Let me be again ingested by earth and soil ecstasy of worm riddled wood buried deep down soft stillness waiting below the noise and light beside the safe rhythm of small scratching paws This vessel of small energy is of no use to me it tears at sinews, begging to be released free to return to the low hum of everything haunted by the possibility of final rest Overwhelmed by constant stimulation vertigo vehicle of endless movement barreling forward at breakneck pace let me stop, let me breathe, let me be But the wind tears through the trees and the sea slowly, ceaselessly erodes the shore the relentless terror of every-flowing time has carried me past myself
Spring beginnings are bittersweet a rotting smell rises with the heat roadside carcass baked in sun kept from hoping for what's to come Backward glances, Jack Frost's shadow the direction you face is where you'll go the cruelty of youth is turning away from sorrow, sickness, and slow decay Life's still blooming, the sun persists the trees don't wonder what they've missed each breeze carries the powder of new pollen raindrops don't resist where they've fallen
Cotton candy sunrise ascending over frost covered hills commands the soul to stop and take notice with silent reverence Cold light magnified through icicle laden limbs of trees is obscured behind private clouds created by every exhale Pristine beauty pervades the stillness of the snowy winter months stirring up a pious inner hope that death will somehow seem as lovely
Small comfort in tiny hands you needed me to be someone so much better than I am The end of suffering can still be sad I wish I could have given you the life that you deserved Death always comes in winter when the ground is unforgiving I wanted to lay you to rest peacefully In the warm soil of summer when covering your small form wouldn't have felt so cruel May you finally find rest among the tangled roots snaking beneath the earth I try to save the best for last but my soul is overcast with the heavy burden of knowing Every ultimate end will be ugly each life closes in vicious stillness and the aching mystery of an empty vessel
Youth slips away in a slow fade to black the frightening fury of time on fast forward No longer represented by the image in the mirror even worse to wonder who might be there tomorrow Aging gracefully is the ideal but fear remains ever present in the deepening grooves betraying the body's slow decay Tumbling forward into an unknown future slowly gaining speed in the inevitable spiral towards the other side or maybe just the ultimate and final ending There are few things more terrifying than uncontrollable time closing in on a life that can't imagine being over Hoping this fear breaks like a fever before I face that last farewell I hope someday I gain a wisdom that will soothe me in my descent
I've always been afraid of final suffering and mortality I used to wonder how I would handle a death sentence from a doctor life laid out on a definitive timeline no where left to hide I never expected that sentence to come from scientists instead given the heavy knowledge of our impending expiration date I never thought dying alone would feel like a blessing It's better than awaiting the end of everything at once among crowds of people with their eyes covered "I told you so" won't feel very satisfying I've been reading books for the terminally ill in an attempt to learn how to cope with utter annihilation on my own But none of them touch the terror of the truth I harbor none of them tell you how to prepare for an apocalypse or to get your loved ones to take you seriously Fear follows me closely as I float through these shapes and forms I find no comfort in the idea of life eternal or peace in the notion of not existing both options terrify me equally at least there's a dark humor in that But more than anything I fear the reality that my final days, months, even years will be shrouded in unfathomable suffering I fear the rising terror and despair stealing the color from my family's faces but I guess I've always been afraid
Insidious misogyny slithers through the sultry summer streets shocking in its pervasive presence across history and homeland It's human nature to hate what is strange and unknown to you but to harbor such hatred for your mother, your sisters speaks volumes, shatters speakers The incomprehensible nature of holding down half of humanity the horror of how many have learned to hold themselves down as well subconscious self-hatred As I prepare to celebrate the land of the free my ears burn with the echo: I have less rights than a dead body a dead body has more rights than me A corpse cannot be violated even for the sake of another regardless of gender death is truly the great equalizer my only opportunity for respect I may have protected myself from the violence of forced birth but I cannot shield myself from the knowledge that my only worth is as an incubator Each day I must immerse myself in a world where I am not equal play nice with my oppressors as they penetrate every safe space even the sacred shelter of my body The egregious insult of a caged bird being told it has autonomy my new daily ritual of mourning the innocent, trusting spirit that once believed it to be true
A Thousand Deaths
A morbid fixation on death overcomes me from time to time. Usually I don’t think much about it. Death hasn’t touched my life much at all in these 28 years. Somehow I haven’t really lost many close family members or friends. The death of beloved animals has been the majority of my encounters with this grim shadow that lingers on the edge of life. It’s been easy for me to live in denial of this unpleasant reality.
Last night as I was reading through the terrible ends of characters in books, I couldn’t escape the contemplation of my own inevitable departure from this world. I was petrified at the idea that I would die alone in some unimaginable form of physical, emotional, and psychological suffering. I don’t have any children, nor will I. I’m also the youngest person in my family. I only have a few close friends. It’s hard for me to picture how I would even avoid a horrific demise besides my near certain assumption that the earth with end before I have to worry about dying of old age or disease.
Then as I was falling asleep that night, a truth I have known for quite some time, but never fully felt in this way crashed over me. It is utterly pointless for me to spend my time and energy playing out this possible future in my head. If this is my fate, if my life ends in isolation and agony, so be it. Thinking about that will never be able to prevent it or change it. Yes, it’s hard to accept that death will find me one day. Even harder to accept that my final moments may be particularly sad and full of suffering. But making myself sick with fear from these thoughts will not spare me this death. Instead it will cause me to experience a thousand deaths rather than just one.
Sorrow rises like smoke from the ashes of a dying love it wiggles and writhes through the air mimicking my desperation to avoid to postpone these violent pangs of pain could things really be different should I reconsider this decision or am I just searching for relief from this reality I do not want which self should I trust the one that has been unsatisfied the one feeling frustration and misunderstanding or should I trust the self that feels this parting as a small death, as a gaping wound in the end I'm left wondering watching the fading embers with fear in my heart unsure of whether to keep watching or try to stoke that flame, that love that was once my life
Coping with the End
Total disassociation, fully out your mind. Googling derealization, hating what you find. That unapparent summer air in early fall. The quiet comprehending of the ending of it all.Funny Feeling – Bo Burnham
The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. Over the past six or seven years I’ve gone through all of these stages. Now it feels like I teeter back and forth between depression and acceptance. Seven years may seem like a rather long time to grieve, but it’ll sound more appropriate when I explain that I am not grieving the death of a loved one or a romantic relationship. No, I am grieving the earth, my own life, all life. I am grieving the slow, steady death of our planet and all that it holds.
When I first discovered just how close we already were to the end of everything, I was furious. How could those in power and those that came before me ignore this, and even worse, continue contributing to it? The bitter hatred for humanity I already harbored sharpened like a knife’s edge, cutting me deeper than it ever had before. Then I felt passionately compelled to stop our frenzied descent toward destruction. In desperation, I implored people to share my concern about what leading environmental scientists were saying, to do all that they could in a personal capacity to make a difference, even if it was hard, even if it still might already be too late.
Naively in the beginning, I really thought the issue was that people did not know the information that I knew, and that if they did, they would understand and take action. Depression and despair quickly set in when I realized that wasn’t the case. It wasn’t only that people didn’t know. They refused to know. As I passed through the stages of grief alone, the rest of the world hangs idle in the “denial” phase. Even though I desperately want others to be by my side through this process, I’ve come to accept that they won’t be. I’ve even begun to feel it’s a mercy that they don’t believe the things I tell them. While I want my friends, family, and community to understand the dire situation we are in, I don’t want them to suffer with that knowledge like I have for all of these years. However, in case there are people out there that feel the weight of this impending doom like I do, I want to at least share a few of the ways in which I’ve been managing to cope.
One: Historical Perspective
One of the hardest parts of all this in the beginning was feeling robbed of the long life we are implicitly promised as children. It seemed so unfair to know that I would never experience old age, that I would live only half as long as I had anticipated. Sometimes I found myself wishing that I had been born in a different time so I wouldn’t have to see the world go up in smoke one day.
I soon realized that this isn’t really something I would want. For the vast majority of human history, my life would have been far worse and perhaps even shorter. As a woman I would have had no rights or freedom. I would have likely died by now in childbirth or from some horrible misunderstood disease. The average human life expectancy for a large portion of history was roughly 30 years.
I’ll still hopefully get to live for a decade or two more than that. Not to mention the quality of these 30-50 years of mine will be far superior to the quality of billions of peoples throughout history. I’ve experienced more novelty, luxury, comfort, and pleasure than the vast majority of humans that have lived. And that I am truly grateful for.
Two: Life Will Go On
It’s no secret that I don’t care much for humanity and it’s consistent habit of committing atrocities against other beings and each other. The idea of the human race ending, pretty much means nothing to me. We are a plague on this earth and all her other creatures. But the idea that because of our stupidity, greed, and selfishness the rest of the life of earth would also perish with us was unbearable to me. I look out at the complexity, the diversity, the staggering beauty of the world around me, and I can’t cope with thinking it will all disappear with us.
Learning of the animals that are still thriving in the ghost town that is Chernobyl gave me some hope. Yes, a huge portion of the life we now know of on earth will surely be wiped out by the effects of manmade climate change and the resulting wars over the remaining resources. Yet, life in general, is more resilient than I once believed. All life will not end. Some creatures will survive even this. And in time they will grow and evolve and repopulate this decimated planet until it is vibrant and flourishing yet again. One day there will be a beautiful, new earth free from the tyranny of humans. That thought brings me some peace.
Three: Purpose is Relative
When the heavy thoughts of our fast approaching end cloud my mind, one of the main themes becomes: What’s the point? Why should I continue on knowing that the end will be suffering and annihilation? I might as well just give up. Nothing matters.
These thoughts, while poignantly felt, are puzzling to me. Why should the end being sooner rather than later effect the meaning I find in life? Whether I die at 40 or 80, there will be immense fear and suffering. That isn’t something that I would escape if the world weren’t dying with me. Besides, life is not a guarantee. I could have died in my sleep last night. I could die in a car accident tomorrow. I could have developed leukemia as a child and not lived past the age of 7.
Purpose and meaning are not dependent on the length or last sentence in this book called life. I get to decide my own purpose. I determine the meaning behind all of this. The significance of my life is not forfeited due to the sudden realization that it will be much shorter than anticipated. My life matters, my happiness matters, the love I have for others matters, regardless of when death finds me.
Contemplating and combating these discouraging, depressing thoughts is what I am tasked with now. My greatest lesson in life will be learning how to be present and grateful for where I am now, regardless of what may come in the following moment. I’ve fought and screamed. I’ve begged for the world to stop this. I’ve surrendered to my sadness and helplessness in the face of this calamity. Now all that’s left is acceptance. The severity of my fate is not what I had ever expected, but it isn’t something that can be changed or avoided. There is peace in accepting that. Through acceptance I will salvage the time that I do have. I still have time to fill with joy and love and awe, and the gratitude I feel for that fact is enough to get me through anything. It’s enough to carry me into the end.