For the last two years, I have been exploring my relationship with death. Like many people, my relationship was fear-based. I was terrified of leaving my family behind. So, as I do with pretty much anything that is rooted in fear for me, I began to explore it. I meditated on it and even visualized my own human vessel decaying as my spirit floated away. I felt nothing but gratitude towards the body that cradled me in this lifetime.
Then mid last year, my grandma became increasingly ill and she slowly began dying. Every day I saw one of the strongest women I knew, an absolute fearless badass adventurer of a woman, shrivel into someone who could barely open her eyes. It was scary. Just like everyone else, my grandma was not perfect but one thing I admired about her was how determined she was to juice this life. Until her early 90s, she swam miles every day, she navigated the train all around town to explore different parts of the city, she took classes at a local university so she could keep her brain sharp (her brain was sharp).
One day I sat with her and asked her if she had any regrets about this lifetime. She replied,
“If could have changed my life partner I would have but the society we lived in kept me in fear of leaving.”
A quick background: my grandma, like most women, was taught by her religion (Catholic) and her society, to value her man above all else. To ignore her needs despite how she felt. To stick with her man regardless of what he did.
After admitting her regret she looked me square in the eyes and told me,
“Valentina, don’t you dare settle. Ever. Not for a man, not for a life that doesn't completely fill you up. Not for anyone. Do not ever abandon yourself."
In front of me was a woman who was braver than most humans I knew and who had an absolute love affair with life. A woman who was approaching her deathbed while being completely aware that there was more she could have gotten out of her life but instead allowed fear to get in her way.
Around this time I was also going through one of the hardest times of my life. Facing multiple earthquakes at once. Life was throwing me so many heavy curveballs that I was left with no choice but to surrender. On one particularly dark night, I sat and thought about my grandma’s advice. Then I immediately fell into a daydream: I saw myself on my deathbed surrounded by my family. I was reflecting my life back to them, just as my grandma had with me. In one scenario I said,
“I had a good life. It was stable. It was safe. Life was good to me, my partner was good to me.”
As I was saying this to my family I could feel the sadness in my heart. A longing. A deep regret that I was moments away from leaving this human life with the conscious realization that I allowed fear to hold me back. I settled for comfort. I settled for safe. I ignored my needs and desires, and I settled.
I literally shuttered at this scenario. It made my body contract. Then scenario number 2 came flooding in. In this scene, I was around my family and this time the room felt brighter. The energy felt lighter. My eyes looked more alive. I said,
“I juiced every last drop out of this life. Every. Last. Drop. It was a beautiful ride. I did it all. I adventured. I was fearless. I had a partner who saw me, who flew with me. I lived.” As I was saying this, I felt excited. I felt on fire. I felt alive.
In that moment I could feel my spirit loud and clear, “scenario number 2 or nothing at all.”
My relationship with death has completely altered. I no longer think of the stereotypical end of life scene as the day I die. To me, scenario number 1 is death. To me, as long as I am walking this path allowing nothing by my spirit to lead, every single day, I am alive. As long as I never ever abandon myself I am alive. When my spirit sends me signals that I need to wipe away the fear fog, and I listen, I am alive.
Death happens every time we abandon ourselves. I am not scared to leave my body once and for all. I am scared to abandon this absolute gift of a life while I am still here. I am scared of remaining in the same place for fear of the unknown. I am scared of not juicing this life for absolutely everything it is worth.
A lot of us know when we are settling. We feel it in our gut. We feel that little nagging jab telling us that there has to be more. That this current moment isn’t it. But we ignore it because what is known and certain can be seductive for many us and what is unknown feels too scary to face.
The universe sent me many calls in 2020 and I finally decided that not answering was more painful than feeling safe. So I answered. I faced the scary unknowns and my life opened all the way up.