Perspective

Today, one of my best friends from college told me that, though it is a vague idea, she knows what kind of book she would want to read if I had written it. She told me that I am the only person she knows who lives for the journey, and not the destination. Most people plan out their lives based on where they want to be down the road…, But then, as she mentioned, I take a two-hour detour on a 14-hour drive, simply because I saw something that interested me…, And it doesn’t bother me one bit that it added so much time to the already long drive. She gave other examples, too, that illustrated her point quite well.

What stuck out the most for me, though, is that I have never considered my life with these words…, Yet they seemed absolutely true. In the past six months, I have been struggling with a regular question of whether I am living my life all wrongly, if I’m messing everything up by doing things the way I am doing them. And I see now: the whole reason I’ve been feeling that way lately, is because I have been comparing my life to everyone else’s lives… But that is like comparing bananas to chairs – they are not comparable, not in the least.

I am not playing the same game as everyone else, and when I compare where I am to where they are, I am certainly failing their game…, But, as I said, I am not playing their game.

Some might say that I take the road less traveled, but I really think that I often don’t take the road at all… I explore the detours, and end up somewhere completely unexpected.

(This point can be quite literally illustrated by a recent hike I took with a friend of mine… She wanted to stay on the main path, and I was curious as to what this possible detour path would show us… Where we ended up was spectacular, and completely unexpected… And then I found another semi-path back to the main road, way up ahead, while my friend went all the way back the way we had come…)

I’m beginning to think that this is a huge part of why, whenever I have been asked the question of where I see myself in five or ten or 15 or 50 years, I could never quite provide an answer… It’s not that my imagination isn’t great enough, but that I genuinely have no clue as to where I will end up and what I will be doing. I know the person I will be, I know that I will love and I will be loved. Beyond that, though, there’s a world of possibilities, and each one has an innumerable set of detours I might explore. It is likely that, in this moment, my wildest dreams couldn’t tell me where I will be in five or ten years… Or even in one…

When I considered jobs growing up and throughout college, and even now, I’ve always kind of had the feeling of, ‘Why pick one? Let’s give them all a try,’ though, without actually putting it into those words.

It’s funny to me how much sense this all makes, simply because of two sentences that a friend of mine said to me today… Let us remember that I words carry so much power – whether we realize it or not, whether we feel it or not, someone feels it more than we likely ever will know.

You know, for the first time in several months, I think I can breathe fully easily now… I was right that I am failing at this life…, But I had forgotten that that life was not the one I ever wanted to live…

Now, I am free to live my life…

And that is just about the most exciting thing I have ever considered or said… 😀

P.S. Early, early this morning, the world lost the physical presence of one of the greatest people I have ever known, and possibly ever will know… I haven’t talked about it with anyone, and I don’t want to yet – I’m not ready for that. However, I feel like she was with me today in this whole realization… She has been a huge part of almost every major moment in my life since I began college, and I swear she was here this evening. 🙂 I have a feeling she will continue to be here in my life.

Post-a-day 2020

Oblivion

A friend of mine today shared with me what felt like a somewhat desperate opinion about death.

He said that, since someone important to him died a while back, he is now the only person who knows certain things about her… there is no one left on the planet to carry forward these pieces of her, these memories of her… and, when he dies, all of these parts of her – parts that he finds to be spectacular and worth keeping alive – will be lost to oblivion… much like the great Augustus Waters feared for his own life.*

I, however, have found that I do not see things so desperately as my friend does.

For one thing, I never fully understood Augustus Waters’ fear of being lost… In everything I do, I affect the whole world around me… Whether people know my name or not, whether the trees talk or not, part of me exists in all of them, simply because our paths have crossed… Whether I like it or not, parts of me are spread throughout the world, and those parts will travel on forever, no matter whether my physical body is still breathing and pumping blood.

In a way, I always will exist in this universe… and I do not feel separate from the rest of what is here within it now, nor do I feel like a spectator – I am part of this universe, and it is part of me…

A single drip onto a pond sends ripples that change the whole… even if the fish doesn’t know it, his path was altered because of a drip on the far side of the pond…

And I already know that most of my ripples are more like waves in this life…

Now, for another thing, if things are as this friend expressed them to be, is that not all the more reason to value the unparalleled opportunity it was for him to have been witness to these parts of her?… these beauties are only in existence for this short and brief time in the world… let them not go to waste by brooding over their eventual loss… instead, embrace and love them while they are here now, and be grateful that he had the opportunity to be the one to know them.

Otherwise, it is almost an insult to the beauty of the memories and to the person of whom they are remembered – she was amazing, so let us be amazed…. and the memory of her only lasts so long, so let us embrace it while it lasts, and be grateful that we were honored with such a unique and limited experience.

Just my thoughts from this morning… I think they are part of why death has always been a sort of mixed bag for me… I simultaneously and terrified of it, and feel oddly connected to it and rather unafraid… when it is time, it is time, because a body is ready to move on to the next stage of things… it’s almost not even personal…, even though it is…

::sigh….. oh, well… that’s all I have to say on that for the moment…

*If you don’t get the reference, Google it, and help yourself onto the young and hip bandwagon. 😉

P.S. Turns out that I had something else to say on this… I remembered just now what a friend of mine shared years ago, after her mother died… it is something that resonated with me then, and still does today (specifically the sections in bold, with a big bam on the underlined part at the end)… it is from 2005 by Aaron Freeman:

You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.

-Aaron Freeman.

Here’s a link to the piece of NPR for “All Things Considered”, one of my favorite segments on NPR, in which this all was originally said publicly by Aaron Freeman… it is a lovely three-minute listen. 🙂

Post-a-day 2020

Yearbooks

***Update on the ant bite: My bicep still rocks, but the bite swelled and split open this morning, only to close up, turn green in the middle again, and start swelling again… we’ll see how it looks in the morning, now! (And the coach’s bites did not turn green, he said, but one was hurting a lot.)***

We now return to regular programming.

There is a guy working with me who graduated high school with my youngest brother.

I pulled out the yearbook from their senior year today, and had a brief look through the senior photos.

I enjoyed how much hair this guy and my brother both had in their photos, and how they both have almost none now, and both keep their heads shaved (though my brother uses a razor, and the other guy only seems to buzz it as short as possible).

One thing I noted was that their service work locations seemed almost stereotypical for each of them…. interesting, perhaps.

Something bigger, however, was the other people I found in the yearbook.

I crossed names of people whose faces I knew not, but whose names I knew well from my brother – how fun to put faces to the names, even almost two decades after the fact.

And then I realized that I finally had the opportunity to look up and remember my brother’s best friend’s full name – I forgot his middle name a few years back, and haven’t recalled it since…. I just always thought it was fascinating, because he was the fourth with the name, so he had a “, IV” at the end of his legal name.

And I use the past tense here, because he died at the start of their sophomore year of college.

It was drinking and a bit of drugs at a party, and everyone thought he’d simply fallen asleep, but, of course, he hadn’t… I’ve always remembered most that my brother was invited to that same party, but chose to work on his absurd amount of homework, instead (thank you, UT Architecture program [not for the first time]).

And so J—– died at the party, and my brother spoke at the funeral, at the request of J—-‘s family, and he did a wonderful job.

My mom and I also attended the funeral, along with a lot of people.

After the funeral, since J—- had always said that he wanted to go out with pinwheels and fireworks, we (a handful of select people that happened to include my mom and me) went to an open land area across from a movie theatre, and set off a bunch of little rockets and a few big shebang fireworks (the pinwheels had decorated the casket) – it was a true party and celebration to send off J—- and to say goodbye together.

When I came across his name today, I was delighted – I finally have it(!).

And then I gave his photo a good look.

And it was almost terrifying as an experience, though terrifying just is not quite the right word…

It suddenly occurred to me that this was the first time I’d seen a photo of J— since around the time of the funeral – I’d only had mental visions of him since then.

It was weird to think that, u like my brother and that other guy, J— had not aged from this photo… maybe two years’ worth of aging, but that was little different from the boy who sat in the frame that is in front of me now.

These were posed senior portraits for the yearbook, and so they each are looking directly at the camera…, directly at the viewer of the photograph… J—- was no exception…

And it was spooky, knowing that those eyes, so true and almost penetrating in this photo, were no longer here, no longer existed.

And then, it had me wonder how many people in this book, this yearbook are no longer around?

And that was perhaps even spookier…

I had to move on to other things then, both in terms of productivity and in terms of an emotional desire to step away from the increasing discomfort and potential sadness of what sat before me, visually and mentally, at that moment, and so I closed the book, put it back in its place, and walked away.

I soon had tears in my eyes, and the feeling of hollowness just behind the bottom of my ribs was growing.

Now, hours later and many tasks and conversations later, I feel less afraid, and more aware of the fleeting aspect of life, the circumstances that allow us a promise of a chance at everything, and at a chance of it all going away at any moment, in a moment’s time…

On my way up to the house where I am housesitting tonight, I passed their church, where J—-‘s funeral had been… I think of him every time I pass it (though that doesn’t happen too often), because it’s the only thing I’ve ever attended there…

……

I don’t have anything insightful about this… I just wanted to share…

Post-a-day 2019

For the common good… -ish

I was thinking about death last night  (It makes sense, I promise.), and I came to an interesting idea.  Someone was discussing how she couldn’t understand why someone so amazing as the friend who just died could die.  Why would God take away someone who brings so much to the world? she asked, rhetorically.  

And what came to mind almost immediately, was, ‘Because it was time for that good to spread.’  

Now that that person is gone, all of the people in her life who found her to be spectacular, now have a sense of powerful, willing obligation to carry on a This or a That from her life.  This way, although this one person only impacted so many people directly by living, the desire to keep good in the world drives those people to carry on her good to others, directly affecting more people than she ever even met.  Whenever we lose someone we love, it is common and natural for us to carry forward consciously and intentionally something that person would say or do in life.  We already do a good amount of that unintentionally, of course, but the death of a person affects us in a different way, often calling us to even note inpactful action in our lives.  And so, losing someone so wonderful can almost feel like the world saying, ‘Okay, it’s time to increase this good influence on the world exponentially.’

Kind of cool, I think.  It’s an idea, nonetheless.

Post-a-day 2017