Tag Archives: mortality

Death in place of pain

“Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thrust into a modified global reality where the skyrocketing daily death rate has become a TV screen graphic as commonplace and mundane as lotto numbers, it’s hard not to pull that handheld mirror in for a closer look.

As a general rule, I have spent much of my adult life sprinting from pain, but standing steady for death.

With a bevy of nutritional supplements, a crippling need for exercise, and a diet that has become so limited it’s nearly impossible for any average human to follow, a meticulously constructed system has been designed to maximize health and eradicate weakness or deficiency. 

I’m smart enough to realize it’s most likely the result of pure insanity, but convincing myself of its necessity reinforces its strict adherence…and the loop spins round and round.

For some wholly inexplicable reason, colds, viruses, sore muscles, mental fatigue, any decline of joint function/mobility, headaches, reduced energy levels, etc. are avoided like the plague. But the threat of death is embraced with almost zero care or concern.

There is definitely some mixed brain wiring to blame for a deleteriously inverted fight-or-flight response, but this black-and-white laissez-faire perspective with regard to mortality has probably been rattling around in this head for longer than I’d like to acknowledge.   

To confess that a torn ACL ranks higher on a list of fears than a fatal plane crash is pretty vulnerable stuff. But this blog has repeatedly been a platform for naked testimony, and there’s no point in trying to pull up the covers now.

As always, there’s a focus here on sharing, not solutions. Catharsis takes many forms, and if an online diary is simply a means to wipe away some mud from the surface of the madness, so be it.

Introspection can be a nauseating teacup spin into the most baffling recesses of the psyche, but the fun is following the breadcrumbs back to the beginning…unless some hungry crows have already had their way with your exit strategy. 

Adolescence Interrupted

Beneath the Heft of Hourglass Sand

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“The sweet is never as sweet without the sour.”

A few days ago, I woke up with the unfortunate impulse to reach for my phone for some helpful advice. Still half-asleep, I found myself dropping into a familiar Google search sinkhole of facts and opinions, unsubstantiated claims, and broad generalizations. But, between the lines, I found pieces of heart-wrenching truth.

See, I live with an incessant worry about the future. Now, I’m not speaking about the glorious, hyper-technological, world-revolutionizing future. All notions of our impending singularity do nothing but paint a Jack Nicholson-sized joker smile across my mug.

What I’m referring to is a future of dwindling time, limited resources, and the daunting prospect of uncontrollable aging. I don’t sit, wrapped in a panic poncho, because of concerns about my own mortality. I never much feared or questioned death. I see it as a necessary component of the cycle of life and I will face it with as much bravery as my age and mental capacity can muster.

My fear and—more specifically—my sadness live under the weight of losing my partner.

It’s always been just Mom and me. I don’t have any siblings and I reside in a city 3,000 miles from any member of my family. I only get major holidays and my annual summer trip to connect through a means other than Skype, and her 30-year head start is beginning to feel like a lead I can’t catch.

So, I thought I would research the notion of caring for an aging parent as an only child. It took less than three results for me to realize I had bitten off a much bigger quandary cookie than I wanted to swallow. It was fear wrapped inside of speculative projection. This was no way to start a day and, contrary to popular belief, streaming tears don’t help lubricate a sun salutation.

The role-swapping will be one of the more difficult transitions. As I’ve mentioned before, I often feel like a young kid walking around playing pretend in a grownup world. To not only own the idea that I am an adult, but to take full responsibility for the physical and emotional well-being of the one person who wore those gloves so perfectly seems like some Copperfield-level form of deception. I’ve been awarded the job and I’m utterly unqualified.

But, I can’t say all the literature was discouraging. One story emphasized the sense of relief the author felt being able to control the care and health trajectory of his mother. He wasn’t lost in sibling bickering and he didn’t harbor the resentment that can arise from feeling like no one else is pitching in to help. He was able to direct every aspect of her treatment and could ensure her best interests were protected. Obviously, bearing the full brunt of responsibility isn’t easy, but knowing that each detail is carefully coordinated can help avoid a messy meal made from too many cooks in the kitchen.

Reading this information wasn’t a relief. I still walk toward the future like an ice skater checking the depth of a frozen lake. But to know that there are people out there grappling with the same doubts and fears made me feel less alone and momentarily quelled my trepidation.

This isn’t painless. It’s not supposed to be. When you care about someone else’s life more than your own, there is an inherent price tag on that love. If something is worth preserving, it has value. If that value is greater than the premium you place on yourself, all your cards are on the table. It is the very meaning of vulnerability, and it’s terrifying. But, attempting to control the uncontrollable is an exercise in futility.

Enjoy each and every shared moment, and savor the small stuff. The rest is just an illusion.

Now, it’s time to take my own advice.