So, my birthday is coming up.
Over the past 34 years, I’ve come to realize that I’m going to die. It’s a total bummer, right? When you’re dead you don’t get to do things anymore. And what’s worse, death is unpredictable like weather. Maybe some well meaning person in a white coat can give me a ballpark guestimate but maybe I’ll just be walking around and my heart will stop like a refrigerator motor in the middle of the night. Inconvenient!
When you think about death the way I have for the last ten or twenty years, it really puts things in perspective. A terrible, crushing perspective. Here are the realizations I’ve made:
I will never, ever experience everything I want to experience. I’ve been moving through life like a cat riding a Roomba, collecting interesting things for later. Hmm, maybe I’ll read this book trilogy? Maybe I’ll play this series of games? Perhaps I’ll take up gardening? Bzzzt! Probably not!
- My body is dying in pieces. Right now, while writing this, I’m pushing one of my teeth with my tongue and it feels a little like it’s moving a bit. An enthusiasm for bread has made me insulin resistant and now, there are parts of my body I simply can’t feel anymore due to nerve damage. My memory is worse, I get nauseated on roller coasters now.
- I have no idea what happens when you die but my suspicion is nothing. And I don’t know what nothing feels like. I can’t know, it’s one of those meaningless concepts like infinity or Bill Berry’s unibrow.
As you might imagine, I’m fucking terrified. I’m scared enough that I’ve combed the closed stacks for the secrets of lichdom. I’m willing to make a Darke Pact with El Nosferatu in order to gain eternal life. I backed the Lazarus Protocol kickstarter at the $60 level (beta access, sticker, personal thank you). In the words of Steven Tyler, this generation’s greatest poet, “I don’t wanna miss a thing.”
In the face of mighty Thanatos, what can I do? That’s the thing. That’s the silver lining to all this morose navel gazing. I can be mindful and active, I can choose what I say and do and choose how I spend my time, not be shitty to people, not say things to hurt people. And when other people are shitty and hurtful, I can call them out for it. It’s my mortality that gives this weight and poignancy.
I fail at this over and over and over. I get mad and say something shitty, I waste time shadowboxing invisible monsters. I make my girlfriend cry. I project the worst possible connotations onto innocent statements and I project innocence onto ignorant, harmful rhetoric. I dismiss things that people care about, I forget that everything matters. I forget my privilege, I’m lazy and I don’t floss.
Here are some horrible things I’ve done, both through action and inaction:
- In 7th grade I got into a fight with a kid because he called my mother a lesbian.
- I’ve made cruel fun behind the backs of my friends.
- When I first moved to Portland, I went to this pirate themed store. A clerk, dressed as a pirate said, “Arrr, can ye read, matey?” I said, “Yes.” He then pointed to a sign that instructed guests to check their bags. I apologized and he said, “It’s not really for you. It’s for those Mexicans and Puerto Ricans.” I just smiled and nodded like a racist coward.
I’m trying to be better though. I’m trying so fucking hard, which creates this amazing dissonance, this feeling of power and powerlessness. I think Tyler expressed the contrast best when he said, “Living it up while you’re going down.” It’s this sensation of being pulled between guilt and confidence. I feel like a spring.
Anyway, back to my corpse. What do we even do with the danged thing? As previously stated, I don’t think I’ll have any consciousness to actually care. The kind answer is to do whatever won’t distress the loved ones I leave behind. But, if it’s OK with my mom and girlfriend, if anyone wants to use my skull as a horcrux, I’m more or less down. Also, I’ll try to die in a graveyard to make things easypeasy.
I’d like there to be some sort of joke for my epitaph. Something like, “I’d get up but I am a skeleton.” Or, “Well, this sucks.” Or, “This is scary and I hate it but you should go be nice to someone instead of reading this.”