This perspective article is weighted. I chose Metallica's The Memory Remains for your listening pleasure, if you so desire. Click HERE to listen on Spotify!
The song doesn't have much to do with the article outside of its title, given the song is about an artist who's gone crazy from losing fame. That's not what I'll be talking about below.
We never know when we're going to die. And, in this article I'll talk about perception of living like I could die at any moment. It's heavy. There are some swear words and a poop joke. Let's get into it.
"What if I didn't come back from going to Arby's?"
As I slid the key into my front door to lock my home, this question struck me. "What if I didn't come back from going to Arby's", I thought to myself, unsure of how treacherous the drive could be. In the last two years, I've experienced the crushing reality of death in my family. If you follow my writing, I've talked several times about my brother, Don, my sister-in-law, Samantha, and my cousin, Mick, and how they passed away within 5 months of each other in 2016. My little sister and I had to put down our family dog only a few months after that, holding onto his frail little terrier body as his tired soul left.
I mourned over Samson, the mighty American Rat Terrier, briefly then, more so now than any time since. Last month, word came to me my dad's brother, Roger, my uncle, had passed away. I am close to my cousins, though not as close as I'd like, sometimes. Losing my uncle was hard. I felt trepidation within myself because I'd not maintained a relationship with him, and now I'll never have the option to spark one up again. I'm still cycling through my feelings as I talk with my cousin, Roger's son, and it will take time to process and feel some comfort over that in the future.
My estranged brother-in-law, who had long since walked away from his responsibilities as a father, died this year of cancer. As angry as I'd been with him over leaving his family behind to live something he deemed simpler, I'd never have wanted him to pass away. He left behind an entire family of his own, an offshoot of my own family, and without warning, only to pass away before setting his transgressions on a more correct course of healing.
It can be debated, albeit briefly, that his departure from the family wasn't well deserved, and now the debate can only be exacerbated by his death. I loved the man he could have been. Now, he's no longer here to be something more to his children whom he had left long before he died. I will be their protector now. I'll pick up that slack, if they'll let me.
I am tried when someone is angry with me. I am tried when my order at Arby's is wrong. I am tried when I can't get past the Arnold Brothers boss fight in Metal Gear, the video game. I am tried when a friend stiffs me on money I helped him make. I am emotionally strung out. I have a life to live. I can't feel this way every day. Yet, I do feel tried and exhausted by the world's turnings.
If we're all going to die, what is life worth? I am in a constant battle with this question.
On the surface, it affects my feelings of owning a business.
"What is it worth starting a new business when so many already occupy my field?"
Inversely, I let go of bad relationships because there are billions of other people who "get" me, for whatever that's worth, I suppose.
"So-and-so doesn't see my value anymore. No time to explain myself, I'm moving on."
Well, now, I'm smart enough to know my passion is what people will buy. I mean, of course, I'm working on growing my talent in film as much as possible. And, all of that work I do leads back to my ability to sell myself as both competent and vision-oriented.
And, well, people who call you a friend only to use your resources freely and without proper compensation or even baseline gratefulness, they can, uh... they can fuck off. Nobody should feel enslaved by a relationship where one takes and the other submits to the brash compulsions of an idiot. Get the fuck out of there, Martha. He's not worth it.
While the ideology of giving life experiences "worth" sometimes gives me emotional anxiety, I've also learned to shed dead weight, so to speak, things that are not worth my time or effort. It's not just people. I don't care about when a new shoe is released into the market, I don't care if people have a problem with the type of film I make, and so on.
I'm turning the lock and I realize the only thing standing between me and oblivion could be a car at an intersection, a snake bite when I bend over to remove my dog's waste from the ground, or a blood clot in my heart. All I was doing was driving to Arby's to get dinner, never to return to my family or get to say goodbye, or to end a bad relationship, or to kiss my mother when I see her.
We don't get to choose our last days. Some of us go out like rockstars (insert the "cool" way of dying of your choice). Some of us slump over in the chair, soda in hand, What Dreams May Come playing on the TV. Some of us watch ourselves fall apart, dying slowly and at such a decline where we'd rather be dead than wait to die.
And, I can't get this out of my head when I'm talking to someone, hearing the life they've led or the life they wish they were leading. I wonder what life would be like without them, because, hell, I thought I'd grow old with my brother and we'd both piddle out, shriveling into nothingness, old bags of bones, talking about the time we stayed in Colorado for a week and umpired softball, or the time we were both pooping in a Wal-Mart bathroom, right beside each other, and had absolutely no idea until we heard each other's text notifications go off moments apart from sending them.
I get to remember these activities, so long as my memory remains, but my life will never be the same knowing I can't live new memories with my family. Gosh, I mean, I'm living and I'm consumed by the notion of death! What in the world would possess me to think so often of death?
Surely, having experienced several deaths in my family gives me some right to feel scared and even turned on by death's impact on my psyche. I'm not talking the good kind of turned on. I mean this literally in the sense that death has my attention now, like flipping the light on in a room while trying to find out what your dog's chewing on. Nevermind. Phrases are confusing.
I made it back from Arby's in one piece, by the way. I escaped death's clutches, yet again, with little more to show for it than a stain from three-pepper sauce and cheese on my sweater. I live to sauce my sammies another day.