Every year without knowing it, I have passed the anniversary of my death.
WHOA THIS SERIES JUST GOT REAL, SON! I know death is a deep thing to talk about, but let’s stop pretending it’s not the most unifying subject of all time and just talk about it, you know?
I read this W.S. Merwin poem (that’s right, I read POETRY), For The Anniversary Of My Death, and that was the opening line. Cut right to the chase, bro! That line has, unwaveringly and horrendously, stuck with me since. How annoying is reading comprehension? How annoying is it that in 1993 when this poem came out, I was 3 years old and didn’t even know death was a thing? How annoying is it that 20 years later, this poem still exists and crept its way into my life? No one asked you, bb. That’s what you get for being, really, really well-read, I guess.
The past month or so I’ve been thinking about death and hearing about death constantly. A series of weird coincidences I guess, or maybe just a more acute awareness that death is a real thing that happens all the time. It’s something no one can stop, no one can change and no one can escape. SCARY TOWN.
I’m not rebellious rebellious, I’m more just stubborn. When someone tells me I have to do something, I refuse it. When someone tells me I can’t do something, I make it happen. I don’t like anyone putting up finite walls around me, or telling me with 100% assurance something will or will not happen. Because how do you know? How do you know for certain that it won’t happen or that it will happen? You don’t! That’s the essence of life yo, that we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. There are no guarantees, YOLO, blah blah blah!
I hate it when people tell me something for certain. Usually I ignore whatever they’re saying because they can’t be totally sure, but death is NOT one of those things. Dying is the opposite of one of those things. It will happen 100% of the time; people die. I’m sweating and nervous just writing about this, so I’m sorry if it’s anxiety-inducing to read.
I think culturally in the United States, death is not something we deal with very well. It’s not addressed, really. I never spoke about it in school. It wasn’t something I was taught to accept or deal with or look at rationally. It’s always been scary and sort of taboo.
Most recently, death has come up because I read some books and saw some comedy shows and honestly, they all ended up being about dying, which means that death is so scary and so sad, you have to make something funny out of it. The sadder and the scary the thing, the funnier it can be, I feel.
I read The Fault In Our Stars – and I know it’s YA fiction and I know a MILLION OTHER REASONS why this is a silly thing to talk about while writing about something as real and personal as death, but it made me weep. You read it and don’t cry! Then I read WAR - the antithesis of YA, and it made me weep some more. Then I saw this iPad commercial that was really haunting and I cried. Mind you, I said I cried, because that’s different from weeping. I didn’t weep at the iPad commercial – I’m not a baby!
THEN I went to a “comedy show” at UCB in LA and what happened? I left with anxiety hives (that’s what I call the anxiety-induced hives I get) because they talked about dying the whole time. This was all this past month. I know that I am not experiencing anything crazy or horribly sad. I’m not reading insanely dark books. I’m not seeking out this conversation, and yet there it is. In a really basic, easy to digest manner. I’m not being smacked in the face with it, just like, gently tapped with a feather that says, “Hey, death is real!”. If I’m seeing it all the time, even in this mild way, I’m assuming it’s on other people’s minds too. What I’ve learned from each character, author, person, comic, is how they see death. And that’s the interesting conversation to have. That’s where I can actually learn from these people and help inform my own way of dealing with it.