The big brick wall
No one likes to think about dying. Death is one of those things that is taboo because we’re alive and don’t need to worry about that sort of thing right now. There’s too much to live for to worry about death, so we tend to ignore the big brick wall we’re headed right for. No one lives forever and frankly I’m not sure that I would want to even if I could, but I can’t help but think about what happens when I get closer to that wall and what life will look like before the day I hit it.
Death has never scared me. It’s life that is scary, more to the point, it’s people that are scary. People are unpredictable, vicious, cruel things in the general sense. Turn on the news if you think I’m painting an unfair picture of humanity, it’s not pretty. Death was always the escape from that for me. Speaking as someone who tried to kill themselves once already, I wasn’t feeling afraid, if anything it was relief.
That isn’t to say I’m not happy to be alive, because I am. Now I look back and feel sad about those days. Things at that point were hopeless for me. If a very specific set of events not occurred exactly the way they did, I can say with a certain degree of certainty that I wouldn’t be here right now to write this. I don’t believe in fate, but if there was ever any time in my life that convinced me it would’ve been the months following that suicide attempt.
So why talk about death now? Well I think people are afraid of death because it’s so fucking common. We all do it, rich, poor, old, and even young. Death and taxes, the two constants in life. No, these days I’m happy to be alive and I routinely get nervous thinking about those days. Moment of honesty here, I get irrationally scared that if I think too hard about my suicide attempt I will find myself there again, or something will magically change and my life will shift to some other alternate version of events. I fully acknowledge it’s a weird tick of mine and that it’s completely made up in my head, but brains are weird like that.
I can admit that I’m happy to be alive now and that suicide, while the best option in my opinion at that time, was the best choice in a pile of horrible choices. It was also the catalyst for everything that I am now though and it forced the VA hospital to take my complaints seriously, so to say that I regret the choice would be a lie. Again, a very specific set of circumstances led me here and I can’t regret them if I am really thankful for the life I have now, which I am.
Still, every year I think about that big brick wall and the fact that I brushed up against it, if only momentarily. I’m still not afraid of death, we’re old friends death and I. When it’s my time, I suspect that I will welcome them with open arms and with a little luck, few regrets. If I am being completely honest, it’s not death that scares me, it’s living.
More specifically getting older. This post was inspired by an elderly man I came across on the elevator the other day. He was in a nicely tailored, if a little large, grey suit. He looked like the type of person that had some interesting stories of the life he’s lived. He must have been five foot and 100 lbs. (~45Kg) at most, but he was still somehow getting around by himself. I admired that and felt sorry that he needed to get around by himself at the same time. But it wasn’t his appearance that was memorable, it was what he said to me.
On the elevator he looked over to me and simply said, “Getting old is awful, don’t do it.” Not knowing how to answer I replied, “It can’t be that bad, everyone is doing it.” We laughed a little and the elevator let us off to go our separate ways. It made me think about what would happen when I got old. I don’t have a support system, no family, few friends, certainly no children, so who will take care of me when I can no longer take care of myself?
The thought was terrifying given the amount of elder abuse there is and how the healthcare system will gladly throw you away no matter what age you are. I already survived an abusive childhood, one where I had no ability to make choices or say no. I really don’t want to spend the last years of my life in the same situation I found myself when I came into this life.
Maybe it’s just the uncertainty of thinking that (hopefully) far ahead. I don’t mind getting old, I am certainly glad I’m old enough to be on my own. I just hate the idea of having to go back to the days that I couldn’t take care of myself. That to me is more frightening than anything death could conjure up for me. Sartre didn’t mean it this way, but I firmly think that hell is other people. If the people that were supposed to be family to me, those who were supposed to care for me and gods forbid, love me, could do the things that they did, just what will happen if I’m left to the care of a stranger?
I’ve got (again, hopefully) plenty of time to figure all this out. With a little luck I can live a fully independent life up until the day I hit the big brick wall. I don’t like relying on luck, but those were the cards I was dealt so it’s the hand I’ll have to play. It wouldn’t be the first time I made the best choice from a bucket of awful choices.
In the meantime, life still has adventures for me. I’m not even half way done with it (one more time, hopefully), so there’s probably still time to figure all this out before I meet again with the big brick wall… probably.