The themes of finitude and dying are consuming time in my day. I’m not sure why. I am healthy and fortunate that no recent grief has take over my heart and mind. I am in the last half of my sixth decade. I want to believe the actuarial tables that tell me I have 20 years left. I have lost my parents and a brother. The losses were sad in their finality, however not surprising. My father toyed with the angels for several years, defying the medical predictions of his demise from chronic leukemia. My mother was robbed of her essence and energy years before her heart stopped. She left as a frail composition of skin and bones strapped into a wheelchair, oblivious to the world around her. My brother drowned his heart with alcohol. He was too young to die. My parents outlived their bodies.
A friend of mine introduced me to the notion of “unchoosing”. When she shares about a decision she is considering, or a choice she has made, she reminds me that her process involved weighing and deselecting options – as though she was reading a menu and measuring her cravings. I admire her level of consciousness. I often opt out of the analysis process – instead going with the decisions and energies of others. The “why not” or “might as well” removing any responsibility for my well being. I am surrounded by an inexhaustible cuisine of people, interests, and activities. My orientation to life reeks of complacency and presumption. Moments of deep appreciation and realization have only come to me after times of overwhelming fear and darkness. Sadly, as I right myself, the gratitude and wonder fades.
Am I waiting for a brush with death to start appreciating life more fully? Is there a certain birthday that will catapult me into the present moment – and keep me there? These questions all assume there is a future. There is no observance of the inevitable finitude of all things. My father’s voice comes into my head; “the only two certainties in life are death and taxes.”
I am left to ponder how I might live life differently if I shifted out of the ruminations of the past and my obsession with curating the future – instead listening to the vibrations of the moment, hour, and day that I am inhabiting. As the morning unfolds I am prone to check my phone, fuss over some of my words and actions of yesterday, or worry about a look, odd intake of breath, or lack of text from one of my children. I often notice a twinge of anxiety as I check the time and measure the plans for the day ahead – what else might fit in, what SHOULD I be doing with the choices available? I might shift to focus on outfits and a fashion trend that will improve my image, or a new lamp that will enhance the style of our living room, or whether I should weigh myself and exercise more.
If for a moment I quiet the evaluators in my head – I can hear the gentle hum of the furnace and savour the soft edge of my morning coffee and almond milk. I am reminded that in a moment of catastrophe nothing that feels like it matters now, will be of importance. The ruminations of the past will always have the power to create resentment and sadness. The obsessions about the future promise a wave of anxiety and inadequacy.
To appreciate the vigor of the present moment is a recuring commitment I make to myself. As I battle the surge of adrenalin on a ski run and force myself to stop and take in the looming ice ghosts watching me from the edges of the clearings – I might ask others to stop with me and breath in the scent from the fir trees. Rather than see it from the back of an iPhone, I prefer to take it in with my breath and trust it is filed in my vault of well being.
And that’s the truth about that.