Thursday, November 17, 2011

Six Months To Live

 Doing what I do in my day job (school psychologist) I have, utilize, and read about numerous "therapy tools." So the other day, I was seeing a kid for the first time and one tool I like to use is a game that is like Jenga but this version has question cards that go with it. The idea is that every time someone pulls a block of a certain color, the other person asks a question from a card with the corresponding color. The kids get to ask me questions too, and thus, get to know some things about me in the process.

So yesterday, this question came into my life:

"If you found out you only had six months to live, what would you do with the time you had left?"

And, without missing a beat, my answer was, "I'd spend every available minute with my kids."

I found it interesting that the 5th grader who asked me the question smiled at my answer and nodded sagely--of course this is what I would do.

And so, I don't think that my answer was particularly enlightening. I mean, I think most parents with young children would answer similarly. But, for the first time in a long time, this question did have an enlightening effect on me. It stirred in me that all too rare phenomenon of getting outside your own life and viewing yourself from a distance. Evaluating the choices you make everyday with the objective eye of stranger.

Later, driving home, the question was still in my mind. Six months? And the truth was that, as much as I love my day job, I would quit it. I would, tomorrow morning, self publish my book and spend every second I wasn't with my kids finishing the series. Don't get me wrong, I want traditional publishing. But remember hypothetical death is knocking on my door, even if I sign a contract tomorrow I'm not going to see a galley of my book inside of six months! Needless to say, I found the sudden and swift change in my priorities interesting. 

Are you living the life you want?
Are you living the life you want everyday?

Because, the fact of the matter is, I might live for another sixty years, sixty months, sixty days, or sixty seconds.

What am I doing, or not doing, about living my life like I'm dying.

What would you do, or stop doing, if you found out you only had six months to live?

*also, for anyone who may be concerned, had I pulled this question to ask a 5th grader I would have asked a different question. But they get to ask me anything.*

*also, no, I'm not dying. Well, not any more than any of us are everyday.*


  1. What a great post. When I read the title, I thought maybe it was the title of a book. This is so much better.

    I have thought about this and I'd do exactly the same thing: quit my job, spend as much time with my children and husband and write! :)

  2. Powerful post and a lot to think about. I try and live my life like that but I think inevitably it's just about impossible to answer that question. But yes, spend time with my family.

  3. Wow, I was JUST thinking about this the other day, after the tick bite. While my bite wasn't infected, I've known too many people who've had their lives disintegrated by Lyme Disease, and so it got me thinking about priorities and what I would do if I got a disease that I knew would take me out in a matter of months.

    My answer was the same as yours - forget all the other things that seem of great importance and just soak in every moment with my family. Sometimes it's good to have that moment to step back and re-think what's really important.

  4. this is one of those posts that make me smile... what would you do if you only had a day, week, month, year to live...:) its great to focus on mindful things. very nice here.....

  5. Wow, that's an awesome thing to consider. It's actually why I'm considering self-publishing. I'm old to get started with this writing thing, and my mortality weighs heavily on me. For example, a year ago my boss--who was nearly 3 years my junior--died suddenly of a heart attack. As I prepared to face a possibly treacherous drive to Wyoming during a terrible storm for my uncle's funeral (missed it because the weather was too bad to go), the thing that came to my mind was to ask my kids to make sure my book got put online.

    My children are all grown, and I spend as much time as I can with them and their children. But my writing has become my passion now.