Metaphorically people, metaphorically.
But also at the same time, somehow literally too.
I worry. It’s who I am, or at least who I’ve always been. I worry that I don’t look good, I worry that I’ve hurt someone, I worry that people I love aren’t happy – the list is endless. But sometimes (ok, often, ok, constantly) it gets out of control and every second is gut twisting, skin itching, nausea filled agony.
Then I have bursts of peace, literally little islands in the sea of insanity and they usually start with a thought about death. Sound counterintuitive? It used to be that the thought was of death itself; how sweet it would be to lie down and let all the turmoil drift away. It was an intoxicating thought but dangerous and crippling. Like a soporific it numbed my observation and kept me shackled.
After many years I realized that what looked and felt like running toward death was really a symptom of running away from it. I was so worried about losing things that it literally consumed me. I was so afraid of losing my job, my family, my friends, my standing, approval, etc. that the noise drowned out life.
When a former therapist used to repeatedly ask me “does it feel like you’re going to die?” I thought she was nuts. And I still do a little. She was asking if I was having anxiety attacks albeit in a subtle way. I wasn’t and I didn’t realize how spot on she was while being spot off.
You see there are different kinds of death. There’s the literal death that all of us experience, the one that is inevitable, inescapable, bone-crushingly final – and ultimately life saving. Then there are the other deaths. The death of our social construct self. The death of ambition. The death of dreams.
I’ve spent my whole life confusing the different kinds of death. My therapist was right, it DID feel like I was dying – all the time. Each time an important person in my life showed disappointment it felt so final. Each time I failed at responsibility it felt so final. Each time I contemplated calling in to work it felt like a sure path to ruination and destruction and death. So I spent my whole life grasping at those things that we think make us worthy and dying each time one of them slipped through my fingers.
Then I realized I was confused.
Death is death. These things are life paths and I was choosing and there is no moral imperative that I follow one above another. If I want to work 80 hours a week and climb the corporate ladder that’s ok. If I want to live in a travel trailer following renaissance faires where I sell feather boas that’s ok too. If I want to do nothing but sit on a mountaintop watching cloud formations until the end that’s ok too.
My death will eventually come and it doesn’t matter if it happens in my bed or in a hospital or in a ditch, the outcome will be the same. It doesn’t matter how many people love me, or respect me, or depend on me, or remember me, the outcome will be the same. It doesn’t matter if I’m rich or poor, famous or unknown, good or bad, brave or coward, the outcome will be the same.
It’s only when we stop trying to build a hedge against death that we begin truly living.
So let’s live a life we love – because we’re already dead.
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