My neighbor across the hall is an elderly Hispanic woman who speaks very little English. I speak very little Spanish. We can hardly have a meaningful conversation, yet we have a funny relationship. She is very old and has trouble walking without a walker. Every time I see her walking to and from the building’s entrance I lend her my arm (to her delight, as the six stairs can be particularly tricky for her). Her smile (which is always present) and gratitude makes me smile. She seems like a very happy person. We attempt to communicate, mostly about superficial things, usually about the weather. It’s hard to talk about anything else when we don’t share the words. Somehow we both end up laughing. She once insisted I was rich because I own a car. I laughed hard. Perspective is everything.
I have no idea how she gets down those six stairs when I’m not there. Even with my assistance, it takes her a fucking year.
This week she has been rushed to the ER twice. I have heard members of her family crying, bellowing, and wallowing in sadness on multiple occasions. The first time, I thought she was dead. My landlord has had to open the door to check on her while her daughter is freaking out at the lack of response from her mother inside. Whenever I hear commotion, I press my ear to my door and hear everything as if I were outside. I worry, so I listen.
For the past 6 months her daughter (who once told me that her mother refers to me as her boyfriend) has slowly been coming over more and more to check in on her. She yells “Mama! Mama!” repeatedly to wake her up nearly every day now. The frequency of the daughters visits, the ambulances... It appears my neighbor isn't doing so hot. I would bet money that she needs a caretaker but cannot afford it. I haven’t seen her, but I would wager my life that she’s smiling when she can.
One day, her daughter’s calls will not be answered, she will start panicking again, call my landlord, who will unlock the door and they will find my sweet neighbor across the hall dead. And I will probably have my ear pressed to my door. Listening. Probably crying.
I will have to remind myself, “Everyone dies.” And I will hope she was happy.
Sometimes, I think, people would consider my outlook on life lacking in optimism. Throughout my life I have been accused of being pessimistic to the nth degree -the term “grim” has even been thrown around before. My brothers, my sister, my mother and my father will all attest that I have never been the bubbliest person. I often refer to myself as a “moody cunt”, and I think that is an accurate description.
But I’m not pessimistic. Really, I’m not.
I admit to being a moody cunt, I’m working on it, but I am nowhere near a pessimist. I reject that label whole heartedly. I would argue that I am a pragmatist with a healthy level of optimistic influence. I want things to work out, I work on things so that I can better control the likelihood that things will work out, but I would not bury my head in the sand to maintain a belief that things will. Damn things are sometimes out of my control. Such is life.
I do not believe there is a benevolent creator or fate and thinking of an after-life seems like a foolish waste of time to me. When I die, that’s it. My consciousness, what made me, Me... my thoughts, my feelings, my experiences, my memories, my life... will simply end.
I will cease to exist. “That’s it.”
I’ve been told this is a particularly sad and pessimistic thought. Do you feel sad by that?
If you are religious, and you care for me, you may feel sad I won’t be joining you in your version of an afterlife. I get it, I do, but I don’t want nor need the sentimentality. That is an extremely selfish desire, and one that I wish people would stop bringing up in conversation. I am repulsed by that notion and I’m growing so tired of having to be so fucking considering of everyone’s precious/ridiculous beliefs.
Everyone dies. I have my suspicions that many people don’t actually think about their own death. It is, of course, absurd and unnecessary to constantly think about one’s own demise, but truly understanding its inevitability can alter one’s life for the better.
It can change your life.
Death will trivialize the bullshit that we think matters, and it will bring things that genuinely do into sharper focus.
You are going to die.
What do you really want to be doing with your time here?
Before you cease to exist, what do you want to be doing most? Working at that unfulfilling job you hate? Being in a horrible relationship? Do you really enjoy your life? Are you really happy? Am I really happy?
I want to die happy.
That is all I want, and all I want for those I love.
By that I don’t mean I want to die with a smile on my face and having my brain flooded with hormones producing happiness, though that would certainly be ideal. I mean I want to shed my ego enough to fully come to terms with death, and have a life chock full of memories to reflect on.
I want my experience here to be full of the things that I hold dear. I want to learn as much as I possibly can, I want to find the truth in every situation, I want to love madly, I want to see beauty, I want to create things from my imagination, I want to help people, teach people, laugh in the face of tragedy and triumph alike, build things that no one else has, add benefit to others, and in the very end, whenever that may be, I want to die happy... and full.
I am not a pessimist, No! I understand we all die and I want to make the journey towards death as slow and as amazing as possible. Just as I hope you all will. I truly think that if everyone embraced their own mortality on a realistic level it would make for a better society. We would definitely treat each other better, we would start practicing the “I don’t give a fuck” Zen-mentality when it comes to minor bullshit, and we would have happier, fuller lives. Because why the fuck wouldn’t you? This is it, baby. Once it’s done, it’s done!
You’re going to die. Make the ride into the abyss a great one.