Ah, Patti, my long-ago, french-fry eating friend. Since you asked this question I have been struggling, wrestling, stomping my feet in my best 4 year old way, alternately trying to find an honest answer and sticking my fingers in my virtual ears and yelling "go away! go away! I don’t want to talk to you any more!"
Which is pretty common in my bipolar/Taurean/first daughter brain, and quite exhausting. Sometimes I think the most honest answer is that on day 37
I’d take huge a breath,
and finally expire that last breath, sinking into silence and embracing Her, floating in warm salt water, away.
Because all I can come up with is that if I knew I only had 37 days that would be in many ways a relief from Taking Responsibility for everyone else and Doing the Things That Must Be Done. I’m really very good at Taking Care of Everyone Else, and I’ve never in my whole life felt driven by a dream, never felt that drive that so many people seem to have, so if I veer away from doing the things that must be done, it feels aimless, and UnUseFul. Nothing so valuable for which to struggle that taking time and energy and love away from those who need me would seem Important Enough.
I have, and have had, a good life; mostly mundane punctuated by intense moments of joy counterbalanced by abysses of grey-to-black, and mostly, I pray to live along the midline. I miss the hypomanias, for sure, but not the blackness. Never, I never, miss the blackness.
And wrestling with this has just made me so sad, as if I am watching my life projected onto a larger than life screen, a delaminating 16mm reel-to-reel movie where the action and the voices don’t match. If nothing else, for 37 days and nights I’d throw paint and ink in purples and magentas and sapphires at that damned dusty, moth-eaten, red velvet embraced screen, and for the last hour eat popcorn and ice cream and rewatch that movie, knowing that the b&w film had given over to numinous color, and for the last 60 seconds suddenly wish I could do it all over again.
Clearly, I still have work to do, and I hope I have the time to do it in. In which to do it. And maybe not care if I end a sentence with a preposterous preposition.
Thanks for shining the light – I needed it.
Those french-fry eating days together were over 30 years ago, as hard as that is for me to imagine. My recent 30th reunion should have been a hint, but I’m in denial. Edie and I went to high school together and only recently reconnected online. My thanks to her for this compelling image of watching one’s life on a screen — "is my life black and white, or is it in color?" becomes a compelling question as we count down these days, doesn’t it?
What would it take to make a life where we aren’t disappointed when we watch that screen, where the midline itself is a riot of color, not needing those depths or manias of which she speaks, the ones that are so hard. We each have our battles, don’t we?, and yet we spent a lot of time hoping we appear as if we don’t. What would it take to throw paint and ink in purples and magentas on the screen now, before it’s too late? What would it take to speak our truths, as Edie has?
My thanks to Edie after all these years. I’ll be joining her this fall for a book signing in one of her favorite art stores in eastern North Carolina. Since you have an inscribed copy of the book with your name in it already, Edie, let me know to whom I can sign this one for you.
If you’d like to answer the question, "What would I be doing today if I only had 37 days to live?", email me with a photo and your mailing address. Those posted before the official publication date of Life is a Verb on September 2nd will receive a signed copy of the book!