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Monday, June 22, 2009

My Very Own Death

I've been thinking a lot about how nothing lasts. For some reason what used to be an abstract idea has now been pushed to the forefront of my thoughts. Maybe with the introduction of effective antidepressants the struggle of keeping my head above water each day has subsided and I am beginning to realise, through enjoying my life again, exactly what i will lose.
" Since I've been happy I've been thinking a lot about death." I tell my psychiatrist. She grins.
" That is normal. Happy people have more to lose. Depressed people just want it to be over already."
And it's true, there have been times in the past when each second clicked by, so acutely painful that I felt I couldn't stand it.
Now the events of my life are moving in a broad green river. I stand at it's edge, immersed in wonder at each ordinary, precious event.
I don't know if it's a good thing to be acutely aware of time passing throughout the day or not. Each moment is marked in my heart as the clock ticks. While I am running errands or driving I am often taking time to just be aware of the breeze on my skin, of each tiny hair on my arm moving, of every inhale and exhale as my lungs work tirelessly to keep me here. I am a miracle.

It's a weighty obsession, and I'd rather not be doing it, but it seems out of my control. When I was younger the rest of my life seemed to stretch out forever and I spent my time as though I was rich with it, lavishly wasting it on worry and desire. Now time seems to speed through me. Even though I assume that I have at least 30 years left, maybe more, it's begun to seem short. When you are happy time moves like a brush fire.
Since I don't believe in an afterlife I've been struggling to come to terms with my extinction. It's hard to swallow. I try to encompass millions of years of evolution before me and the eons that will follow me. I try to actually see it in my imagination, try to understand something so incomprehensible. I can't, of course, but the exercise succeeds in pointing out how small and brief I am, which is freeing. I don't worry about the state of our finances or my wrinkles or my lost sapphire earrings. I don't worry about much at all, but watching Ruby playing in the sun, remembering to feed the dog and lock the door.
Don't get me wrong-I am not 100% serene about this. It terrifies me. But it seems like focusing on this moment, right now, neutralises the fear.
Recently my friend, someone I love fiercely, was informed that her eye cancer has returned. She must drip a chemotherapy solution into her eye four times a day.My mother's friend, not much older than she is, has just been diagnosed with lung cancer. My father has been at the edge of acute Hepatitis C for ten years. He has ten percent of his liver function left. While he waits for a transplant he takes cooking classes and invents complex machinery I don't understand. They could all outlive me if I make the wrong decision on I35 this afternoon. We are all, every minute, working on our own death.
I'm reading the Golden Compass, a series that was made into a movie. The actual books are children's stories about a girl who is on a journey to kill God. It's so blasphemous that I'm surprised no one boycotted it. In the book they visit the Land of the Dead.

" See, everyone has a death. It goes everywhere with em, all their life long, right close by. Our deaths, they're outside, taking the air: they'll come in by and by."
" Doesn't it scare you, having your death so close by all the time?" said Lyra.
" Why ever would it? If he's there, you can keep an eye on him. I'd be a lot more nervous not knowing where he was."
And everyone has their own death?" said Will, marveling.
" Why yes, the moment you're born, your death comes into the world with you, and it's your death that takes you out."
"Do you know when they'll tell you it's time to go?"
" No. But you know they're close by, and that's a comfort."