Deep Thoughts for a Monday

Monday, July 28, 2008

This particular monologue has been rolling through my head since I saw The Dark Knight on Friday afternoon. It was a dark movie and it hit home in a way I didn't anticipate. I don't know, I think these thoughts were in my head, they just didn't get put to words until I set time aside to not think about them, until I let my guard down.

Something about the timing of the movie morphed it into a catalyst, setting off this chain reaction in my brain. I think a big part of it has to do with my dad, who is, barring unforseen issues, going to be fine. Yes, it's a recurrence of the same type of cancer which makes it a little worse than if it was a magical new problem (magical? really Katie?), but his doctor is skilled and they're both optimistic. And my dad is now wearing sunscreen for perhaps the first time in his life, so I guess we've found our silver lining, 'eh? But at the same time, this last week, this cancer thing with my dad, this sanity draining thing with my head, even this movie, has forced me to think about my own mortality and that of those I love.

Yes, it's dramatic (are you surprised by this. Hi, have we met?) But it's true. That's what this last week has been for me. Watching Heath Ledger offer up a fantastic acting performance was great, but those few moments when you could recognize him, when you saw that it was Ledger and not this crazy character? It made my breath catch in my chest because he's dead. That man, who was only a very few years older than me, died. He didn't die of cancer, he didn't die of disease, he died from mixing the wrong pills.

He died from an accident. And I can't wrap my mind around that. But at the same time, I can't wrap my head around death at all. It's this thing, this element that is so much a part of life, but it's the thing we're all running from, and the thing we'll all ultimately be caught by. It's as big a part of life as anything else, and yet, it's the one thing that I really just can't comprehend.

Maybe I'm the only person who thinks about things like this, but some days I get caught up in how small I am. How in this gigantic earth, I'm just one tiny person. In the history of this planet, I'm like a speck of lint. Sure, I hope beyond hope to have a lasting impact, but I know that in the next 75 years, I'm going to die. And it scares the bejeezus out me. Ironically, not as much as living does. Because knowing that in the next 75 years I'll have to live through things that are far more difficult than death, scares me. Burying my parents being at the top of that list. And I know it's the natural order and that it's a part of life, but it's not one I'm willing or able to consider.

Hearing that my father had a recurrence of cancer reminded me that we're not invincible, that we're all at some point, going to leave this earth, this life, our loved ones. I've faced my own risk, I've looked at literature that tells me that I'm 4 times more likely than the average woman to be afflicted with breast cancer. I've read studies telling me to be tested for gene mutations, that recommend prophylactic measures for people in my position. But I don't think I ever let my guard down long enough to consider that it is going to happen.

Whether by cancer, or old age, or by simple accident, in the end, it doesn't much matter, the result is the same. I guess I'm just surprised. I feel like my eyes have been opened to something that I never really wanted to see. Maybe this is what growing up feels like and I've finally achieved the status of adult. Is this what being an adult is? Worrying about things like burying your parents instead of what color shorts to wear to the coffeeshop? Is being an adult having enough perspective to realize that the zit on my forehead that looks to be another head altogether really just doesn't matter?

I don't know. But I feel like I'm evolving. As if something has started to change in me (and again, for the record, it's not a child). I just feel a new responsibility or a new obligation to live my life because I'm privileged to have it. Because I realize now, that it's not something to be taken for granted. Because you don't get second chances. Because as cheesy as it sounds, every day literally could be your last.

I'm not going to start living like a crazy person, taking risks, throwing away money or jumping off buildings to conquer things. But maybe I'm going to hold a little bit tighter to the things in my life that I know are important. My family, my friends.

The things that I live for. The things I don't want to leave behind.


Flea said...

Y'know, it's funny, but reading all these months I'm surprised that this didn't hit you when you went through the whole brain surgery thing. I don't mean that to be flippant. It's just that so many people who go through something life-altering and life threatening usually come to this point in the middle of it.

It's cool that it has come to you so young. Everyone I know who has survived cancer seems to live a much more beautiful life as a result of "the epiphany". May you live fully from here on out!

Ness said...

Oh Katie, I so understand! You've been hit with so much in your young life. A lot of things have contributed to this feeling(s) you're having. Getting married always seems to stamp the words RESPONSIBLE and LIVE LIFE on a person. Combined with your medical conditions, your dad's condition and watching the Heath movie...girl, I'm surprised you're not mainlining alcohol with all this stuff that's hit you. :-)

I have been doing something similar with the death of Tim Russert. I just can't wrap my head around the fact that he won't be greeting me on Meet the Press or helping me through this Presidential election process. I just finished reading the book he wrote about his dad and I ACTUALLY MISS TIM! Like my heart is breaking. I am a true nut job!

I have buried both parents, one at 13 and one at 47(my ages)and as morbid as it may sound. my best advice to you is to have the funeral/wake videographed. In 1968 we didn't have that ability but I so wish I would have for my dad's because you are floating in a land of denial/reality and you can't remember who came, what music was played, etc. And when it is all said and done, much like a wedding, you want to be able to have a way to go back and re-live/remember it. The one thing that did help me through them both is the memories. Sadly, I have no pictures of my mother but I have stories and holidays that I remember. The memories will get you through. Make them. Even if you think you have enough, make more. Email/talk/write/whatever. I have my mom's Social Security card with her signature on it and it is priceless to me. Anyway, hang in there and live Life 101 to the fullest. Sorry for the length. I sometimes get involved in my subject matter. lol

kim-d said...

You have come to this much younger than I did, as you well know. I was so naive about death until everybody I loved started dying. And, not to rain on your parade or anything, but no matter how much you evolve, when it starts happening, it's a WHOLE OTHER DEAL! There are not words, at least not in my arsenal, to express the pain you go through when someone you love dies. Somebody who is very important to me recently said these words about another, "I love you with my whole heart and soul." I thought those were the most incredibly beautiful words I had ever read, maybe because I, too, have loved people with my whole heart and soul. But loving like that means there could eventually be some pain, too. But it doesn't make any difference! If you're gonna love, love with your whole heart and soul. If you're gonna live, live with your whole heart and soul. Step outta your comfort zone, don't sweat the small shit, give others the benefit of the doubt, think of yourself less often, and realize that there are things that we just DO NOT control.

We never know; this day COULD be our last. I talked to my Mom on a Sunday; on Monday she was dead. I'm sure glad I talked to her on Sunday, even though I maybe shouldn't have spent the money on the long-distance call (back in the day...). That type of thing. You are so blessed, Katie--to have Slappy, to have your parents/stepparents/siblings and other family members, to have your friends. The best way to honor people, now and after they're gone, is to live a good life and be happy. I think that's the best we can do.

And even if it's hard for you, let people know how you feel about them while you can. Have you ever heard of a person being told that they are loved and important too much?

As for you...glad you're my friend :).

Anonymous said...

You are maturing (and aging)and finally having things of real meaning in your life. And with that comes worry of losing it all after you worked hard to get things just so. Welcome to the club; we've been waiting for you. Need me to do your will? ;)

joanne said...

I considered not commenting on your post, but it haunted me all day, so I decided to come back. This touched me in such a strange way, just pulled at my heart, in a place that I don't allow most people to enter.

You are not the only person who thinks this way and gets wrapped up in the fear and uncertainty of life and death. I have never found a way to process grief and fear. I was in my 40's when I lost both of my parents and it was shocking to me that it would be so difficult. I was in my 20's when I lost my first born son, I had no idea what to do with the grief so I pushed it away and refused to deal with it. But it's very patient. Instead I became afraid of life.

You and I share a common bond with the losses we experience with our health and the uncertain future we face.

Make memories, lots and lots of memories. Write it down, take pictures, whatever you need to do to keep the memory of those you cherish. When they are gone from you those memories will be a comfort. I have some very special items from my mom and dad that both evoke memory and grief, but I cherish them. I didn't get the chance to make memories with my son. I only had him for a my arms...but that is what I carry. All I really have is the "what should have been." It's not nearly enough.
In making your memories with your loved ones you will also be leaving a gift for day.

You've touched my life and that's what it's all about. I'm not sure how I found my way here but I'm glad I did and I thank you for sharing so much of yourself. Take care ;)

Kelly said...

So true! I was somewhat older than you when I realized this. I was 37 when my mom had a stroke at 59 and is still in a nursing home and my dad died 6 months after that. It shook my whole foundation! I was now the grown up and did not want to be. It took some time but honestly I still struggle with it at times. Your right tho it is just life.

Anonymous said...

I really wish I had read this when you had posted it last week. It was almost identical to what I was thinking/have been thinking for the past week. But you put it into words so much better than I can!