(The ego is pathologically self-centered.)
I am no longer the dewy girl I once was: age is catching me. How sad is the turning of the tide, when no amount of effort can mitigate the inevitable, my over ripening, my decline. I am losing my bloom: how dreadful is the blow to my ego. The flesh moves southward, sluggish, more tired than it should be. Lines scrawl across my forehead and eyes become hooded. The irony of the marionette contours becoming more prominent, as if to say “That’s right sister, you are not in control (you never were).” Silver strands appear. Of course they are wiry. Of course they poke out randomly in stark contrast to my jet black mane as if to say “That’s right sister, you can run, you can dye, but there is no hiding.” These days, my mirror has only one thing to say to me: “This is it! Welcome to your long decline.”
Age is beginning to rob me of “me.” I am struggling with this.
(Indeed the ego is the root of all suffering.)
When I listen to my own thoughts, when I track my emotions as they happen, I am acutely aware of ego, of its power and pervasive hold on me. I could blame it on my culture, my acutely motivated by and responsive to appearance culture. According to The Economist, Americans spend more on beauty each year than they do on education. Maybe I’m too stupid to know any better. I could blame it on my dad, a man obsessed with stopping the clock, a man who quite nearly did. His doctor, also my doctor, used to say, “With numbers like that, your dad will live forever.” Maybe Dad’s relentless pursuit of maintaining his perfected specimen of a man status makes me feel like I should be doing something to stem the downward trend of my not-so-perfected specimen of a woman. I could blame it on myself. The meanest things ever said to me are those things I tell myself.
(The ego can be categorically negative.)
My teacher and friend says “We are not our bodies.” If that’s true, than any emotion or judgment attached to drooping features and softening angles is a waste. Why then do I allow myself to be defined by what’s happening to my face? Why am I so weak? An aging face says nothing about the quality or substance of a heart. I know this to be true of everyone else, so why can’t it be true of me?
(That’s the problem with attaching too strongly to anything that is impermanent—which is of course, everything.)
Reminder to “self”: A flower bud opens up, uncurls from the inside to open fully until it reaches its maximum size. Then its petals harden to the outside air. Eventually, it dries up, falls off and dies…but not before it disperses its seed.
A flower seeds
Before it cedes
Before it yields
And so shall I
And so shall I
(Reminder to Self)
Love doesn’t leave…
though sometimes it retreats,
preferring the deep sleep of reprieve
to the effort that is required to stay.
is a traitor.
Fear would turn everyone
into love’s deserter…
if allowed to conspire freely.
The mind invites both love and fear at will.
Because the two cannot co-exist,
one must overcome the other.
If love has gone to slumber,
if love is allowed to retreat,
than its opposite will take up residence
in the void.
when it is inconvenient,
when it’s easier to release than to wrestle,
to be love’s guardian.
If you had one year left to live…what would you do? How many of your precious few moments would you waste lamenting your misfortune? How many would you spend in fear of pain? How many would be depleted, wallowing in denial, being angry, bargaining with God, spiraling into depression, seeking miracle cures? How many until acceptance? How many precious few moments would remain if and when you came to acceptance?
It is impossible to know how anyone might respond to having just one year.
Many have less than that. Some are taken in an instant, lost to car accidents, heart attacks, the unpredictable. One minute there is life, the next there is void. Some have months before aggressive disease takes them from loving and grasping arms of family and friends. Some live with their dying for far too long, facing excruciating pain and the loss of each faculty, one-by-one, very, very slowly.
We just do not know the moment, the circumstances, the manner. But we know it is coming.
If you had one year left to live would you have the presence of mind and heart to make peace? Maybe with God first? Or with those you love? Or with those you don’t? Isn’t everything else meaningless?
Each moment does indeed count. Every exchange with another human being provides the opportunity—perhaps the last opportunity—to love completely.
It is far too easy to get caught up in our task-focused lives, until the loss of one we love reminds us…for a while. Don’t wait until there is precious little time remaining, make peace and make love and savor the beauty that is “relationship.” Just as we shouldn’t wait until Christmas to be generous, we shouldn’t wait until we are given a death sentence to live.