Last night marked the second time in just over a month that I spent a night in the ER with a loved one. As a friend who has had to do this more than I have commented, “it’s a weird combination of exhaustion and adrenaline.” Yes, it is. I feel like I was the one who’d been poked and prodded all night long. And while my body was not, my mind and heart surely were. The statement made upon leaving the hospital, “Well, I sure don’t feel like I need to be spending any more time at work!” continues to linger. Life is short. What active, decisive choices are we making to honor the time we have in this body and on this beautiful earth? 

I have friends who’ve spent days, weeks, months in the hospital with their own injuries or illnesses of family. That hasn’t been my experience. The hospital is a foreign place to me and as with every environment new and unfamiliar, it offered an opportunity to expand the lens through which I see myself and the world. Here are three snippets I gathered, upon which perhaps you’d like to reflect as well.

Where are your boundaries? In the dark of night with nurses and doctors scurrying in and out with all manner of beeping and the accompanying cords and clips and drips, a whole lot of things that mattered a few short hours before completely disappeared. Like many others, I spend the majority of my waking hours working. It’s work that I love: it’s rich, fulfilling and important to me. But I can tell you in that hospital room, there was not one single moment of wishing I’d brought my laptop so I could catch up on email or check in with the outside world on any subject other than the patient on the table. Moments of crisis cleared away what matters in the big picture from what doesn’t matter. It’s not like I’m going to stop working, as that isn’t even a possibility, but those hours of clarity have put a different frame around that slice of my life. I want to hold onto that. I must. 

What do you want to do when you grow up? I think it’s part of human nature to procrastinate. We do it not only with the mundane tasks we need to do, but even with the things we really want to do. I know a few people who are exceptions to this notion, but more often than not, taking the trip, quitting the job, learning the language, signing up for the class are all things that sit on the sideline of work, family, responsibility. If you knew your time was limited (hey, it is!) what would you love to do? To learn? To where do you dream of going? What is your soul shouting for you to do, and can you afford to continue to ignore it? What would be lost versus what could possibly be gained? Are you drowning in a life of “should” instead of claiming the freedom that is your birthright?

How you spend your days is how you spend your life. A longtime student recently shared an exercise with me that I’ve come to love. It’s called the Circle of Life. Please grab a notebook and pen and give this a try. Create a top-12 list of priorities or most important areas of focus (for you, personally) to live a healthy, balanced and full life. Draw a big circle. Draw lines to create 12 slices of “pie” and label each slice with an item from your list. Once per week for the next few months, chart out where you are on the Circle of Life. Think of the center of the pie, where all the lines converge, as “zero” or where you are not spending any time or effort. The outer rim of the circle is “10” or where you are fully engaged with that activity or aspect of life. Then connect the dots. I’ve been living in an ever-shifting Amoeba of Life lately, but I still have hope. The closer you are to a perfect circle, the closer you are living in alignment with your true priorities. I want that fullness with my whole being. 

I wonder sometimes if life’s emergencies are actually divine wake-up calls. We are constantly offered hints, nudges and whispers, but when we ignore them long enough, perhaps drastic measures are required. The part of us that knows desperately wants us to live out a complete expression of the soul blueprint we came into this life carrying. I’ve gone through spells of being closer and further away from embodying that truth, and realize even as I write this that it’s a constant choice. And so I return to the work of aligning life in real time with the contents of my heart. How about you?