I’ve been thinking about mortality a lot lately. Not in the terrified way I used to, where I’d lie awake after a night at work, heart pounding dully behind my sternum. Where I’d ask myself the big questions like When and Where and more importantly, How and Why?
What keeps me up lately isn’t the kind of anxiety that you would, say, write a country song about. (It’s been done anyway, much more artfully than I could aspire to.) I don’t know if it’s the medication or the head-shrinking, or if it’s the fact that there are far bigger fish to fry lately than what happens to my fairly-insignificant self, or if I just shoved my own existential concerns in a drawer because my place in society affords me the privilege to do so if I desire. (Por que no los tres?)
I give all those problems enough attention when the sun is up, and 9 pm for me is a kind of mental last call, where I announce to my neuroses that they don’t have to go home, but they can’t stay here. And then I futz around on Twitter or reddit or something banal for about half an hour until my eyelids have had enough of this “open” nonsense I put them through all day.
But reddit conversations can take a sharp turn unexpectedly, and Twitter is pretty much just a gigantic dumpster fire of bad news unless you’re completely oblivious to reality, so occasionally I find a Thing, and I fixate for a bit. Sometimes (as I am now), I try and write about it, because sometimes that helps. Sometimes it doesn’t. We’ll see.
Sometimes I come up with these fluffy bits of nonsense to make myself feel better, such as “in a world of apathy, caring is an act of rebellion.” It’s Pinterest Deep. White-girl wisdom. Something to make me feel better for not taking a more active role in Making the World Better. But the world needs slogans too, and these days it seems like that’s the only kind of meaningful thing I can contribute, because my days are so full of the preparation it requires to become a professional caregiver.
And then I feel guilty, because ultimately, my purpose for doing it at all is to become a successful and productive adult (because even if it’s 13 years overdue, it’s better late than never, I guess). It’s never something that’s going to have me raking in the big bucks, but it’ll be a lot easier than my current approach to productive adulthood, which has had me working in a string of jobs I don’t love but have the capability to do without any official paper from the state saying they trust me to do that particular job. (Which is a verbose way of saying that I have an extensive medical background but no medical certifications, so my options are somewhat limited.)
There’s a lot of shit I give myself shit about, but strangely, it doesn’t really drag me down, even if it interferes with my sleep sometimes. It’s this fact more than anything that has proven to me that I have finally become formerly depressed. It’s showed me I can wrestle with myself and not beat myself to a complete pulp. That I can say “yes, this happened. And it sucks. It won’t last forever, so put your head down and embrace the suck.”
It’s not all puppies and rainbows, not by a long shot. Monday and Tuesday were miserable as hell and hard to get through. I can’t even compare how I would have dealt with it 3 years ago, because I can’t even imagine the 2014 version of myself would be in school. The 2014 version of myself tried to get back into school, then hit a minor speed bump in the process and decided it wasn’t meant to be. The person I was then just decided that clerical or menial jobs were the future I deserved and the price I paid for having been irresponsible in my youth. If my 32-year-old self had been faced with this situation she would have decided there was no winning move, rolled over, and tried to go back to sleep.
My dad had an old station wagon in the 80s, with the wood-grain paint job and a front license plate that said “One Day at a Time.” I grew up seeing those words and internalizing them without knowing why, exactly, they were on my dad’s car. I think about those words a lot now, and it’s not because there are some days that there is nothing that would make me feel better than a bottle of wine.
The suck is going to get worse, in a lot of ways. For a lot of people. Whose problems are much bigger than my hurt feelings over being berated by octogenarians.
What I have to keep remembering is that I have a goal. There are a lot of obstacles I’m going to have to navigate in the meantime. Some of those obstacles are going to seem impossible, but I know they’re navigable, because they have been navigated by other people.
I’ve been thinking about dying a lot, but not in the way I used to, where it was a mysterious thing to be both terrified of and hopeful for. I’ve been thinking of it in a way that’s almost pragmatic. Like, I’ve been looking at hospice nurses and saying to myself “I could do that.” Whereas my previous feelings on that career choice were more along the lines of “how do you not live in a constant state of existential terror?”
I always do things backwards. At my age, I’m supposed to be panicking about propagating my own genetic material so I have someone to wipe my rear end and hold my hand at the end. But I’ve never been so glad to not have children, and my happiness with that decision grows almost daily. I will admit some of my reasons for that are somewhat pessimistic (world sucks, it’s expensive and risky, men are necessary to the process), but it’s also because I think maybe when the time comes, I can hold my own hand, and hopefully I can wipe my own ass.
Although none of that is guaranteed either, and I’ve been thinking a lot about that too: what kind of old person am I going to be? We look at the elderly who are in altered states of health and think “gee, I hope I don’t end up like that,” but who ever does want to end up bedridden, or hostile, or incontinent? The lady who called me a “useless bitch” was probably not sitting around in her 40s and 50s thinking “I can’t wait to be 82 and say whatever the hell I want.” In fact, I’d bet money she would never have dreamed of acting in that way, since she had as sweet as could be the day before.
I want to be independent and in good health in another 50 years. I want to be mobile and adventurous to the very end, if I should be so lucky to be lucid. And if my mind fails me, I really don’t want to merely be a sack of organic material taking up space in a hospital bed, accomplishing nothing more than turning liquid nutrition into liquid fecal matter.
But if I do end up being a hateful wretch, a desiccated crone who wants to inflict my own misery on others… I wonder, how will I know? And how would the people I’m hateful to, know I wasn’t really like that?
Maybe that’s why I do this, so it’s just out there. So it’s recorded somewhere, in the great Ledger of the Universe, that overall I was decent. Or maybe it’s for when the Singularity finally happens, and if I start acting buggy they can just do a system restore from my thumb drive.