, sympathy for example), even though we may not agree with it, actually puts us in conflict with ourselves...make any sense?
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        Jan 29 2013: Coleen, thanks again for your reply. It's a sad news that you lost two friends in the past week.

        You got me confused, however. I was about to express my sympathy as, I thought, would be appropriate in these cases, but you say you don't need sympathy.

        Quite honestly, I'm often puzzled about what to say in such cases. Whatever we say, does not help much and would not sound very sincere. Not knowing your brother or your friends, I myself cannot feel truly sad about their loss. Not saying anything, we risk to appear callous. As I remember my own losses, we may seek some advice from people who had these experiences to learn how to deal with them. But it seems to me that your life experience is far greater than mine. I guess, it's for me to thank you for sharing your experience with me.

        But I do feel sad about your losses. That's, perhaps, as much as I can say.
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          Jan 29 2013: Dear Arkady,
          In my humble perception, "sad about your losses" is the PERFECT thing to say:>) Expressing sympathy is always appropriate at the time of a death as well.....sorry I caused confusion....didn't mean too of course.....

          I think expressions of caring DO help those who have lost a loved one, and I appreciate it.
          I attended another funeral this afternoon.....that's about all I can say at the moment.....thank you.
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      . . 100+

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      Jan 27 2013: " To try to understand and especially to clarify it to be sure I'm not misinterpreting. "

      ----Beautifully said Kate!
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        Jan 29 2013: :-) Juliette, I'm sorry... You know for what...
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          . . 100+

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          Jan 29 2013: Hi Arkady, Please forgive me for not having the slightest idea what this is for :)
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    Jan 19 2013: if it were the last day of my life,and I knew..I would fullfill this fantasy of mine,which does not seem to go away,yet does not get any stronger...I have this urge to wash homeless peoples feet(I am not religious)...I have urges to hand out snaks to people coming home tired from work...I want to break dance on the street (which would be really hard,cause I not a breaker)...I have visions of me heating birdnests,finding homes for squirrles,finding an opposable thumb for my friends cat who sits trying to lift things constantly...I want to give all my stuff away to some single mom who struggles with not enough for her and her child..I would like to finally sing outloud(I am tone death) I want to finally dance with all the people at my spiritual dance class,and hug everyone at my drumming circles...It might not be my last day...so I will still work on my list....Its amazing how anxiety,fear of critism,change,and being different hold me back...when I love things that are different
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        Jan 20 2013: I'm out of "thumbs" for you Kate, and I totally agree...Just do it:>)

        I volunteered in a terminal care facility for a couple years, and have spent time with lots of friends and relatives who were dying. One of the most commom regrets, is not doing something when they had the chance. Those who have regrets, have more difficulty with the dying process. Those who feel that they did everything they wanted to do in the life adventure, died more peacefully. My observation is that we die, as we live. It is sometimes disturbing to live with regrets, and it is even MORE disturbing to die with those regrets, because at that point, we KNOW that we could have done something different when we had the chance.
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      Jan 20 2013: You are very sensitive to the needs of others. It is an amazing gift. Heating bird's nests has never occurred to me. Thank you for a wonderful post.
    • Jan 20 2013: I wish i were around to applaud you !!!! :)
  • Feb 1 2013: I would explore the ideas of why the last day of life comes with such a large to do list, why we need such reassurance to take with us to the after life, when all of our questions will be answered on the other side. so i would spend my day in peace, knowing my questions will be answered.
  • Feb 1 2013: OMG i'm still a virgin. I'll go have sex imediately
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    Feb 1 2013: I would tell everyone I ever loved how much they mattered in my life.
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    Jan 31 2013: I would spend it with my loved ones, which I do now also at every opportunity. It cannot be an everyday thing to have them all around me, because one daughter is in school in the San Francisco area, another in Connecticut, and only one child is still home.

    In answer to your question of why in general people do not do every day what they would do on their last day, let me respond by analogy. Perhaps you have a favorite food or a favorite genre of literature. Wouldn't you want to eat, or read, other things as well during your life? If what you would want involves specific other people, they need also to have a chance to do the things they are interested in doing in their lives other than being with you all the time.
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      Feb 1 2013: There is wisdom in your words. Two quotes come to mind: "Seldom set foot in your neighbor's house--too much of you, and he will hate you." -- Proverbs, and "I love my cigar, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while." -- Groucho Marx on his show "You Bet Your Life" to a man who said he had 10 children because "he loved his wife" :-)

      I don't suggest that we do what we love all the time as long as we do that regularly and do not wait until our last day.
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    Gail . 50+

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    Jan 31 2013: It wouldn't really be different. But I am older, so my answer is different from those who are more engaged in things like I was engaged in when I was younger. My priorities have changed. I try to live each day as fully as I can - no matter what life brings. Some days are more successful than others, but the focus remains constant.
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    Jan 30 2013: Just an observation (not surprising, perhaps): it seems, most responses involve spending time with the loved ones. I guess, this is what really matters to most people.

    The company I work for makes semiconductor chips for those devices everyone is crazy about when they are new and forget about them in a couple of months just to get the next one. It's a never-ending chase. Products that seemed exciting 3 years ago are not in production any more. And there is, of course, another "hot", "exciting", and "promising" product in the pipeline. No doubt, it will be forgotten too 3 years from now. I spend, roughly, 1/3 of my life on this stuff...

    When I was in a hospital with my wife when she gave birth to our sons, I envied people who work in the hospital, because what they do, literally, makes a difference between life and death... Weird feeling.
    • Jan 31 2013: I too had a wierd feeling" at a hospital about 7 years ago and it eventually it dawned on me that I had chosen the wrong career path. That I too wanted to have a positive influence during someones struggle with life and death. I eventually gave up my job in Computers to pursue a medical degree.

      So my suggestion to you is to dig deeper into this Weired feeling and to explore what it could mean, it could just be your subconscious giving you hints.

      by the way, i would suggest a book to you, "What should I do with my life" by Po Bronson.
    • Feb 1 2013: Yes, in some fields, products are forgotten faster than in others. But does that mean that short-lived things have no place in our lives? Maybe I used one of your products, who knows! And I built something that was useful to someone for some period of time. I got paid for it, and so did you. In any case, practically all products have their own lifetimes. I bet, even the Eiffel Tower would, one day, have outlived its usefulness, and it will come down.

      Even a cook can look at each burger he made, and say, "with this, I fill one person's stomach". So, why can't you? If no one found the work you do useful, you wouldn't have been paid for it.
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        Feb 1 2013: It's an interesting topic for another conversation - how people look at their occupations and what brings them satisfaction in their job. I can see how filling stomachs or arranging flowers can be a satisfying job.

        Here is an interesting video about "what motivates us": http://youtu.be/u6XAPnuFjJc. The speaker says that money work only for physical jobs. People who use creativity and cognitive skills, actually, perform worse when promised large material rewards. They are more motivated by recognition and perfection of their skills.

        As for me, the longer people use something I made, the more satisfying it is to me. In a company I left 6 years ago, I wrote a program for data analysis. I was very surprised to find out recently that people still use it. It amazes me how much hard work and brains go into integrated circuits compared to how cheap they are and how short they are used. Compare this to a paper clip, a zipper, or a light bulb.
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        Feb 1 2013: John and Arkady,
        The question that pops into my mind, based on your comments is...are we doing the work only for someone else? Or are we also enjoying the experience? I agree Arkady...interesting topic for another discussion....how do we perceive our work? I think it is also very relevant to this topic.

        I love what you wrote John..."Even a cook can look at each burger he made, and say, "with this, I fill one person's stomach". "

        How do we move through each and every day of the life experience? I find that enjoying the adventure is very important....for me anyway! I always call my life adventures work/play because I truely enjoy every aspect of it....even the challenges:>)

        I look at everything and everyone as if it is the very first time....with the curiosity of a child. So, yes...that burger I make is filling a person's stomach. The dishes I wash reminds me that I have food....the laundry I do reminds me that I have cloths and a wonderful machine to wash those cloths. I LOVE taking laundry off the line when it has been drying in the fresh breeze and sun....I still notice it, smell it and LOVE it after thousands of times doing the same task. Every single day I walk in the gardens, I realize the wonder and magic of what the gardens produce.....food....beauty....joy....exercize....the wonderful sounds and sights of everything that is happening in the gardens.

        The "jobs" and careers I've had have been VERY educational, and I am grateful for that.....I am grateful that I've been willing and able to really "notice" everyone and everything that has contributed to my life adventure.....grateful every time someone cooks me a hamburger. I take NOTHING for granted, and that is what makes a HUGE difference in the life adventure...in my humble perception and experience:>)
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    Jan 29 2013: I would probably spend it visiting or calling as many of my friends as I knew so they wouldn't feel bad about not being able to say goodbye. I would tell them that life goes on and not to worry about me. I have already done many of the things that I wanted within my means, so I would prepare some of my belongings as to who they should go to.

    And then I would spend time in full defiance that my life should end. I'm not dead until I'm dead so I am going to live my life until I can't live no more.

    My father was diagnosed with bone cancer 18 years ago. The doctor told him he had six months to live. He outlived that deadline by 4 1/2 years. In that time, he prepared his home so that it would be in the best of shape for my mother. He lived his life for those he loved, and that is the way I try to live my life. Since his death, I have been my mother's keeper. I call her everyday and make sure that she has no worries. I don't believe that this is all there is to life. But I do believe that we need to do the best we can with the life we have.
  • Jan 29 2013: I have honestly no idea, but it would involve something like this...

    Having a good long breakfast with my family, then playing some board games with my close friends.
    Later i would go to a local orphanage and pick a child there and donate money for his/her education until university level (if i can afford it).
    In the evening I would have a good cup of coffee and write a letter to my self 16 year old self.
    after that I would pray and ask for forgiveness and say thanks for all my blessing.
    then I would be ready.......

    Even in the mids of life, we are in death. It is the price we pay for choosing life. I can only hope that my time here was spend productively with my passions and the people i care for.
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    Jan 26 2013: I would have a few coffees, get into my running gear + iPod with the Goldberg Variations played by Glenn Gould on the loop, go out and run run run run run run run run....
    • Feb 1 2013: Oh no... Glenn Gould!! I prefer Ralph Kirkpatrick or Scott Ross, myself :-)
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    Jan 25 2013: Liz,You are quite right,we can never pay their so deep love back no matter how hard we try,and no matter how advanced techonology will make.

    Luckly,we are people who have realized how deeply our parents have loved us when they are living.
    We would not regret in our entire life.We would express our gratitude and love for them.

    Thank you for your regards.
    Our parents is great,thier love is great.

    Also send my warm regards to your parents.

    We should take good care of our parents.

    Wish our parents have a good health.

    :)the time is 22:47.
    Good night,our parents.
    Good night,Liz.


    Frankey
    • Jan 28 2013: Thank you, Frankey :)
      I hadn't read the thread before you mentioned you'd replied.

      They must be proud of you...
      Give my best regards to them

      Liz
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        Jan 28 2013: Hi Liz
        lol.
        I didn't reply on other's below about three times.
        I should be more familer of TED,also a friend.
  • Jan 25 2013: At first I thought I wouldn't do anything differently and seek happiness moment by moment. Then I thought about it.

    When I die, society loses the contents of my mind. It would be to their enduring benefit to offer them my best thoughts before I go.

    That probably wouldn't happen, though. For the same reason that I don't work on that in the first place. Low self-esteem. I don't feel competent that my ideas are valuable or that I possess the skills to pass them on at all. So I try to forget about it and live comfortably. It sort of works.

    Death means no consequences the next day. So no consequences of trying to do something you can't do and failing. This gives people extra confidence. That's why they start thinking of acting on their values then instead of everyday.
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      Jan 25 2013: hi..join the low self esteem club,of which I am a life time member..and yet if you use logic you can wiggle your way out of this pit..whats keeping you there is an unrecognized relationship with perfectionism..which if you really thought about it, should everone be perfect? your not in agreement with..therefore you have ACCIDENTLY HUNG YOURSELF WITH A BELEIEF you really dont subscribe to. Or why should you be perfect ,when no one else has to be...therefore self persection is not in agreement with your beleifs..you must withdraw your lifeitime sentence ..or face hypocrasy charges for treating people(you) unfairly.This works for me...the harshness in the method is just to pry myself away from a behaviour which I meekly felt hurt no one but me..so I allowed it..but Im not o.k. with hypocrasy..so it became essential I change...I pray this is useful and am sorry if it is not
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      Jan 27 2013: Re: " I don't feel competent that my ideas are valuable or that I possess the skills to pass them on at all."

      I don't think, we need to have any ideas or skills to make, sometimes, profound impact on each other's life. Just being ourselves is sufficient. Here is a video that illustrates this thought:

      http://www.ted.com/talks/drew_dudley_everyday_leadership.html

      And here is an interesting quote I found (source unknown): “You must love yourself before you love another. By accepting yourself and fully being what you are, your simple presence can make others happy.”
      • Jan 27 2013: then why does it matter if it's the last day of my life?
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          Jan 27 2013: I guess, you answer your question in your last paragraph. Perhaps, this thought helps us to be ourselves.