Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Matters of Death and Life

A few months ago I almost choked to death. Really, it was serious. I was alone,and I had the full realization that I was about to die. I still marvel that I was able to save myself (quite by accident).

You'd think that one would have some sort of epiphany after an experience like that. It would suddenly become clear that death can come at any time, and therefore all of us have a finite and unknown number of years (or months, or minutes) to go. In other words, Holy Moly! Life can turn on a dime, so I'd better get moving.

However, nothing like that happened for me. I think it's because I've realized since I was nine years old that life can turn on a dime. When you've known that much unexpected loss—my mom when I was a child, my daughter almost eight years ago, my husband's ten-year decline before his death three years ago, my healthiest cousin last year—you live with this knowledge all the time. It hangs over you . . . somewhat like following a path at the base of a mountain, passing sign after sign that read FALLING ROCK ZONE.

Well, that certainly sounds negative! Really, it isn't quite like that because most of the knowledge is internal. It's not something I allow to come to the surface every day. But it's always there.

So choking didn't shake me awake, but something did. I don't know what it was exactly, but recently I became aware that I've been stalled for some time. I've been going through the motions, but not making any progress in life. I don't think I've reached the point where I'm too old to progress. My dad at my age bought himself a boat, took up the bicycle, and had himself a good time. His daughter seems to have turned into a screensucker. No TV for me, but I've been spending way too much time with my chin propped on my hand, staring at my computer monitor. (Two monitors, actually. At this computer, I have 44 inches of screen to suck.)

Again, for whatever reason, I was moved to take stock of this situation. It happened just before sleep one night, and I grabbed the first piece of paper I could find and wrote down four things worthy of my time and energy.

That's why on my night table right now sits a pink While You Were Out slip that reads,

Further at least one of these goals every day:

Home Improvement
Write a Book
Edit HCL's (my dad) Photos
Have Fun

I'm workin' on it.


Helen said...

I wonder if we always see a bit of ourselves in others' writing (or maybe that's just a sign of egocentricity). I've felt stalled for the past 10 or so years. So this post inspires me. I'm going to write my own pink slip (not related to work). Thanks Susan, and have fun on the way to goals 1-3! Let me know when you've accomplished goal 2, and where I can get a copy.

Susan said...

Ditto right back to you, Helen. I look forward to a progress report.

crystal said...

I saw myself here too. I've felt so useless since Kermit died. Feel like I'm just killing time till I croak :) Ieven got a book from the library - Inventing the rest of our lives but haven't given it a look. Congrats for finding stuff that's important to you and thanks for this post :)

Jean Campbell said...

The hurrier I go, the behinder I get. It applies to real life, too.

Jean Campbell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dona said...

Well, first of all, I'm glad you didn't choke to death.

Secondly -- good for you for working on your list.

The computer does suck a lot of our time doesn't it?

Indigo Bunting said...

OMG. When I read this, I had my chin propped on my hand, staring at my computer monitor.

I think feeling stuck is a fairly common feeling. When I do actually get myself to blog, I at least feel that it's some step in the right direction.

Indigo Bunting said...

I am still trying to imagine how you saved yourself quite by accident.

Susan said...

Thank you all for your comments. It isn't just the computer, of course. It's lots of things. The way I've allowed myself to get distracted, for one. Taking on too many things and succeeding with none of them--at least not to the degree I want.

And then little things like the audio books I listened to constantly in my car. To make my commute more pleasant, I always had an audio book going. Get in the car, start the engine, start the book. At some point I realized the constant immersion in audio fiction was stopping me from thinking. In the past, a drive was the ideal time to think about things, to plan, to come up with writing ideas. So now I listen to audio books part of the time. The rest of the time I'm getting in touch with my thoughts.

IB, I'll send you an email about that. If anyone else wants to know, let me know.

Mali said...

I too am feeling a little stalled. I'm five years on from a life-affecting event and about 2-3 years on from feeling "recovered" from that, but now I feel as if I've stalled, as if I'm drifting.

But you're inspiring me not to be. Thankyou.

JAL Webagency said...

Hi Susan

You could Polish those photos and create an online memorial tribute to honor the life of your Dad.