Kicking And Screaming Down Mortality Hill

K

Randy and I fell in love with each other from hundreds of miles apart. We sent each other mix tapes and bared our souls in those play lists.

He gave me Radiohead, Paul Westerberg, and the Ramones. He gave me the fucking Pixies and Joe Strummer. Joe Strummer makes me want to pray, and I’m a non-believer. 

21 years later and music is still part of our every day. Just this evening, we watched Talking Heads videos until Randy fell asleep. This is our version of grown up bed time stories.

Try to follow the next leap here, because it’s a big one.

I was thinking about my beginning with Randy, which made me think about the inevitable end. I struggle with thoughts of getting a little older.

I think about mortality way too fucking much.

When I was ten years old I clearly remember thinking “I can live my life all over again and I’ll only be 20 years old.” I remember thinking that 20 wasn’t really young or anything, but it wasn’t bad.

I remember the first time someone younger, but not much younger, than me made me feel old. I was 21 years old and in vocational school. One of the local high schools had a program where students would spend half a day in vocational school. We were at break and sitting with a group of high schoolers and they were talking about how tragic it would be to get pregnant too young. I agreed, no way was I ready to have a kid. One of the girls looked at me and said “why would you care? You’ve already lived your life.”  I knew what she said was ridiculous, but I also felt the cold breeze of the end of my days ruffle my hair. 

When I was 20 years old, I could reasonably expect to quadruple my years before considering my shelf life. That’s the same thing as being immortal. In fact, I would say that anyone who can at least double their years mortalitycan call themselves immortal.

I’m 53 and don’t think it’s likely that I’ll live to 106. I mean, people do, but I don’t think I’ll  be one of them. That ship has sailed. I’ve made mistakes. That could be the bourbon talking. 

I guess, barring any unforeseen nastiness, given life span on both sides of my family, I can reasonably expect 85 years old.

That’s only 32 years away. I’m not living my life over again. That isn’t immortality. When I could double my age at 32, I was only looking at 64 years old. I’ll be 64 in 11 years.

This blog post is starting to feel like a word problem. 

It’s weird, to dwell in a space where you have to acknowledge a hard stop is coming. I mean, not soon or anything, but this isn’t the immortality club where you are living a life that could still be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled.

Does it sound like I’m complaining?

I’m not. Not really. I like this part. I am more me now than I have been since I was very small. I like this age. I like who I am becoming. I am, however, aware that this space is different. I do have a shelf life.

It sucks when you get to the time in life when you know you have no time at all to fuck around, but enough years have gone by that you’re goddamn tired. Getting down to business means listening to creaking knees and fighting through daydreams of naps.

Still, there is a choice to be made. We can give in to creaking knees and take a lot of naps, or we can fill in the next 32 years as best we can. I vote for the latter. Either way, I know the sound track will continue to be incredible.

 

 

 

 

 

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77 comments

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  • I always run that time test through my head by seeing how many years back I can actively remember , and en projecting that number of years forward.

    I try not to dwell on it, though. That can dark very quickly.

  • I recently visited Rwanda and everyone looked so young. That is because they were young – the average life span being only 47. I am a year older than that. I believe there is the option of eternity but that is a religious viewpoint.
    Great things are achievable at any age. One journalist wrote of Winston Churchill – who was 65 when he took command of the war effort:

    “The responsibilities which are his now must be greater than those carried by any other human being on earth. One would think such a weight would have a crushing effect upon him. Not at all. The last time I saw him, while the Battle of Britain was still raging, he looked twenty years younger than before the war began … His uplifted spirit is transmitted to the people”

  • I am 68 (damn, that’s hard to say, even write), and I have been thinking about the end for at least 10 years now. Thinking about it translates to obsessing about it. At least once every day I consider that the end could, in fact, come quite suddenly. Or not. My plan is to live to 102. Why 102 instead of 100 I have no clue, it just came to me one day that that would be a good goal. So, that’s my plan. Which means (and I do this tally frequently, far to frequently to be considered sane) that I still have 34 years to go. Or not. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Or today. To say I’m trying to live every moment is a bit phony, but, well, I’m trying to at least enjoy every day. Even those where it seems I get absolutely nothing accomplished are still good days to me. It gets really scary when I think I only have 12,410 left.

  • Live everyday as if it’s your last because you never know. My tidbit.

    I occasionally have chest pains. Had it checked out. All of the tests come back fine but I have a hole between two heart chambers. I forget what they call it. So, when I get the chest pains I imagine the hole has all of a sudden opened wider.

    I think often of us getting into an accident in our car. That’s why we drive a solid American car. I’d rather have a jacked up Ford F-250 but it’s too big for Teresa to drive. Right now she does all of our driving which lowers my anxiety but I still fear accidents. People out here in the boondocks drive like crazy bastards, blowing the stop signs and all that. Five fatal accidents on roads we drive everyday.

    I’m prepared to die. Made my peace with God as a non-practicing atheist. He knows me.

    No real advice. Watch the birds. Maybe you’ll see undocumented behavior like I have. Enjoy Dude. 😀

  • A friend who is an attorney was meeting with a client. She said “If I die” and went on about her estate. The woman at the time was 85. My friend corrected her and said, “When you die”. I laughed with my friend, because she was 85 after all but in a tiny way I have to admire her optimism.

  • Not to be a bigger downer, but I was your age when I started freaking out about the possibility of death – either my husband of myself. We then went to get a pre-planned funeral package. Holy crap. If you haven’t started yet, DO SO!. In South Florida apparently you can get a “condo” plot (one on top of the other). So we bought that as we were pretty broke at the time. Then (again, because we were pretty broke at the time) we bought plain pine boxes. And for this, ladies and gentlemen, we paid SIXTEEN. THOUSAND. DOLLARS. This is pretty much a step up from a potters grave, and it took us about 8 years to pay it off (we managed to keep it even during a bankruptcy and a home foreclosure). So, depressing of a topic as it is, you don’t want to leave it to your family. Also, it’s probably twice the price if you buy it when you need it, instead of paying it off over time.
    And that’s my depressing thoughts for the day.

    • No…no, this is shit we have to figure out. Randy and I are going to be cremated. We’re going as no frill and low cost as you can get. Or perhaps just let my friends in TN bury us on their mountain. Then all we would need is a tarp. haha

  • THIS is why I live in Oregon.
    I got sober so I wouldn’t be a burden to society. Just in case I live to be over 80. Nobody wants to take care of a drunk 80 year old. Besides, they woulda just taken it away from me anyway, so…
    But.
    Living in a ‘death with dignity’ state really helps with the fear of being kept alive just because they can.
    THAT’S my biggest fear.
    So, after I read ‘Journey of Souls’ I quit worrying about the suicide part and just decided to stay as healthy as I could, with Yoga, food, herbals and meditation.
    It’s a daily accomplishment, for sure. But when I’m ready to be done, hopefully somebody will believe and respect my wishes.
    I made it easy for everybody.
    Fuck, got the dress, the shoes and the funeral music.
    All they have to do is deliver me to the crash test dummy experiment site and when they are done crashing me for head and neck injury statistical entries, I will train cadaver dogs in the field.
    I think I will have more fun and exposure after I’m dead.
    Whew.

  • I just turned 54 last Tuesday. I often wish I could be 24 again but equipped with all the wisdom I’ve gained from all the dumb shit I’ve done and all the crappy decisions I’ve made but it just doesn’t go that way. I agree with Lisa K – when I am so very tired and fully broken, I only hope that I am allowed to choose my time and meet with a dignified end. BUT IN THE MEANTIME??? Live on!!! 🙂

  • Astute observations. The positive side of being concerned/obsessed with mortality is it reminds us to savor life. Pay attention to it. The opposite — sleepwalking through the years — is worse because those people wake up and realize, “Crap! It’s over!” We don’t want to regret failing to pursue dreams because we were just going through the motions. Humans are too prone to routine and ruts. Thinking about death prompts us to do what you’re doing now — be conscious of your life.

    Nice blog.

  • Now I understand why you thought my post was ‘very interesting’. Our friend was the youngest in the crowd, but I think his crappy home life contributed greatly to his demise.
    I started blogging at 59 because I couldn’t deal with the next birthday. No one I know lived to 120! Now, six years later, I feel younger in many ways than I did back then. Writing and blogging have enriched my life in many ways and, I don’t obsess as much now.
    b

  • Losing my first husband at 46 (he was 50) made me completely unafraid to die. My only hope is that I’ll hang on long enough to say goodbye, but not so long as to be an undue burden.

    He died at 50 1/2 exactly, and it was really weird to pass that mark last year. I always called him Old Man, and now I’m older than he ever was.

    However, I’ve just started figuring myself out, so I do hope I hang around for awhile.

    Cremation is the way to go. The kids’ and I have taken him places he loved, and left a little there. The rest of him resides on a shelf in my closet along with my mom, brother, and dog – long stories all. I’m not creepy, I swear!!

    • Denise, don’t feel bad. When my husband died last October, at 67, we had been busy making plans to get back to bike riding, plant our garden, etc. And, as John Lennon said, Life is what happened while we were busy doing that. I now live with my husband’s ashes in an urn on the table next to his favorite chair, the urns of both my parents’ ashes on my piano and 3 urns of my late cats’ ashes (Paul and I used to call them our 3 Musketeers and they are not the ones I have NOW) on my entertainment center. It will suddenly dawn on me, after someone has visited, and I will wonder if they looked around and realized I’m surrounded by the ashes of my late family members! HAHA! It always makes me feel a little “Morticia-esque”! No tentacles for legs, though, I swear! 😀 Dammit, I AM going to live to 116!!! HAHA!

  • I’m glad I’m not alone in suddenly becoming aware of my own mortality. My mom died without any insurance, leaving the expenses to the two of us that could afford to pay. When I made my own arrangements, it made me feel the end creeping closer.

  • I’m going to try really hard to not tell you my life story, but get right to the point. I am 68. My mother was an alcoholic and did not live as long as I have right now. I had a wonderful mother-in-law, But she passed away when she was only 60, suffering from scleroderma. I was in my early 30s. She was very traditional. She had always been a stay-at-home mom, took care of the family, made Big Sunday dinners and loved to work in the yard. I wanted to be just like her, which meant always having a smile for people, being a good listener, taking one day at a time, and being comfortable with who I was. Next-door lived her sister, who was that way too. They were beautiful because it showed in their faces what kind of women they were. My goal has always been to grow older as that kind of a woman. I have fallen short many times, but still strive for that goal. Since they’ve passed away, I’ve looked for other role models. It’s getting more difficult as I’m getting closer to 70, as you can imagine. A few weeks ago I met a 91-year-old woman in my neighborhood who was wonderful to talk to. And she was telling me about where she still volunteers, even though she can’t drive any longer. I have added her to my list of women I want to be like. During the moments when I think of them, I don’t worry about getting older. I will always have something to aspire to. It gives me great peace.

  • I’m 51. I never thought I would live past 20. Those university days were rough. ;). I put myself through university on my own working in construction. Good money. Holy heck. I just hoped that I wouldn’t fall off a roof or scaffolding. The roofers I knew fucking smoked pot so they wouldn’t be scared. I knew I would be scared either way!
    I have partied. Had years of being sober and realizing I might like me more sober…the rest of the world not so much. I don’t really think about dying. I just figure that one day I’ll be gone. That will be it. I’ll have left a mark (proverbial or not) on some people. Or as a contractor friend once told me. “If we still know each other when I die? Please pour a bottle of crown royal on my grave. I’m going to be mighty thirsty where I’m going.

  • Wow, look at all the other batshit folks worrying needlessly about the end none of us can escape, you all must be really depressed and/or in need of some medication. Or, at least that’s what my friends say about me when I mention I think way too much about death. So yeah, glad to see your post and these nice folks’ comments if only to comfort me with company in my (only teeny tiny) obsession. Well I feel better, how ’bout you? I raise a large glass of whisky in all of your general directions!

  • Loved this post. Especially the “word problem”! We’re never promised a full life-span, and I don’t care much for math apparently.

  • Imagine, feeling old at 20…when I celebrated my 20th birthday I was surprised at getting into this new decade and actually, I did feel old at the time. Hafuckinghahaha (to quote you, Michelle :))

    We’re on the downward slide baby, but still some good years left. Let’s make them awesome!! p.s. get Randy to make you another mixtape. they’re all the rage again.

    • Are they? I had no idea! We are the goddamn mix tape masters in this house. John Cusack in High Fidelity has got nuthin on me. (You have to read that like Denzel in Training Day.)

  • My friend JT, who was 64 when I met him, said that as your quality of life deteriorates, your fear of death subsides. At the time I was 32, and mostly tried to reconcile that idea with the fact that there were people betting that I would never make 18…
    When I had my stroke, I had lots of time to consider life choices, both going forward and past, and I came to the position I still have, that I can still do some worthwhile living if I try.
    The nature of my goals have just changed, but the mentality behind them is mostly the same. I once caught myself wondering why I spent so much of what were actually better times complaining about them, and resolved to at least try to appreciate the good times for what they are while they are happening. You never know what kind of good thing can happen to you, or what kind of event might bring it on. For instance, my stroke probably added years to my life because it got me to quit taking drugs and start living a healthier lifestyle. Also, for some unknown reason, I haven’t been depressed since my stroke. I sometimes get sad or anxious about things, but depression is different from that, and it just doesn’t happen any more. It feels more than a little bit stupid that it took nearly dying to wake me up to these things, but it also feels a little miraculous that the depression isn’t fucking with me any more.
    My father lived to be 84. I don’t think I’ll make it that far, but I’m OK with that. I’ve packed a lot of living into my 55 years already, and if it happened right now I couldn’t complain.
    I just read that The Joy Formidable are playing in San Francisco again in October, so perhaps I’ll set my sights on seeing them again, but even if I don’t I feel good that I managed to see them last year. Or maybe I’ll try to see Lucius at the Fillmore when they come around. I guess you need some old guys hobbling around in your audience with canes to balance out the kids, or I’m gonna see it that way, dammit!

    • Yay for no depression. I’m lucky in that while I do live with daily underlying depression, it usually doesn’t flare up, when it does, it’s terrible, but I am grateful that it’s not often. Now, if I could just shake the anxiety.

  • Thank you! I needed this today! I was having one of those…..it’s too late to do anything about it now moments. I will be 36 this month and the women in my family regularly live to almost 100. Time is still on my side!

  • My Drummer Boy is also 53, and like you, he probably won’t see 106 because choices. I’m probably not going to make it to 96 based on my family history. So we’re both over the hill, but we found each other at the top of the slope, and we’re going to enjoy the ride down. Whether we slide gracefully or fall ass over teapot, we’re taking the trip together.

  • I know exactly what you mean. I’m 62 and had begun to wonder if I had turned too morbid. I think about how this is late autumn in my life. Like it or not, our days are numbered and the number is smaller. I find the prospect is motivating. There is no time ever for regret and even less time now.

  • ” I like this part. I am more me now than I have been since I was very small. I like this age. I like who I am becoming. I am, however, aware that this space is different. I do have a shelf life.” I agree.

  • I hear you, sister. From someone who’s about to turn 60 (WTF?) in a few weeks, believe me, I know. Its a strange mixture of horror and gratitude. I can’t believe life (up to this moment) has been so great and yet so fast. All I can do is hold on tight and say “thank you.”

  • You’ve shared what was on the mixtapes that Randy sent you, but what was on the tapes you sent him?
    Yes, I know, it’s only tangentially related, but whenever I talk about mortality I give folks the impression I’m planning to cash in my chips early even though my plan is to keep playing as long as I can.

  • I can’t believe this is where I chose to chime in but: cremation ain’t cheap either! Both my parents chose to be cremated, and to have their ashes scattered. So no disapproving, gilt edged urns on the mantelpiece (pun intended), no niche in the mausoleum. And it STILL cost nearly $10,000–because apparently in New Jersey you STILL have to buy a coffin. And then incinerate it. Which is insane. I’m also 53 and thinking way more about mortality than I’d like to. I’m considering Tibetan sky burial at this point…

    This blog entry sounds so much like me that I’m planning to paste this on my fridge —

    ‘”It sucks when you get to the time in life when you know you have no time at all to fuck around, but enough years have gone by that you’re goddamn tired. Getting down to business means listening to creaking knees and fighting through daydreams of naps.” BUT IT BEATS THE SHIT OUT OF THE ALTERNATIVES!’

    Thanks!

  • My husband turns 33 next month. I turn 33 the month after that. And I’m cool with that. That’s not old. It’s not even close to being middle-aged. We’ve still got all sorts of shit to do: adopt a dog, make babies, buy a house, make our first trillion, invent time travel, have a threesome with Bono.
    But my husband just WON’T FUCKING STOP talking about how “old” he is. He references our age EVERY FUCKING CHANCE he gets. And it’s KILLING ME!
    Here I am, all like, “I’m still perky-ish! At the very least, I’m chipper like woah, and I’m happy about all the decades we have ahead, and I don’t feel old. I feel fat. But that’s because I am fat. But I’m not old. So I don’t feel old.” And then he’s like, “No. We’re old. We pee more in the night. We have more bills. My knee hurts. Your hip hurts. We have to go to the doctor more often. WE ARE OLD.”
    Ugh. And he’s the GUY.
    Like, I don’t want to be like this, but he’s a dude. He could be 193, and people would *still* be like, “Oh, sure, you can totally have kids.” Me, however? I went to the fertility doctor not all that long ago, and they were like, “Well, at 32, you’d be a geriatric pregnancy…”
    GERI-FUCKING-ATRIC? Are you KIDDING me? I about fell out of the stirrups. Thank God I didn’t because, according to my husband, I might have broken my hip and not been able to get up.
    (Sorry. That was a rant. But I’m mad at him right now. I hope he gets grey hair AND goes bald! Okay. Strike that. That’d hurt me, not him. Hmm… I hope his video games all break.)

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