The other day, death stopped by.
My life wasn’t in danger, neither was the life anyone I know really well and love dearly. It was more like a chat … like one might have over afternoon tea. Only it wasn’t much of a conversation, more like a statement said in passing … and then me reeling to process it.
I was warming up my lunch in the break room of my beautiful downtown office, staring out the 9th floor-to-ceiling windows, and all of a sudden I felt heavy .. weary.
Death brushed by my shoulder. He whispered in my ear.
“One day you will die.”
And then he was gone.
What a dick, right?
I just stood there, staring out the window at the building workers on the roof of the building next to mine. They were close to the edge and not much separated them from the vast expanse below, just a flimsy little rope fence. It would be so easy to fall.
Those words hit me and I realized that one day this will all be gone, these buildings, these streets, these men … and I won’t be here. I won’t see what the world becomes. And all of a sudden I was overwhelmed with the weight (or lack thereof) of my own existence.
As I stared at the workers, I thought about that morning and how some asshole had cut me off and I was so angry I flipped him off. I thought about how stressful my job can be at times. I thought about the men I have loved, so greatly, only to have my heart wrecked. I thought about drunken nights with my best friend and laughing so hard my face and stomach ache. I thought about how annoyed I get when my phone rings, no matter who it is that’s calling. I thought about how lonely I’ve been these last few years. I thought about how all of my friendships are important, yes, but sometimes I wonder how close we really are (well, with the exception of Ash). And then, I thought about my life … and it’s impermanence … and I wondered … does my life mean anything?
What is my life?
I thought about all of this, the good and the bad. And then I thought … I have no idea what happens to us when we die. I have faith, but I don’t know what it’s like to die. I don’t know what’s on the other side. Maybe there’s nothing at all. This life is colorful. Is death the opposite of that? Is death … just darkness?
“One day you will die.”
This is something we know, every day. We know we will die one day, even if we don’t think about that often. We know in the back of our minds that this life is temporary and impermanent. We know we will die and yet … and yet … do I ever take the time to really think on it? No. Because thinking about death is heavy. Painful. Difficult. Thinking about death can be paralyzing. That day it was.
Death whispered in my ear … and then punched me in the gut. Or at least that’s how it felt. This weight came over me and I was honestly fearful it was a premonition. I called my mom and set up a time to hang out. I made vows to answer people’s telephone calls because we never know when tomorrow might not be there. Death was on my mind and on my heart, heavily for a long while. And as I went back to my desk, to sit at a computer screen for the next 4 hours, answering emails and creating practical art meant to compel strangers to buy things they probably don’t need … it made me wonder … what is this all for? Why do any of this?
What is my life?
This is a question that has been on my mind and heart for a few weeks now. I love my job, I do. I love living in Dallas. I love my friends. I love karaoke and dancing and copious amounts of vodka. I love my family. My dogs. But … what does my life even mean? Does it matter? Do I matter? Is it egotistical to even ask that? I am a speck really. A speck of dust in this vast universe. I’m here … briefly. So much has happened before me and so much will happen once I’m gone. And when I am gone, I will be forgotten.
What is any of this for?
Turns out, death didn’t just visit me for a chat. He made the rounds.
In the past three weeks since that day, I found out four people I used to know fairly well have passed. Two of which were complete shocks.
One was a bartender I used to visit regularly when I first started going out in Dallas.
He had the kindest eyes. He was so good to me when I would visit his bar solo, which happened often. He’d get me my drinks first, then he’d stay and chat with me. And when I would leave, he’d give me a hug. Every time. Yes, I’m certain he did this for everyone, but this doesn’t make it any less special. I loved him in a way you love a spirit you may never know really closely but you can see, even from a distance, just how beautiful they are. He was young. Younger than me I think. I stumbled across a post on Facebook … and I learned he had died. I don’t know how, I just know he was ill for a short time and then he died. His soul is gone. Way too soon.
I didn’t know him very well … but much like that sad James Taylor song says, “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain … but I always thought that I’d see (him) again.” The last time I saw him was a surprise .. he was working at a newer bar in Deep Ellum. It was probably in April or May of 2018. I was so excited to see him, a blast from the past. We talked briefly and we hugged when I left. And I walked away thinking I need to go see him at his bar. I walked away thinking I’m sure I’ll see him again.
And now … now … I never will. And though I did not know him well, that thought still makes my heart ache.
I wonder … where did his soul go? What did he feel? He was so young. There’s no way he was ready. But … was he at peace? He was very much loved, I know this. I wonder if he knew it too. I hope he did.
This world is cold. And hard. And some days are so cruel. But … the thing about it is .. I love this life. I do. The ups and downs, the twists and turns. The hard days and the good days. The days where I’m so low I don’t want to get out of bed (they don’t happen so often, but they happen) and the days where I am bursting with gratefulness and motivation and excitement. The world is cold … but man, this life is colorful. And filled with unexpected moments. Love when you’re not looking. Precious pockets of joy and passion. Magic .. really.
I thought about that this morning as I noticed a painful blemish on my neck. Yes, even the experience of popping a pimple is incredible, if you let it be. Because we are alive. The painful and flawed moments are just as glorious as the rest. This year is a perfect example of that. I went to Thailand and to Greece, I got a new tattoo, I received a blessing from a monk at the bottom of the Big Buddha. I also went to Mexico and fell to the floor in gut-wrenching sobs one night, feeling every single mistake and loss I’d ever experienced so deeply I thought I might not survive the night. I almost didn’t. I won a talent competition at my work. I buried my first dog, Charlie. I fell madly in love again with the man who broke my heart … and was rejected by him … again. And I grieved it all once more.
And then I started a new blog with my best friend in the booth of our favorite restaurant in Dallas.
Beginnings and endings. Pain and pleasure. Mountains and valleys. Darkness and light.
Death and life.
I have loved every soul I’ve been lucky enough to meet. I mean, yes, I’ve met some asshole souls and I’ve even been an asshole soul at times, but even those assholes have taught me something. And to think … of all the tiny little moments that had to happen in order for our souls to come in contact, even briefly, in this universe … in this time, right now … I have to think those lessons were purposeful and planned and precious. (I say that now, but ask me again the next time some jack-off cuts me off on the highway.)
What is my life?
I think the answer is akin to the response Cheryl Strayed had for someone who wrote into Dear Sugar. ‘The fuck is your life. Answer it.’
One day I will die. But for now, I am alive. I am living. And though I’d much prefer to not think about it, the weight of death makes the living that much sweeter. Pain, pleasure, sadness, joy, anger, rage, peace, love, depression. It’s all a part of this experience. And each experience is so fucking good.
Death isn’t a dick. He didn’t stop by to paralyze me in fear. But rather, to motivate me to live this life even fuller. The mistakes I’ve made … maybe they weren’t really mistakes. I often beat myself up for them, fretting that I’ve gone down the wrong path … but no. My mistakes have made my story, my life, that much more interesting and full. And I wouldn’t change a single one.
Maybe … maybe I should think about death more often. Maybe I should invite him over every once and awhile for a cup of tea and sympathy. Maybe a little time thinking about death will remind me to live my life … and will remind me to rejoice in just how precious and wild and varied it can be.
What is my life? The fuck is my life. And I’m ready to answer it.
I’m ready to go further, to dream bigger, to push with everything I have and every ounce of life I have left to live fully. I’m not sure what my life will mean or if it’ll mean anything, but I know I want to do it justice and to honor this gift of life but giving it my all. I know what I can survive now and it is a lot. I know what I am capable of and it is limitless. Yes, yes, there will be doubt. Anguish. Low, lonely days. But there will also be mountaintops and ocean views and tattoos in Thailand and moments of sheer joy in a Buzzbrews booth with my best friend. And all the little mosaic moments in between.
One day I will die. But for now … for now … the fuck is my life.
And man, is it a good one.