Frittered lives

My friend and I went out for food and drinks midweek at The Winchester. At some point, the subject of death came up. Since Drew passed away in October, I’ve cycled through a couple frames of mind.

It wasn’t my own death I was concerned about. As far as I know, people can’t think postmortem. Rather, it’s when someone else dies that we’re left with baggage to sort through.

Death was an ancillary subject to whatever it was we were talking about. Relationships, probably. And as we were dissecting relationships and loss, I tried to melt down, as quickly as possible, a concise description of why death was so confounding.

How much we can give to someone and the person’s capacity to absorb our thought and affection can be cavernous, I said. Suddenly, it ceases.

The conversation moved to other things, but my mind lingered on how bittersweet it is, as it has for the last several months.

I wrote an editorial piece for The Rapidian right after Drew’s death.

“Perhaps it isn’t my place to wonder about it, but if we really do have last thoughts or that final moment of clarity, what were Drew’s? I don’t know if there’s an afterlife, but I don’t want to bank on it. At that millisecond—no, nanosecond—that the curtain hit the ground, was Drew comforted knowing he had landed his dream job? That since he had the ability to love, he had lavished most of it on the love of his life and high school sweetheart? That he had two beautiful and precocious daughters, a best friend? A good relationship with his dad and brothers? That’s more than most people can hope for.”

What was left on the cutting room floor:

“Whatever his last thoughts were, I’m sure they weren’t about work. I also desperately want to believe they were not anxiety and dread for everything undone. “

Since October, other discussions have come up. Nihilism. Human nature. Depression. These are often symptoms of our struggle between ephemerality and meaning. We get worn down as we dig deep into these issues, and even when we think we’ve dug deep enough for a spring, it turns out the answer might not be indestructible.

Are there answers to such big questions as what we’re working for, whether we’re alone? Can we have happiness if we don’t know the answers to these questions?

I was turning them over in my head on today’s run. So much heavy thinking. I’m glad I’m running.

When we come home at the end of the day, boil up instant noodles and let ourselves get swallowed up by the couch, these are clues to our mental exhaustion. It must be very easy in our type of society—first world, white collar, consumeristic, a barrage of [sexual] marketing—to separate mind from body.

Yet physical activity is the easiest recipe for happiness. It is the instant gratification of happiness. Go out for a run, and even if you don’t get into it sometime during those 30 minutes, there’s a sense of accomplishment when you make it back to your front porch. More likely than not, at some point, endorphins flooded your bloodstream.

Daily satisfaction doesn’t need to stem from something deep. Happiness isn’t romantic; it’s base. There will be moments when we can savor all the complexities that melded together to result in our happy accident, but those are too far in between to sustain us. What I’ve learned since Drew’s death: Each day is its own challenge. You miss so much if you’re planning too far ahead.


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