We live so that we might die

There are rules for this life, I know. There are ways of being. I have chosen my way. I am 28 now, but I won’t resort to clichés about how old that makes me. I am as old as today, as the time I woke those few minutes before my alarm beeped its unpleasantries, until this moment when I drew these thoughts towards me. I am not afraid of this life.

I am not afraid of getting old, because I know that my mind will adjust with these changes. It is only when I go back to the place where I grew up that I see how far I have come, or rather how far away I have gone. I walk streets and know memories; know who I was and what I did once. I am not that person and perhaps I never was. How can we really know ourselves when we change so quickly – our skin cells shedding en masse, as much as our memories do?

It does not matter what you did to me. The beauty of age is the art of forgetting that one learns, or perhaps the art of beauty is forgetting how to learn, because we love most that which we know. You only matter to me if you are present, if I can remember the colour of your eyes and know the smell of your breath. You only matter to me if what I feel now is dependent on you. I have only fond, fleeting glimpses of time’s past and I am happy to live by remembering to forget.

There are rules for life. They are scattered around the internet as a means to feel better about oneself. They contradict and confuse more than they help. Don’t pay too much attention. Truthfully, no one can show me how to be happy, not even me. I am what I am. I just have to trust that with sadness comes happiness and that I won’t feel that same way for the rest of my life.

I am no longer afraid to be alone. I have to trust that statement. I have to believe that my purpose will become clear in time. My life is endless, boundless, an eternity, because tonight I will close my eyes and today will no longer matter. It makes me invincible. Let go. Trust in growth, trust in time.

We live so that we might die. Our certainty comes from death, our uncertainty from living.

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A Place to Lay the Bodies

I guess it is inevitable, that as I get older, the body count will rise. Without the instruction manual for life, what can you really know about the endless little ways in which you learn to live with these cadavers? Right now I feel as if they are weighing me down because I wasn’t close enough to them, or because I didn’t love them, or know them well-enough, or because they have others doing the mourning for them. That doesn’t mean that this loss is not mine to feel. My heart swells with it, bleeds an invisible stream of the darkest blood, rivulets which filter into my veins, travelling on a gruesome journey of reminders. My memories are tainted by this invisible stream of blood that I don’t feel entitled to bleed.

My pain has always been mine alone. I have carried it through a solitary wilderness within me. This is no different.

My apologies to you. Yesterday your life ended so abruptly and all I can think of is how selfish you are to die at this time. I wasn’t doing so well and I made it known. With my face bowed beneath my tears, I forgot to look up to study your face that one last time. I couldn’t find it in me to laugh at your jokes, or ask how you are. You are selfish to have died before I could say sorry. And now? Now you have reminded me, in the most heart-breaking way, how short this life really is. I need to go on living; with and without my cadavers. It will only get worse but I have to do this alone. A solitary wilderness is the best place to preserve the remains of these memories.

Your two names

Your mother gave you two names each, as if to expand you both so you will never feel alone, as if to add more of you to make up for the family you’ve been denied for 27 years. You know nothing about any of us, never even knew we existed. Now as I begin telling our family story, writing down the names of all those you will never know because they are no longer among us, along with those you have yet to meet, I feel like each of these people bring up a lifetime of feeling for me; feeling that you will never experience. We found each other too late.

This is not just a pity; it’s a tragedy, brought by sheer, wilful selfishness.

I am so angry on your behalf. Most of what I feel is for you. I am angry for the lies and the wanton waste and the imposed ignorance and the missed moments. All those moments. All we have are our photographs and our stories and our newly experienced pain. How can we turn this tragedy into love, family, acceptance? He wasn’t there for your firsts. He never watched you fall in love, get married, give birth. He never knew his grandchildren. He never watched you live.

He will never know what he has done.

I don’t resent you this mess. You are his legacy: two beautiful young women denied the father that every person deserves. There are so many questions. It feel like the growth of this family has only just begun.

Some of what I feel is for me too. I want to crawl back to that oblivion of childhood worship, when I believed that he was a superhuman, that he was a god, that everyone adored him. He was the substitute for a father who was never anything but a weak and angry man. He was my secret crush, my first hero. His photos are littered throughout my albums, because he is always that enigmatic figure; a person whose soul would never be touched by this superficial life. He was perfect.

Now I know that in death, he is as far away from any of us as he was in life; a knowing which all of us discovered too late. I have no truthful memories left.

All we have, at this moment in time, is tomorrow. But however many “tomorrows” we get, they will never be enough. At this time all I can do is wonder – wonder what it was like to never know your father, wonder how you felt hearing of his death, wonder if we can ever really explain him well enough for you to fall in love with his memory.

The truth is, in the end, my bitterness is also enmeshed in the lunacy, in the cliché of it all. I will have to open my mind as far as I can so that I can try to understand the decisions he made and try to reconcile my memories to the new knowledge. Maybe one day I can understand and forgive.

What saddens me the most is knowing that however wide I open these arms, however big our first smiles may be, I know that whoever is left in this family will never be a substitute for the father you never knew. We have to accept that the living will never be enough in the face of the death of one person.

Your father had two names too, a name name, and then an affectionate one: “Tizzy”. How can we explain how much he was adored and why we felt that way? How can I ever feel it again?

Dear dad

It’s been a year now. I still haven’t forgiven you, but neither have I accepted your dying. I still haven’t forgiven me and it’s time to say I’m sorry. With your death you taught me something vital; it was the only time you taught me anything at all. It doesn’t matter. At the moment when life drains away, your regrets will tell you what is most important to you.

I am sorry that I stopped taking your calls. I am sorry that I was afraid to be honest, to sort things out between us. I stopped being brave because I thought I was being true to myself. I am sorry that I didn’t seek help, that the only time I was forced to confront my pain, it was all too much for me and I walked away with my face on fire. You took away any strength I had, because you were my father and there is nothing like love to bring you to your knees.

Maybe, just maybe, if I had loved you more, I would find it easy to love now. Maybe if I had accepted you, instead of launching a silent attack without words or movement, my hunger strike of the soul, I would be less likely to speak harshly, to criticise and to judge.

Dear dad, why did we never speak, why did you offer no guidance? How can I break through the trenches, enter enemy lines and still live to survive? The warfare we created, a battle of wills and humanity; it was driven by fear. I was afraid to love, only be to hurt again. Nowadays I am afraid to be hurt, only to be in love again.

My self-destruction is subtle, it is enacted in small ways through offering all I have and standing vulnerable and exposed in front of every man I meet, only to watch their backs as they flee the scene and feel the crushing dread of my self-imposed loneliness. This is my survival, but it is also my suicide.