Six years ago, I was very, very, very, very, very single. And to be honest, I was very, very, very, very, very angry about it. Sure, I had boyfriends over the years. I also did online dating before it was cool. Back then, you didn’t openly swipe left or right. God no. You hid in a cave, secretly uploading your profile to what felt like the dark web. If anyone found out about it, you ran home and deleted it like you were destroying evidence in your criminal trial. Afterwards, you crawled your dirty, single self into a corner and thought about what you had done – ashamed, like you should be. (Two weeks later, you’d throw your profile back up, and then repeat.)
I had spent my life listening to family and friends saying: “I just don’t get it. You’re awesome. You’ll find someone. You know what – it’ll happen WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT IT!”
I know they meant well, but I swear, I wanted to punch WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT IT right in the face.
Then one day it hit me. I literally thought to myself, “If I die today, single, like this…I will be so pissed!!!!” I knew being pissed about it was no way to live. Or die. And I knew I had to let it go. BUT I needed help. Then, I saw a flyer. A year-long meditation class was about to begin – based off the book: “A Year to Live” by Stephen Levine. I was IN.
The class, also called “A Year to Live,” would meet once a month for a full year. Two lovely women ran the program, guiding about 25 of us into our “death.” We would spend the next 12 months as if it were our last. The class started on my birthday (meant to be, right?) September 22, 2013, and ended on our “DEATH DAY,” September 20, 2014.
Yes, you read that right. We were given a “death day” – a target day to get our life in order – to “die.” Sounds a little morbid, sure, but it really wasn’t. It was about taking stock of your life. If you had only one year to live, would you still be living the same life? If you knew you’d die tomorrow, what would you do differently today?
It was a year of heavy lifting. For everyone. We decluttered our lives mentally and physically, and got our affairs in order. Is there anyone you have an unresolved conflict with? Are you living your true joy? If you died tomorrow, what would you leave behind for others to deal with? Who will take care of your kids? Your dog? Who gets your wine fridge?
We all filled out our “Five Wishes” – an advance directive on what you want done when you are on the verge of death. Tough questions: Do you want to be put on life support? If you’re incapacitated, do you want someone grooming you – i.e. trimming your nails, shaving your beard? Things you wouldn’t have even thought about.
Writing all of this out seems rather daunting, but the idea is to make death less scary – and easier on everyone around you. The more you write down, the fewer decisions your loved ones have to make.
We’re all going to die. It’s a process of accepting it. It’s not something most of us think about. It’s not something most of us want to think about. But it’s important. It opens you up to tell people how you feel about them before it’s too late. You also get to be in charge of how you want to be remembered. Maybe you want a big party after you’re gone. Maybe you want your ashes to quietly blow in the wind, into the ocean. There are no wrong answers.
The class wasn’t for the faint of heart, no. It was a program for those searching for more meaning. Now. Before we died.
We did a field trip to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, digging deep into the idea of celebrating those who have died before us.
Monthly, we would gather to meditate and discuss our death progress – a death therapy group. We were all from completely different walks of life, yet all in the same “death” boat – grappling with our life’s end and searching for more meaning.
I’d say eight or nine months into it, I was still not happy about being single. But I kept doing the work. Each month we had a new assignment. Our “death day” was quickly approaching. Our current task was to plan out our “dying” day. Hmmm. How would I want to celebrate my “last day” on earth? Would I want to be surrounded by friends? Family? Solo? What’s my “last meal?” Where do I want to be when I “die?”
Ironically for me, I was invited to a friend’s wedding on my “death day.” A close friend’s sister’s wedding. Not something I could pass up. Even if I was “dying.”
Yes, Painfully-Single-As-Ever me was going to have to “die” at a wedding. (I’m rolling my eyes, by the way.) Weddings haven’t been my favorite. I’ve gone to sooo many either solo or with a girlfriend. As you might guess, I was kind of pissed about it (no offense to the bride and groom).
Alas, I planned out my last few weeks “alive.” I used to live in NYC, so I booked a trip back “home” the week before my “death” to hang with some great friends. I planned a fancy “death dinner” with friends and family in LA (where I live now) for the night before. I even bought a tiara, along with this beautiful Indian headdress, to wear during my grand celebrations. It had been quite the year and I was ready to go out in style.
What was I going to do on my “last day” on earth? I gave in and accepted I was going to that wedding. In some ways, it seemed fitting to celebrate another couple’s love on my last night, after all of my single struggles. Plus, my good friends would be there, too. I mean, the bride wasn’t thrilled I was dying on her wedding night, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do 😉.
About 3 weeks before my “death,” I got a call from my two close friends – a married couple, Laurie and Bobby. They were selling their car, and had just met an interesting guy who worked for a car buying company. Bobby said when he met Jason, he immediately thought, “SLATER!” (Me!) He knew Jason and I HAD to meet. But Laurie wasn’t as sold on the idea. Jason was single, but he was way younger than me. She kept telling him, “Um, by the way, SHE’S OLD! I MEAN, OLD!” (Thanks, Laur.) Jason didn’t care about my age.
So, Laurie ended up telling me about him. He’s young and a musician. I thought to myself, “Wtf?” If I had told her I met a much younger musician, long hair, tattoos, etc. – she would have said I was being ridiculous, and once again not committing to a real relationship. Yet here she was, trying to set me up with this guy.
I said, sure, why not. I mean, I’m dying, right? So, we set up a double date. Wait, to be clear, it wasn’t a “date” – it was a “meet up!” Two weeks before I “died,” we all met up for drinks at The Woodman in Sherman Oaks.
Jason and I sat next to each other, slowly inching our way closer and closer. We both loved trying different beer and started splitting beers. Bobby said he had no idea if we were connecting. Which is kind of funny. Mr. Intuitive Set-Up guy had no clue. We all left the bar and were going to meet up at Laurie and Bobby’s to hang more. But…Jason and I never showed up to their place. We had a better idea. We went to go make out in one of our cars at a park nearby. (Sorry, guys!)
That night turned into another impromptu meet-up the next night – sans Laurie and Bobby. Then another night, Jason took me to dinner. Wait. What was happening? Were we dating?!?
OK. Ok. This is real cool and all, but I’m “dying” here. I have things to do!
At the end of that week, I flew to NYC to celebrate my demise. Then I was back to LA for my official “death dinner.” I left Jason out of those things. Deaths are private 😉. The wedding was in two days.
Then I had an idea. At the very last minute, I finagled a plus one to the wedding (if you’re single, you know what a triumph this is). Jason had known about my “death” and was super intrigued by it. So, I asked him to go to the wedding with me…and then, um, “Do you want to ‘die’ with me after?” He didn’t skip a beat and said, “YES, of course!” How lucky was I? I scored a (very attractive) plus one to my “death!”
I think because he was so much younger than me, and because I was “dying” – I really had let my guard down and didn’t plan for a serious future. I was just being myself and not worried about where it was all going (for once). So, we went to Karen and Frank’s beautiful Malibu wedding and had a blast.
After the wedding, Jason came home with me and I “died.” Well, we “died.” Together. Snuggling one another in bed. I mean, coooome on! So beautiful.
That “death” was exactly five years ago, TODAY! (September 20, 2014). Jason and I have been together ever since.
After “dying,” all of us in the class were reborn the next day. We had one final meet-up to tell the story of our “death” from the previous night. Everyone’s story was fantastic. Some died alone, on purpose. Some had friends or family around. I’m pretty sure we all had profound experiences in our own way. Some classmates said they got chills when I told my story. Even thinking about it now, I couldn’t have dreamt up a better death.
The point of my story? If “when you least expect it” means “after you do tons of work on yourself, and let go, and don’t take things so seriously, and die,” then, yes, it happens WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT IT.
So, my friends: Here’s to living. Loving. And dying. Not necessarily in that order.
Julie Slater, aka THE LOTUS FLOWER, looooves music. Besides being a rabid fan and musician, you may recognize her voice. She’s a voiceover artist and audiobook narrator (www.julieslater.com). She’s DJ’d on top stations: 88.5 FM and 100.3 the Sound in LA and 92.3 K-Rock in NYC following Howard Stern.
When she’s not at concerts, you can usually find her meditating or in the kitchen. She has a slight obsession with deep, dark cabernets & small batch whiskey. Namaste!