Monday, April 6, 2015

On Dying

Anne Lamott writes in Bird By Bird:

"I remind myself nearly every day of something that a doctor told me six months 
before my friend Pammy died. This was a doctor who always gave me straight 
answers. When I called on this one particular night, I was hoping she could put a 
positive slant on some distressing developments. She couldn't, but she said 
something that changed my life, 'Watch her carefully right now, ' she said, 
'because she's teaching you how to live.'

I remind myself of this when I cannot get any work done; to live as if I am 
dying, because the truth is we are all terminal on this bus. To live as if we are dying 
gives us a chance to experience some real presence. Time is so full for people who 
are dying in a conscious way, full in the way that life is for children. They spend big, 
round hours. So instead of staring miserably at the computer screen trying to will 
my way into having a breakthrough, I say to myself, 'Okay, hmmm, let's see. 
Dying tomorrow. What should I do today?' Then I can decide to read Wallace Stevens 
for the rest of the morning or go to the beach or just really participate in 
ordinary life. Any of these will begin the process of filling me back up 
with observations, flavors, ideas, visions, memories. I might want to write on my 
last day on earth, but I'd also be aware of other options that would feel at least as pressing. 
I would want to keep whatever I did simple, I think. 
And I would want to be present."

Sometimes I have these moments--usually upon reading---when I read something completely obvious to me and realize that everyone else on planet Earth might not feel the same way.

And most recently, I thought: Either I live with a beautiful awareness of my own mortality or I'm a complete whack-o, because frankly, I think about dying ALL THE TIME.

I think about my last days almost every day.
I think about this fragile life on a regular basis.
I think about how I want to spend my days in relation to a continually flowing hourglass.
All the time.

Maybe it's too much "Grey's Anatomy."
Maybe it's attending too many funerals.
Maybe it's the melodramatic writer in me.

At times, it's wee-bit heavy.
But mostly, it makes me conscious.
In a good way.
Which I'm pretty sure is the only kind of conscious there is.