Get Low


[6 minute read]

The other night my husband and I got into a fight over funerals. Not just any funerals. Our funerals.

That’s right. We fought over dying. Not just dying but who would pay homage the best.

It went something like this…

(Blood, Sweat, Tears’ “And When I Die” playing in the background)

Vic: I want this to play at my funeral.
Me: Got it. (pause) Wait a sec. So, you plan on dying first?
Vic: I’m just saying if I do…
Me: That totally makes sense. You need to die first.
Vic: Why??
Me: I would give you such a better funeral! It totally makes sense. (thinking) I could ask my sister to give my funeral. She would give me a WAY better funeral. But then I would have to die before her… hm??

Off Vic’s look, I was able to pause long enough to remember that our kids were at the table. (Whoops!) We quickly shifted gears to Peppa Pig or dessert or air drumming. Something other than dying.

Our culture doesn’t like to talk about dying. It’s sad and morose and dark. Most of us don’t celebrate at funerals and reminisce about the person’s life. We ache and cry and sometimes get really really pissed off. Listen, I get it – especially if it’s sudden or tragic or someone under the age of 85. And yes, even when people over 85 die, it’s sad and we often miss them immediately. However, the difference that I’ve experienced is that when someone who’s reached the golden age of dentures and walkers passes on, there’s more of a celebration and music and laughter for them. For shits and giggles let’s say that we all live a long, happy and healthy life. That’s what we all want. Of course. So, we need to start thinking about dying. Not dwell, but think about the fact that we are not immune or special, and that we will one day kick it too. Otherwise, we just groggily go through the daily motions and don’t appreciate each other and ourselves. Let’s not have a life taken to be what puts our own into perspective. Every time someone dies, the inevitable shallow promises of: “Be grateful for every day.” “Love the ones you’re with.” “Don’t be petty and trivial.” “Don’t hold grudges.” instantly fill the airwaves. It’s like New Year’s all over again with everybody making sweeping resolutions. We morph into temporary self-righteous versions of Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama until the first post or comment (digital or IRL) brings on the ol’ familiar twitch and we’re back to being pissed off or jealous or {fill in the blank} to any feeling or reaction that just minutes ago we vowed to banish. Then all gloves and bets are off.

That’s why it is so so worth putting the time into thinking about what we value and how we want to feel in this life right now. Not when someone dies. Not when we face disappointments or setbacks. But right freaking now.  When we take moments out when things are going great and we’re loving life to write down how we’re feeling or reflect on our five top core values* (yes, you read that right), or give thanks to the precious people in our lives then it’s all coming from a beautiful place. Those are the bedrock practices that anchor us all in times of distress and grief and confusion.

We need to practice strengthening our joy and laughter muscles. If we’re mad as hell, we’ll probably burn what we wrote while we scream at ourselves to suck it. Here’s the thing, if we practice and pay attention to lightening up, the situations that made us want to punch someone in the face or wallow in a self-pity puddle of tears begin to lighten too. Maybe not go away, but definitely, lighten. We all have the strength within us even on the days when we feel the all too familiar creaking and creeping of self-doubt and fear bubbling beneath the surface. Writing down the good stuff allows us to see in our own handwriting (yes, handwriting – screens down for this one!) the values and strengths that make us vibrant and resilient. It’s not reading someone else’s story line or listening to someone else’s advice. It’s you helping out you! It’s you knowing that if you experienced that incredible feeling before then there’s hope to feel it again. Now, if you’re dealing with tragedy, it’s a totally different story. What I’m talking about are the moments when we need a boost and are ready to get back up. It shows us what really matters to us and reminds us to keep doing those things and being around those people. Grief, frustration, and disappointment are inevitable but we have a choice of how we respond in these situations. Just because we lessen our extreme reactions of name calling, judging, or straight up punching walls, doesn’t mean that we’ve turned into emotionless zombies. Instead of we’ve turned in to fine-tune what we choose to care about.

In the under the radar movie, Get Low, Robert Duvall plays, Felix, a hermit who decides to plan his own funeral…and attend it… alive. He goes to the local funeral director (big ups to Bill Murray) to make it happen. Felix wants to see what people say about him and what he’s remembered for – like it or not.

Can’t we all relate? Maybe you haven’t thought up attending your funeral while you have a pulse but don’t we all want a bird’s eye view of who shows up and who doesn’t? Who speaks up and who can’t because they’re just so choked up with tears about how important we were to them. I sure do!

So here’s an exercise for the brave at heart: Take a minute to imagine who shows up at your funeral. That’s right. Take five seconds to get past the shock of doing this and then come back. You know you’ve done it before, c’mon. Ready? Okay. Close your eyes (after reading this, obvs!). So you’re standing on the balcony of the church, sitting in the last pew of the temple, popping a squat on the beach – okay, you’re there. Really get yourself there. Listen to the sounds and then visualize who’s there. Who do you expect to be there? Who do you know will be there? Who do you want to be there? Now, go through each person. See their face. Clear as day. Mentally check off your list your good standing with them. See those who bring tears of joy to your eyes, warmth to your heart, and a sweeping tingle of love. Beautiful. Now, take a look at those who tighten up your throat or your butthole, make you feel the rumble of your blood boiling or make you feel any inkling of regret. THESE are your people. These are the people who you have to either forgive, wish well, or find a way to get over. You can do it over coffee, the phone, a letter (even if they’ve passed away, write them a letter), a therapist. It doesn’t matter. Just get it out. Get out the regret, the resentment, the anger, and the sadness. We want to live our lives lighter and more joyful. We all do. Even when we’re faced with the  “do you want to be right or happy?” predicament. It begins with you. You make the choice. Only you know what that is. Do you need to take the burden off your shoulders or hold yourself more responsible? Are you blaming or shaming? Whether you’re doing it to yourself or to others there’s no good there. It’s not useful. Punishing ourselves or others through our behavior? Talk about a stressful speed trip to an early grave! We need more levity in the world right now. We need to not just lead but learn from example. From each other. We’re all we’ve got.

To review:
1. Solid solo dance party to “And When I Die” to loosen up.
2. Funeral exercise.
3. Stream Get Low 

* No one needs to know that you did this exercise. This is for you and you alone. For some reason, we’re embarrassed to admit that we take the time to help ourselves. We feel weak or vulnerable or not talented enough for it to come easy. Too much effort. Ick!
Little secret: The self-help industry is a billion dollar business so cat’s kinda outta the bag on everyone.

Comment or message me for a direct instruction on the value exercise. If you have or work with kids, it’s a really fun exercise to do with them!

“Get Low”(2009, dir. Aaron Schneider) A movie spun out of equal parts folk tale, fable and real-life legend about the mysterious, 1930s Tennessee hermit who famously threw his own rollicking funeral party… while he was still alive.

Felix Bush: Bout time for me to get low.

Rev. Gus Horton: Get what?

Felix Bush: Down to business. I need a funeral.

Rev. Gus Horton: For whom?

Felix Bush: For me.


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