Sunday, July 18, 2010

Undefeated Death

"If death meant just leaving the stage long enough to change costume and come back as a new character...Would you slow down?  Or speed up?"--Chuck Palahniuk

Death is the one thing in life that, no matter how much hope you have, you will never defeat.  It is amazing that we can live productive lives knowing that one day we will cease to be.  I can't imagine not being alive, or that I lose people I love and have to go on without them.  So many people wandering around in this world, wasting their lives, and I am one of them.  We think we will always have tomorrow--to achieve our goals, to change our lives, to be happy, to tell someone how we feel about them--but we don't know with all certainty that tomorrow will be there.  

I am still relatively young, at 43, and God willing I could possibly have another 43 years left.  But I curse getting old.  I hate it.  Each year brings something else I don't like--a wrinkle, an ache, a change in my body that I swore when I was svelte (too skinny) and young (stupid) would never happen to me.  Time ravages us, no matter what care we take, it has its way with us at its will, on its terms, and we have no choice but to be victims.  Sure, we can take this vitamin, the latest supplement, eat fruits, proteins, carbs or no carbs, certain meats, no meats, vegetables, grains and fibers, deprive ourselves of cake and ice cream and candy, jog until we feel like our heart will explode, use this cream, lotion or salve to stop wrinkles, aches, or dryness, but time marches on, in a zig zag willy nilly pattern all over us, leaving wrinkles like tire tracks etched in our skin, in our lives, until there is nowhere left to hide but in plain sight.  Our bodies grow weak and flabby, our minds dull and forget, we move slower, step by painstaking step until we have to stop for a breather.  Soon we need this pill or that pill, this surgery or that surgery, the operating room table like a cutting board and we are the turkey offered for Thanksgiving.  It's sad and depressing and then it's over, just like that.  We live--if we're lucky, that is, because too many of us just exist--and we laugh and we love, and then it's over.  We are gone.  Or they are gone and we are left to live without them.  How do you do this?  How do you ever get used to losing people you love?  Do you ever adjust to it, or is it like a knife every time?  I used to love being the youngest but now I know I am more likely to lose more people in my life because of my placement.  I've got a lot to lose.  So much pain.  

But then...

I think about it.  How lucky am I to have so many wonderful people in my life?  To have known so many people that have given me so much, so many people I have been honored to love and share my memories with.  We all have so much but we don't see it!  We don't let it in!  We let the pain rule when we should let love rule.  Sure, my body is 43 years old, but what else have I owned in my lifetime that has lasted that long?  NOTHING.  It's foolish to think it won't need a tune up along the way.  I can't stop living in anticipation of dying; in fact, I need to live more because of it.  I don't mean make foolish choices and say nothing matters because I'll be dead someday, but I mean work to fulfill my dreams, live each day like there's no tomorrow by appreciating being alive, being able to see, hear, experience--good, bad, joy, pain, laughter, tears--because it's all a vital part of my life.  Use this pain to learn more about the kind of person I want to be.  How I can change me to be that person.  Do something with this life I've been given before it is taken away.  We can choose to stay in grief, or we can choose to feel that grief and turn it into something better.  We can choose to ignore the living in order to remember those we've lost, choose to feel alone instead of feeling part of those still here, choose sadness over happiness. Everything is a part of life, the good and the bad, and we must experience it all.  But then, we must choose to live.  I will not be a walking dead person.  I will be alive, until I have only the last breath to give.  

So in answer to the question in the quote at the beginning of this post, I would definitely slow down.  Because although my life has not been perfect, nor have I, it is my life, and I like being me.  And I wouldn't want it any other way.