Monday, January 31, 2011

Always Dying

I had long said that life was a joke with death as its punch line. People have always misunderstood what I meant by that, as if I was thinking that life had no value or provided no information. In my view the best kind of jokes are intelligent, they show something informative, they highlight truths but the general irreverence demonstrates that maybe we take its subject too seriously. That’s how I view life; we take it too seriously because in the end as the old proverb goes no one gets out alive. I often point out to people when they’re stressed and ask what was stressing you out six months ago. Nineteen out of 20 times they can’t remember…which demonstrates how important it was.

It was certainly coming true with the amount of information coming in that my odds of getting to be an old man were dramatically reduced. This didn’t bother me and more than a few people pointed out that if they had news like this they would be more distraught than I ‘appeared.’ They often said that with a tone that said that I was clearly hiding something. They could accept that I was very different than average in many respects but that I had to be the same about the fear of dying. I never got a great response to this other than to say “Well, you’re dying too. I just turned out to be more efficient.” The fear of death is not logical to me… I can almost relate to the fears of the great unknown etc but at the end of the day it’s just part of life, granted the last part. I see death more like going to the bathroom, something that’s an inconvenience and if you’re having a good time, you try to put off for as long as possible but in the end, it’s going to happen one way or another.

Anyway, I began to talk to a few cancer ‘survivors.’ Unfortunately for me, when I talked to people the vast majority of their stories weren’t helpful. I kept referring to their stories as “archetypal” which was a polite way of saying stereotypical. Cancer, for all the people I’d talked to at that point and this one, was many of their first awareness of their own mortality, the first time they’d feared their own personal death. As condescending as it may sound, I’d never feared death. During my first couple of decades I was clueless about it and thought I was immortal. Then, in my mid twenties, I had stopped being a pastor (that’s a long story all of its own and if this blog doesn’t cure your insomnia, the one about how I stopped being one will). From then I’d taken the perspective that death was unavoidable. I had written back then what’s on the side of this blog “I want to stone the saint of lost causes. I’m going to die someday and I’m trying to live along the way.” I was 25 then, in great health and in a happy marriage. It wasn’t a statement of depression or frustration; it was a goal. When I was 20, shortly before I had gotten married, we made a list of things to do. People kept asking if that was our bucket list but it wasn’t… we’ve always called it the dream list but in the list itself, written by a 20 and 19 year old version of ourselves, we state that we wanted to envision our lives and realize that we had led it not the other way around.

I wasn’t and am not afraid of dying but I’m very frightened of not living, afraid that this would eventually make me a shadow, an echo of who I am. These wins helped me be encouraged to fight for my life but fighting for life kept meaning holding on to who I was and what I had November 4th, the day before the seizure. Fighting for my life would never mean trying to keep breathing while giving up significant portions of “Iram.” We can argue about what significant portions are but I was rather frustrated by those who would argue with me that this viewpoint was incredibly selfish. They said it was incredibly egocentric that I “wasn’t thinking” about more time with Kiana. Those who said that I should be willing to give up very significant parts just to have this particular moment decades away. In their mind this would be more than worth the misery. This argument was illogical to me because there was never going to be a point where it had been enough. I would never be like okay I’ve spent enough years with you to my wife, my daughter or any of my friends. There was never going to be a convenient time to die but today, today was always a great time to live.

So anyway, the wins inspired me to fight more actively… figuring out what that meant was a long way from being clear.

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