“You can’t beat death. It’s un-fucking-defeated. And if you fight it, it will humiliate you. It’ll chain you to a bed and make someone have to wipe your shitty ass. It’ll make you forget who your own fucking kids are. It takes your dignity and it whips its’ dick out and pisses on it. When you’re younger and it comes for you, it’s worth it to fight it and suffer through the humiliation. When you’re older, what the fuck does it get you to go through that?”
Justin Halpern, All That’s Left When You Die
My Grandma’s been reminding me she’s ready every chance she gets, and has done so for the better part of the last fifteen years. She’d probably have put it this way if she was a grumpy old coot with a gutter mouth and absolutely no filter, but she’s a retired teacher and a dignified lady, so she settles for “I’m already eighty-seven, you know.”
They say the best guests know exactly when to leave the party. If that’s true and life is a party, then you’re looking at the worst party guest ever because I would be the weirdo peeling herself off the wreckage on the floor of your apartment the morning after, helping herself to whatever is left in your refrigerator.
Being absolute crap at math worked in my favour a few days ago. I’d just come from one of Toronto’s many downtown parks, having taken a few prerequisite selfies and was in the process of deciding whether or not to share them on Instagram, when the reality of it all hit me. I would never be as young again as I was in that photograph. November is looming, and with it my birthday, and the number thirty-eight was flashing on and off. Illi, who is better at math than I am (and actually used his phone to ensure accurate calculations), said the number was thirty-seven. I felt slightly better. Like a stay of execution had been granted. I then realized I’d been living this past year thinking I was older than I really was, which is complete bonkers.
Still, forty is now within shouting distance which is such an intimidating idea. I always thought that I would, I don’t know, be a confident, self-assured other person I wouldn’t recognize. But the truth is, I feel like I am fundamentally the same person I was at sixteen. I might have a bit more experience and have picked up some emotional bruises and scars along the way, but why don’t I feel any different?
Maybe it takes having children – a step I never took – to become someone else, to be different, to evolve. But this isn’t about biological urges and my strange lack of them; this is about death and my strange inability to face it head on.
As each year passes, and a layer of cynicism (and fat, shut up) gets added to my slight and dainty frame, I can see how some have gotten to the point where they’re so sick of humans and the sick, sad world we’ve created, they’re willing to cast off this mortal coil. Not that everyone who’s ready to go is sick of humanity. They could also just be sick and tired of being sick and tired. Or they could also be graceful about the whole thing, acknowledging they’ve lived a full life and are ready to get off the train whenever. Whatever the reason, I think a person needs to be at a certain age and a certain point in life to really hunker down and accept the inevitable.
So here I am, still clinging tightly to life the way Kate clung to Leo in the middle of the Arctic. Although some days are darker than others, the world isn’t nearly sick or sad enough yet for me to want to leave it for the great unknown, not even if it sometimes feels like common sense doesn’t exist and humanity is a ball of entitlement and fakery. Living still feels good. I’m still aging disgracefully, and this whole breathing thing beats the not knowing.