How Close We Come To Death
At a time like this when the world is locked down resisting a deadly microbe and we see young and old succumbing to the attack of this pathogen, we think heavily on our own mortality. How easily it would be to simply touch the wrong place or stand to close to someone and contract a bug that can kill you in a couple of weeks. We are vulnerable, we are unprepared, and we are frightened.
I have been battling with how this distancing and lock-down has affected my life and how for some time I was so anxious, angry, distracted, frustrated, dropping things. I cut myself breaking down a box. And I am realizing what I am most upset about, or at least, what is triggering my disturbed mood is the disruption of my routine. I was really happy with my routine. And now I’ve been forced into a new one. It’s so disruptive and upsetting. So.
Age old question. What can you do about it? What is within your control? First, be prepared. Have what you need close at hand. Stay safe. Listen to the warnings. But what about routine? For the first couple of weeks it has been bat-shit crazy. But I realized that part of what I love about my routine is, when I go to work, I leave at quitting time and come home to my time. And I don’t feel guilty about “my time”. I leave work at work as much as I can. But now, work has invaded my home space. It is here all the time and I feel compelled to check emails and print invoices and send POs during “my time”. And that’s not fair. So.
I have decided that I’m going back to my routine (granted without photographing people in the studio or having dinner in a restaurant). But my work hours will be my work hours, and I am now giving myself permission not to work on “my time”. Though not working means I still work on my art and practice my guitar (money for nothin’ and chicks for free). I already feel my anxiety levels going down. But I digress.
This blog is about death, and how close we come every day. I started watching DEVS on Hulu and was struck by how the show has focused on how everything happens for a reason, there are no random events. How one split second can mean the difference between being alive and being dead in our world and we go about our lives everyday without regard for how vulnerable we are. Certainly we don’t dwell on such things or we’d be hiding in a cave somewhere. But we are vulnerable. How many times have you had an event in your life where you said “that was close” as your heart was pounding. The lightning strike next to the house, or the near auto accident.
When I was about 17 years old, I drove into downtown Atlanta one night with two of my best friends, Doug and Bill. Doug had his mother’s 57 Ford Galaxy that night and we road Ponce de Leon all the way into Atlanta with Doug driving with his elbows. Power steering! We were passed by several fire trucks on the way and decided to investigate so followed them onto Peachtree Street at the Fox Theatre. Down Peachtree the street was blocked and a fire was roaring in a store that sold electric razors. We parked the car and made our way through the crowd and took up a position in front of the hotel across the street to watch the action. There was a sizable crowd of people. As we stood there taking in the spectacle, two fire fighters approached the front of the building to knock out the front windows of the store and ventilate the fire, but moments before they could accomplish this, the entire front widows exploded outward from the pressure inside. The crowd that we were a part of was knocked to the pavement and showered with broken glass and sparks and smoke and burning debris. I was standing with my hands in my jacket pockets. When the explosion occurred, I yanked my hands up so quickly, I ripped the pockets open on my jacket. I fell to the side walk cutting my knees and palms on broken glass. My hair was full of dirt and glass fragments. Doug was knocked through the doors of the hotel. A photo in the morning paper showed a picture of those doors spattered with blood and peppered with glass shards. All three of us got minor cuts and scrapes, damage to our clothes. Many people were lacerated badly by the flying glass including the fire fighters. But it was not my day to die.
One day in my early twenties as I drove through downtown on the interstate, I was traveling on a stretch of road where the opposing side was elevated or banked in a way that left that side higher than the roof of my car so looking to my left was mostly a steep bank of grass topped by a guard rail. As I sped through downtown, I head a loud crunch to my left. As I looked all I could see was the underside of another automobile hurtling over the guard rail. It happened in a split-second. As I quickly looked to the rear-view mirror, I saw the car come crashing down into my lane and slowly roll across about four lanes of pavement. My immediate reaction was simply surprise and a bit of an adrenaline rush. It wasn’t until a few moments later that I realized had I been only a second slower, he would have landed right on my windshield. But it was not my day to die.
We really don’t know how close we come every day. One moment of wrong judgement, one accidental step, and life as we know it can change in an instant.
I live in New York, the state with the most cases of Corona virus. Fortunately, I live upstate so we are not as badly affected. Our county currently shows 105 tested positive with five hospitalized and no deaths so far. People here are trying hard, for the most part, to stay with the distancing and stay-at-home orders. But some people see themselves (and rudely everyone else) as invulnerable so are less considerate.
For myself, I live alone, so isolating is sort of normal for me. I’m fine with it for now. But I am in that elderly population and I have a lot more living that I want to do. So, in the words of the dancing master in Game of Thrones, “What do we say to death? Not today!”
Stay healthy. Be safe. Live another day. And be thankful for it.
I learned more about you than I have ever known with this. Why have you deleted me off of Facebook? I have been thinking about you and that is never good. Usually when I think a lot about someone it is because something is wrong. I hope you are well and have managed to stay safe during all of this craziness. I work in healthcare, so it is not as easy. Please let me know how you are at least.
I’ll be 71 this year. Fortunately, I am relatively healthy for 70. I take my pill cocktail at night and my hips and shoulders are shot. But, I’m working hard to plan the next three years out to find a way to provide more than social security when I leave the north, and look for a place where I can live the rest of my days doing what I have needed to do all my life. And that is my art.
I made a commitment a year ago to sort of cleanse my life of things that hurt me, cause me anger, or stress. I lost 50 pounds. I eliminated cable TV. I watch only enough news to keep aware of what’s happening in the world. I play guitar and flute. I got two tattoos. I stopped photographing performances for Running to Places after 11 years, because physically it is painful, and I need to focus my time on building some security. I removed about 95% of friends on Facebook because I cannot ingest all the content, and I had to remove messages that are stressful or disturbing to me to read. I use the platform now primarily to be vocal about my politics and to promote my art. I miss seeing the great grand-children. I am proud that Lawryan is working so hard to be a good mom. But I am also deeply aware that our worlds and our beliefs are at opposite poles. I don’t wish to criticize anything that you believe in or attempt to sway your opinions about things that are important to you. I can be outspoken in my politics these days, and I don’t want to insult you in any way. And anyone who doesn’t wish to hear my opinions is welcome to unfriend me as well. I am not a religious person. I don’t believe in people owning assault weapons. I am a pacifist and an environmentalist and a liberal.
At my age I have many regrets. But I also have had a life of wonderful experiences. I don’t expect you and I will ever find the bridge to reach one another. And I accept my part in that. But I will never wish you anything other than happiness, health, love of family and friends, and a long life. And for any and every thing I have done that hurt you in any way, I am truly sorry. I send you love and peace and hope you stay safe.