For my mother.
they say we never really know how soon it actually will be yet, maybe in a weird way we do. It is just so damn painful, we refuse to look.
“Human life begins on the far side of despair.”
When the end of February approaches, a part of me freezes. This has happened every year for as long as I can remember. Like clockwork, analysis starts. As March turns the corner, this deepens and morphs into what perhaps can be only called a lighted version of despair. As the end of March closes in, another year of my existence on this planet will turn full tilt. I will be crowned with a new number, a different label.
People tell me that I have already accomplished so much; led an unconventional life full of movement and change, all the while keeping true to my own tune. Yet, I don’t feel satiated. Lingering thoughts turn to dreams and places never realized, people never met. There is an inner pull for more, a desire to seize my existence into something bigger than myself.
Last night as I lay in bed, I counted my age in years. One, two, three…twenty, thirty, forty… I rehearse the number to come, as if to practice what it would sound like when it came time to admit it to someone other than myself. Forty-five. 4 + 5. 45. Wow. Age. It is just a number, I know, but dam, that sounds old. I don’t feel 45. At least like the 45 that I understood adults to be when growing up. Forty is the decade when most people have their lives figured out; formal education concluded, a job lined up. People in this age bracket usually own or at least, rent a house, perhaps even a bit of land. Their kids each have their own rooms. The car that they drive to work, is not something they live in. People living up to social standards, status and expectations. Material success displayed like a peacock shows off its feathers.
In truth, I care little about that. Material wealth is something I compromise for control over my own time and freedom. A simple exchange for a vault of experiences of life on the road. Social status and material wealth are superficial and in no way justify one’s existence in the world. All the same, in the background, this tune echoes and hums, pressuring me to be and have more than my current status. Interference noise guilting me into societal pressures. Perhaps this is just a mid-life crisis; that thing I overheard adults speak about when I was a kid.
And so, as I lay in bed counting the passing years, the thoughts that provided me the most angst is what I haven’t yet done or experienced. My feet have still not touched African soil. My mobile dream home in which we can stand, walk and travel the continent remains out of reach. Simple desires really. There are more complicated ones. That dream job that satisfies and gives back, all the while sustaining the goals and dreams of both myself and my daughter Cedar; that small plot of land on which to build that self-sufficient cabin in which I will die. There is also that space which has stood, neither empty nor full; wondering, and at times yearning, about that twin soul whom I have yet to stumble upon. The one with whom to share that deep connection of love and magic often spoken of in fairy tales, the kind that adds richness and experience to life. None of these are far fetched and yet…
My mother recently had a heart attack. A mild one just, but you know, the word in itself is provoking, shaking us into a personal realization of the fragilities of life. She will pass into the other world sooner than later. Crazy how someone who has been in your life since the moment you were born, will one day, suddenly not be there. It makes you think, doesn’t it? Reality at its finest.
Faced with the end of a life triggers me to reflect on my own. Goals, dreams, ideals… How fragile they are. How fleeting. Too often we become comfortable, forgetting to seize the very life gifted us. The lives of others provide sharp reminders, even inspiration.
Without waiting for ideal circumstances to form a world of dreams and desires fulfilled, I force myself to take a deep breath and continue to count… Forty three. Forty four… I watch my breath disappear into the same space as time. Reflecting on my own, I ask, what do I have yet to do? What have I yet to say?