Saturday, December 14, 2013

On Death & Dying

"Mommy, do we know when we will die?"
"No, honey, we don't."
"Oh, but you're not going to die? And Daddy? I still have a Mommy and Daddy."
"Yes, dear. you still have us..."
"And you're not going to die, are you? I am lucky. Why do some people not know when they will die?"
"Sweetie, everything dies, like the plants during winter."
"Oh, but can we grow back, like chickens?"
Good one, mom, telling her once upon a time that chickens "grow back" and so never get sad.

What do you do when your four year old asks questions like this? Questions that are no more complex than the very questions we ask ourselves, questions that pose the very confusion and injustice that an event like death can cause.

"Does anything know when it will die?"
"Why? Why don't we know when we will die?"
"I don't know, honey, I just don't know."

And I don't. I have no idea. I have no pat answer, no grand answer, no nice answer. To me, Death is cruel and a natural, albeit final, end to our extremely precious lives. I have found in my adult life that Death is no respecter of persons, belief systems, age, or diet. Death does not care for logic or sentiment, in fact, Death is the very nothingness that negates such silly mortal ideals and reminds us of our puny existence and ultimate hopelessness of our ego.

"Mommy, I don't want to die."
"I know, honey, I don't either."
"Mommy, when I get older, I just want to get rid of the darkness inside me that wants me to die. Then, I will never die and I can just live with you!"

Well, then. I am glad the conversation ended on such a futuristic note. I did not pursue the subject, as wise mothers never do, and never will I bring it up. Like heaven. Sure, we said the family dog went to heaven, that other family members went to heaven, but as far as indoctrinating my daughter with fantasy goes, I can mention heaven in none other than poetic terms and for reasons none other than laziness. Of course I will say the dog went to heaven, that's what everyone else says. I am not about to tell my four year old about the very true, very real impending anxiety that the bleakness of death provides and the fact that we do not know what happens after we die.

To broach the existential reality of Death's impersonal "touch" and its deafeningly silent victims with a four year old is entirely unethical and inappropriate, at best. But to be in conversation with said four year old, who asks such seemingly adult, but agelessly human, questions about this eternal source of human sadness is a bit much for a depressed, anxious, existentially-pained adult. I may give a canned answer of a utopian happy place, but it is no more truthful to me than when I tell that same four year old that Santa lives "at" the North Pole.

When I was three, I remember looking at my beloved Aunt in a casket. All I wanted to do was to touch her, hold her,  hear her voice again. I went to hug her, only to be reprimanded by my father and met by the sobs of my mother. What was the deal? Why couldn't I touch her? All I wanted to do was touch her, and I couldn't. Because it wasn't really her anymore, I suppose. Or because it was inappropriate (most likely) to  put a toddler in a casket to hug her most favorite adult (even more than mom, it's true, I remember, because Auntie gave me Cheetos) who no longer possessed any characteristics of a live, conscious being.

Death is depressing and as I grow older, it gets no easier, the questions remain the same and the answers merely choices between psychologically comforting storytelling or realistic, finite facts with perhaps a sliver of romantic yearnings for a mystical conscious that unites us all.  But, just like my daughter, all I can do is hope I encounter it as infrequently as possible. And hope that, if nothing else, I can get rid of the darkness that makes me fear it so.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

In Memory of My Friend

You were our sunshine in the dark days of Cal. I looked forward to you calling and asking for rides to Target or to try out some restaurant you saw on t.v.  You would sit in the back of our '85 Benz and pretend that you were a kid again in your parents' Benz, listening to Julio Iglesias. We would bond over our depression, the stress of school and life and our outrageous families.

Your laugh, your shrugs and Roxy-eye-rolls... demure, alluring, hilarious, cosmopolitan, naive, fiercely smart and unbelievably determined. You pushed through all of your commitments, in spite of all of your depression and anxiety that held you back from attending class or going to an exam. I run and hide. You have faced it and owned it.

I will miss not being able to see you on our visits to California. I was looking forward to seeing you in your native SoCal environs, Roxy as the magnificent Santa Monica local. I am so glad we got to see you this past summer, though. But we never did get a picture, huh? I have been meaning to send you a Facebook message the past couple weeks, too - never got around to that, either.

We both struggled with our dark demons and I am on the very medication that may have ended your life. It has saved my life and I ironically began it when I first met you, as we all struggled with the Berkeley blows to dignity and self-esteem. I cried anew when I found out that you had just been on it and that awful reality when one needs meds and one seriously grave health issue is traded for another.
I am a Roxy fan, what can I say? I admire your zeal, your humor, your sense of style and unabashed, yet pragmatic, idealism. I fell in love with your coyness and sincerity and intelligence. You are a grand friend, beloved by my many and though I wish I had more time with you, I am so very glad for every moment we shared.

You are legendary to me. Thanks for being my friend, a fellow existential warrior just trying to change the world. You did it. You changed it, Rox. You changed it with every single one of the hundreds of people you touched so deeply in that super-special Roxanne-way of yours. So much love to you as you carry on in your journey.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

In Defense of Personal Exploitation

It has been drawn to my attention that some people are uncomfortable with my frankness and openness on internet forum(s).  I "complain too much," or am "too mad." I must "have nothing better to do." Why do I disclose actual bank account sums, actual mental or physical states of being, divisive political opinion, anti-religious sentiment or otherwise apparently socially-compromising statement in public? Furthermore, what business do I, as myself, have to be so fearlessly blatant in words on a virtual page, but frequently utterly silent in person?

                            "You judge me by yourself. You can only take, you can't give."*

For starters, I speak as though among friends and go along with the grand (yet knowingly false) assumption that all those who read are friends, allies, or at least, admirers.  I don't care if someone doesn't like it, I am just "speaking" as I do to my very closest friends and have no reason to fear ill will or opinion. If Facebook is not a means to instantly communicate among friends, then what is it? (And do, pray tell, inform me where the Victorian Internet Etiquette rulebook lies, wherein taboo and denial are the true test of social character?)

Also, I like my friends. I like it when they post pictures or interesting or funny or sad's news headlines of your friends' lives, for crying out fucking loud. It's not meant to replace world and political news, it's meant to update you on whatever they want to share. Sharing. I want to laugh, to cheer, to cry, and to be somewhat with you (because we did hang out and were friends at least at one point, right?!).  So I'm going to tell you how I feel, I'm going to say something stupid, I am going to say something embarrassing and am going to do something that I can thankfully delete. And I guess the point is: if you're really a friend, then you'll understand.

                             "'That's megalomania. The man is stark raving mad!' I know, little man, you're very    quick to diagnose madness when a truth doesn't suit you. You regard yourself as "normal"! You've locked up the lunatics and the world is run by you normal people."*

So I suppose, in a way, it is also a sort of litmus test of real-world friendship, especially if you are virtually friends with people that you are in real-world friends with and not just every acquaintance you meet or come across. (And for crying out loud, this is not a fucking criticism of those who have 1500 friends nor those who use it for other purposes or just don't want to share, blahblah...)

Did you have an awesome vacation? Did your car just break down? Is your mom in the hospital still? Holy crap, that was a crazy party. Dude, you say some weird, funny shit. OMG, your kid is so big! OMG, I am so sorry...

I make my posts real and raw because that what it's like to have a pulse in a brief mortal flash of existence. I embrace the flaws in myself and my friends and loved ones, fights, forgiveness, humiliating pictures and all. I am not going to say that" I don't have any money" because I want money or pity. I say it simply because, uh, I don't have any money and have to play the always-complicated budget tetris - which tends to take a bit of pleasure away from my otherwise Epicurean-enjoyment of life itself.

I think most of us aim for an overall positive web-interaction with others and are capable of overlooking or working past any squabbles or spats that pop up. And if you find yourself continually judging or pitying or hating upon someone, just delete them, you are not a friend and that is okay.  And if I share something too detailed for you, but you still want to be my friend, well, don't look.

So, please, my friends, post and write freely. A healthy society and community is one that can communicate openly and freely.  Besides, it's time to face the inevitable and get used to knowing everything about everyone - least of all your friends and family.

*Quotes from Listen, Little Man! by Wilhelm Reich