Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Next Great Adventure

"It's the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more...To the well organized mind, death is but the next great adventure." Albus Dumbledore

I think about death a lot, sometimes my own, but more often the deaths of those that I love. I find myself at odd moments imagining how I would deal with the death of my husband or one of my children, rehearsing what I would say if I got 'the call'. It is in my moments of greatest joy that the fear sneaks up on me. He comes slinking in with with a cloak of heavy sadness wrapped around his shoulders and tries to pass it off, even though I am an unwilling and ungracious hostess.

I've always thought this was weird and shoved it into the closet with all my other dirty emotional secrets. But...

I've been reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, and in the chapter on armory I experienced a great revelation. This feeling, this rehearsal of my worst imaginings, creeps into the lives of lots of us. The name of this shadow is foreboding joy.

Foreboding joy is the uneasy sense that the other shoe is about to drop. The feeling that comes just as we're sinking into joy. The voice that whispers, "You don't deserve all this love and beauty and goodness." Forboding joy tells me to hold on tight when my heart is longing to let go. It makes me want to slow down, hold back, play safe, all to maintain the illusion of control.

Foreboding joy manipulates my feelings, but it is not real. It is a distorted mirror that doesn't show me reality, only robs me of real, fleeting moments of connection and realness and grace.

I found this video on another blog today, and it was a gut check. A powerful reminder of how thin the illusion of control is. Whether I acknowledge it or not, I am dying. We all are, no matter how rich or healthy or strong we are. All that we have is this moment. And in this moment the greater things we can do are sink into the arms of family and community, let our connections bind us, write a beautiful story. I hope that when my time comes I have as much grace as this family. Death may touch them, the body may be lost, but the spirit and heart will live on into legacy.


A final thought thought from Steve Jobs, another man who faced down death with dignity:

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to make the big choices in life. Because almost everything-all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure-these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering you are going to die is the way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose? You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."


  1. Wow. This is heartbreaking and beautiful. I especially love your thoughts about how foreboding joy robs us of REAL moments of connection. Thanks for this.

  2. Ever since my dad was tragically killed two years ago, I struggle so much with fear of death. This post has definitely given me something to think about. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I, too, overthink the possibility of tragedy and loss. And this concept of foreboding joy...so interesting. Does Brene say to resist it? If so, what advice does she give? ~Darcy

    1. Darcy, she says to lean into the discomfort. She gave an example of personally acknowledging this out loud when she starts feeling afraid for no reason, and then starting to acknowledge, out loud, the things that she is grateful for. In the book she talks about a man who lived expecting the worst so he would be prepared, but then his wife died and he was totally unprepared and regretful of all the time he wasted. I love that example, because it's true that whatever we imagine the worst will be like, we really can't be prepared.

  4. Foreboding joy...now I have a name for a feeling that is often in my heart. Powerful words. Thank you!