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Not dying can change your life

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In my youth, I drove my very first car off a cliff after the brakes went kablooey. I sailed 30 feet in the air, landing nose-down. I could easily have died.

One New Year's Eve, a friend and I decided that it would be a good idea to drink a gallon of cheap scotch in one sitting. I hadn't yet heard of alcohol poisoning. I could easily have died.

About 10 years ago, my small intestine exploded. The doctors told me that they had seen the same thing happen to three other people, none of whom survived the trip to the hospital. I could easily have died.

That's not even counting all the times I was close to death without even realizing it which probably occurred daily when I used to commute on the Los Angeles freeway system. I could easily have died then, too.

Heck, I could have died at birth. All it takes is a misplaced umbilical cord or any number of other physical possibilities or dumb little medical errors.

But I didn't die. So how in the world can I regret anything I've ever experienced, any person I've ever met, or any pain I have endured including the pain of losing those who meant the most to me? Everything in my life has been a gift that I could easily have not had at all; frosting on a cake that could have very easily never existed which means the cake has been frosting, too.

Try to imagine, for a moment, your own death. When it happens, are you going to be angry over losing the family, friends and material possessions you've left behind? Are you going to still be kicking yourself for those hurtful things you said or did last week or those bad investments you made 10 years ago? Will you still hate that former pal who betrayed you in 1982? Not likely.

So why waste energy carrying around all that old luggage to the new destinations life is now taking you? Why wait until you die to get rid of that useless junk, when you can dump it right now and make the most out of whatever time you have left?

Besides, the harder we hold on to the past, the less space there is in our heads for the present.

If I had died on any of the occasions where I came close to death ... if my life hadn't happened exactly the way it did ... I never would have experienced having two wonderful children, or the incredible friends I have today, or the joy and serenity I've only recently discovered, or the scent of rain on pine trees carried on a cool breeze that is delighting me at this very second.

The point? Life is grand no matter how it goes, if that's how we decide we want it to be. And decisions like that come from the exact same place as memories, as dreams, as pain. The power you give each of them to affect your life is entirely up to you.

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