Not your life….not his life….her life…..MY life. And I’m not special. She’ll talk with anyone who’s willing.
And in these dialogs, Life teaches me many things, marvelous Life lessons and I’ve even taught Her few things, too. Now before you label me as some narcissistic tool for thinking I could even remotely teach Life anything, just hear me out.
If you think about it, mankind has learned vital things from her…inertia, gravity and we showed her we could defy a few of her natural laws. And improve upon them, Mankind has taught and continues to teach Life important human lessons everyday. Flight, space travel, how to make fuel out decomposed dinosaurs buried deep within the earth, helping immune systems help themselves; the list is endless.
But all of these things aren’t exactly the things we talk about Life has taught me so much, and it was only recently that I’ve learned I can return the favor. It’s not only personal, it’s the ultimate quid pro quo.
I have many conversations with Life. Not enough to concern a Freudian, but they’re frequent enough and lengthy enough to help me in basic problem solving. And no, these aren’t confabs with God, not even the Universe. To some, Life might be all of those things but to me, She’s very different. In my mind, She looks like Doris Roberts, the actress who played the mom in Everybody Loves Raymond. Feisty, judgmental, loving, encouraging and stifling, open minded but opinionated, demonstrative but aloof, and always making sure I have enough to eat. As it that’s a factor.
In fact, we had a meaningful conversation quite recently.
I told Life that if therapy must be along the path it set out for me, then I’ll look at it as a luxury. Where else can you talk about yourself unabashedly for one uninterrupted hour ? I have lived with various states of depression: severe, the manic variety and of course, situational depression. I regard depression, when not severe, to be something of a gift, as a sign of actual mental health, to be quite honest. It’s worth the occasional loss of self worth just to find different, more creative ways to reconstruct my self-esteem.
I insist I’ve tried to teach Life that contrary to what so many others say, everything is real, even the stuff of our imagination. When I needed love and nurturing as a child, I created imaginary friends…sometimes an entire audience in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the former home of the Academy Award Show….and filled my neglected little soul with what it needed. Of course, if we think it, we can be it, but that takes time and dedication, which make no mistake, I’m all for, but our imagination works perfectly for all quick fixes we need.
As a kid growing up in the 60’s, when Depression era parents were grappling with all the social and economic changes that were so radically different, Valium wasn’t my “Mother’s Little Helper”, my imagination was what kept me out of her hair.
I’m in the midst of trying to teach Life about finite things vs. infinite things. Some things are more finite than others. I tell Life, well okay then, but there is no one infinity, there are many infinities. And some are actually finite, or rather, more infinite than others.
I got no argument from Life on that point.
My mother now lives in a lovely semi- assisted living facility. Its residents are mostly widows—women live longer—but there are some couples living there and they walk to dinner together holding hands or you can see them strolling on the grounds, arm in arm. Between them, there are more than 190 years and I think about all the life they’ve seen and shared and while Life agrees, I scold her for allowing us to place such a negative connotation on aging.
We pay surgeons thousands of dollars to fight its physical ravages. We pay out our sagging wahzoos for ointments, salves, creams, pills and injections to keep us looking younger, thinking younger, performing like a younger person. We defy the natural process which is to age because most of us don’t feel as old as we are. So, we fight it like it’s some kind of disease.
Look at the realities. Older wine tastes better and costs more. Art becomes more expensive the older it is and usually after the artist dies. Antique furniture is ridiculously expensive. Cheese tastes better aged. Why then should humans be devalued just because they get older?
Life explains that designer extraordinaire, Coco Chanel explained it best:
….”Nature gives you your face at 20; you have to earn the one you have at 60’…
Life assures me that aging is the reward for having lived. The entire human condition is a process and aging is a part of that process. We’re born, pink wrinkled, toothless….helpless. There are diapers. We age and then beyond a certain point, we revert backwards in a way.. Life says if the entire cycle is allowed to be completed, we die pink, wrinkled, toothless and often helpless. There are diapers.
But it’s that entire life cycle that bothers me.
Life and l are currently in a massive emotional tug of war over certain things such as the death of a three day old baby that dies or one that dies en utero. My question to Life is why bother? That’s no life. Life responds by telling me these things certainly mattered to the life of the mother, the father, a grandmother, countless others and it altered their lives completely. It’s painfully ironic, but Life insists that loss can provide us with our greatest gains and show us strengths we never knew we had.
She added that old people get it, but young people are too far removed from the concept. The whole idea of death is enigma to them and they seem to regard it as a vicious rumor. A parental cautionary tale. It’s still confusing if a grandparent dies, but when it’s a contemporary, that’s when it hits home in an entirely different way. The kids who survived their mental and physical wounds from the Columbine Massacre had to learn about mortality and the fragility of life the hard way.
Even Life is confounded by that school shooting. She’s always tells me She’s no better equipped with comprehending 9/11, either. She says sometimes people become random sacrificial lambs. After 9/11, airline security changed dramatically. She says the the same thing about war, when cars crash because of driver or mechanical error. She says we learn from our mistakes. We learn to make cars safer and after war, there’s always peace.
But not always prosperity, I remind Her.
She laughs, but says for every thing there is a price. Everything she repeats emphatically. That accounts for the balance of everything: of good and evil, war and peace, abundance and famine, happiness and sadness…even sweet and sour.
I told her I understood the price of knowing. And the I knew the price of ignorance. Selma, Atlanta, hate crime…..why I wasn’t chosen Miss Town and Country Days.
I then changed the subject and told Her, I never wish people people a long life; only if its a happy one and that;s a rarity, because I know that’s not really a human possibility. I don’t want someone with a vicious painful disease or a mental disappears that zaps the qualify of life to live a long life. Thats a curse. Instead, I wish them a life well lived.
She agreed. The options for that are greater since living well is subjective.
But then, it really got interesting when I asked her not about death, but what happens after it occurs . She looked at me and briefly contemplated her answer. She asked, “What if I told you that life is energy?”.
I told Her that wasn’t a reach for me to wrap my head around..
Then She said what if I told you that the sun has been lit and stays lit from the energy of billions of souls that have gone before you; that it was and always will be the light of all humanity.
I told her okay, mentioned something about Stephen Hawking finding that hard to swallow and then added that I was glad we weren’t smoking pot because the subject matter would be way too heavy.
She then told me even the most gifted scientists that ever existed knew they could never know everything.
Things got quiet. The mood shifted. She then asked what’s important to me in the course of my existence. I told Her I all I knew for sure is that I certainly wasn’t ready to hand it in yet, but that I feared aging would limit me even more than some physical issues I have . She suggested that I die young as possible, as late as possible.
We both laughed, then things got serious again. “When it’s your time to help light the sun, what do you want left behind?”
To be remembered, I suppose. .
Don’t suppose, know. KNOW how you want to be remembered, She demanded.
“I want to be remembered as someone who made a positive difference in other people’s lives in the biggest of ways, in the smallest ones.”
She then said, I had nothing to worry about. It would be a while before people would only be able to remember me, but for the time being, she asked me if I thought it was nice to be known not by name or face , but for what one does?
I simply smiled and nodded.