Johanna Stein

Johanna Stein


Sometimes I write about being a mom.
Sometimes I write about being a 14-year-old boy trapped in the body of a mom.

Unconventional Wisdom

(as seen in www.womensconference.org )

You’re going to be dead soon.

That’s what I say to myself every morning when I look in the mirror.

And no, it’s not my corpse-strength morning breath rising up into my own nostrils that inspires such sentiment (though you should pray to god you never have to experience it yourself).

I say it because if I don’t remind myself that I’m on the morgue-train then I may spend another day watching Victoria Principal infomercials, reading ex-boyfriends’ Facebook postings, and obsessing about the time I asked a woman in a bikini “when are you due”, only to have her respond that, no, she was not pregnant.

Basically, if I don’t remind myself daily of my own mortality, then I spend my time wasting it.

We have a bad habit in this culture of casually forgetting that we have a finite amount of time on this earth. We behave as though we’ll all be hanging around for eternity, wearing jetpacks, experiencing virtual sex with robots, and flying around the universe as disembodied heads in jars.

The unfortunate truth is, we probably won’t.

(Disclaimer: I do have a sneaking suspicion that I alone possess the gift of immortality… but just in case I’m wrong, I’m working on a contingency plan of preserving myself by eating massive amounts of Starburst Fruit Chews and Duncan Hines Frosting from the can. I’ll let you know how it works out.)

All this points to one thing: I’d better get my ass in gear.

I have stuff to do. Not just bill-paying, thank-you-card-writing type-stuff. Important, give-life-meaning type-stuff. The stuff that is really fricking easy to put off, because it’s really fricking hard to try.

Or, more specifically, to try and then to fail.

Like “write that script”, “take that class”, “say that thing”, and “live a life that will make my daughter proud” (not an easy feat, considering that I have the sense of humor of a 14-year-old boy).

I don’t go much for self-help books, spiritual tchotchkes, or weekend retreats filled with yoga, tofu and crying. The first time I lit a meditation candle it proceeded to burn my bedside table, my curtains, and my relationship with my landlord.

Don’t get me wrong – if these things work for you, then do them, buy them, attend them. I’m all for it.

But me, I get inspired by telling myself “you’re gonna be dead soon”. That’s my version of a positive aphorism. I just need that little kick in the ass every day to remind myself that life, health, and time are fleeting, and that big ol’ party-crasher Death is coming for all (most) of us and I’ll be ding-dong-danged if I’m gonna let that cross-dresser stand in the way of me and my plans.

Those five little words force me to tackle the biggie questions, like:

What do I want out of life?
What am I putting off?
What would I regret if, tomorrow, I were to choke on a cherry pit, get my guts gored out by a bull, or take a wrong step while juggling chainsaws for my latest YouTube video?

If you have trouble asking these questions of yourself, ask someone else to do the prodding. I prod all the time.

When my friend says she wants to start a flower business, I say, “get on it, your daisy-pushing days are just around the bend”.

When my neighbor says he loves his girlfriend but he’s not sure if he’s ready to take the next step, I say, “figure it out soon buddy, time’s a-wasting and so are you”.

When my mom says she’s thinking about taking salsa lessons, I say “hurry up ma, it’s hard to dance with rigor mortis in your legs”.

And when I start to think I should write a piece about procrastination I say to myself, “do it now, Stein. This is important, and you may not have internet access in your coffin”.

And here’s the ironic upside. Once you accept that you and everyone you know will be dead one day (except maybe me), when you do attack your goals with death-defying fervor, you find yourself less attached to the outcome. So maybe that script you write won’t win a squizillion Oscars. Who cares, you’re gonna be dead soon! And so what if you suck at trapeze lessons… who gives a Flying Wallenda? (They don’t, they’re dead!) And yeah, I once asked a chubby woman if she was prego, but what’s the diff? In a hundred years, nobody’s gonna remember that (other than her kid, because I swear to baby jesus, that woman was pregnant, she just didn’t know it).

So do it. Everything you intend to do.

And smile. Because the news is good. You are going to be dead soon.