Ask Me Anything #10: Staying Positive

This is the last question from the college class, and it’s an important one.

How do you stay positive? Don’t you ever think this is unfair, or ask why me?

I do believe that our attitudes are, to a considerable degree, a choice. I could certainly wallow in self-pity, but that wouldn’t be a very wise use of my remaining time. I’d much rather enjoy every moment I can! I have never thought this was unfair because I already knew that life is not fair. Funny that we never complain of unfairness when it goes the other way! I lived with enormous gratitude before I got sick because I knew I had more than my fair share of blessings in life. So when I got sick, it simply felt like random bad luck. And I still feel grateful for all the other gifts.

There is a lot of sadness in dying. I’ve done lots of crying, though the tears don’t actually last very long. Really, less than a minute a day, on average. (The rest of my time is pretty cheerful!) Those moments of grief or sadness come when I think of having to give up all I love in life, which is a lot, because I love so much of this wonderful world. This is indeed very hard. But I’ve realised I can turn this around, and instead of thinking of giving up all I cherish, I can think of giving it away, or simply giving.

All of life, but the end of life especially, is an opportunity to give, pass on, or share all that we hold dear. This can be material things, like our favourite clothes or collections, a car or money. It can also be our intellectual or creative accomplishments, such as our ideas or research, the songs we recorded or our poems or drawings, a recipe, or the code we wrote or websites we created, maybe even our comments on social media. I had a friend who died recently, and the mission statement she had developed over many years of caring for children was one of her special gifts.

But even more importantly, it can also be our interpersonal gifts, such as our love, enthusiasm, kindness, gratitude, laughter, listening, encouragement, and compassion. These are all the things we can continue to give to others as long as we are able, and that act of giving is an enormous consolation in the face of death. It is the near-magical transformation of loss into gifts. So instead of grief at giving up so much, we have joy in giving these gifts.

That also means that instead of being focused on ourselves and our suffering and loss, we focus on others and engage in an act of generosity. Not only is this a cure for grief, it is also, if practiced throughout life, a way to avoid regret at the end.

About susanbriscoe

English teacher, writer
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7 Responses to Ask Me Anything #10: Staying Positive

  1. Roy Cross says:

    Nailed it. Comme toujours.


  2. janfalls says:

    I so wish everyone would take advantage of your wisdom Susan. Giving away all we cherish, be it material or our interpersonal gifts, as a transformation of loss into gifts, is the best take on what we tend to see as all we give up, that I have heard. You continue to give us the gift of your words, your experience, yourself. A deep bow to you Susan.


  3. curioussteph says:

    Love this. Appreciating the gifts of your life and gifting yourself and stuff to those that matter. A friend of mine died some years ago. Upon receiving his terminal diagnosis, he began contacting his many friends from all over the world. If they were able to come for a brief visit, they were invited. Part of that visit included his gifting them something from his collections, from music, travels, etc. A mask of his graces my partner’s weaving room still. I smile and think of Don whenever I see the mask. A legacy of spirit.


  4. shelleycanada says:

    This is simply beautiful. Thank you Susan


  5. Janet Flynn says:

    You are an amazing gift to the world. Thank you for your messages. They are inspirational.


  6. Linda Santo says:

    I appreciate the natural way you have of expressing and sharing all your thoughts and feelings on this human experience. As far as I know nobody is getting out of this world alive (as my Mom used to say ) so making peace with our limited time here and the purpose of our journey seems like a very wise decision. It is just amazing how so many of us overlook this reality. Thank you Susan for reminding us. Your courage to speak up gives us all a chance to learn about possibilities.


  7. it’s good to let yourself cry, and then get back to living. crying let’s me release the sadness, so i can fill that space with joy.


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