I realize as I send this essay out into the world it may be controversial, perhaps even unsettling, and will possibly alarm my close friends. So, a preface is called for.
I am not suicidal.
I am not suffering from depression or any other form of mental illness.
I am not terminally ill.
Nor am I socially isolated or lonely. I have managed somehow to navigate the global pandemic with my mental health mostly still intact.
I am a healthy, fit, cheerful and productive, soon-to-be 66-year-old woman with many caring friends. I engage in creative endeavors, exercise regularly, enjoy the outdoors, and have adequate income to live comfortably.
But like most people, my life can be complicated, unsatisfying, and troubling at times. This is one of those times.
My life is just fine. But just fine is simply not enough. My days go by with a certain level of joy, love, and satisfaction. But the line between happiness and sadness is thin, and I walk the tightrope between the two. I am acutely aware that most people would choose my life if they could. And I feel ungrateful and embarrassed for these thoughts, but I cannot deny them—and I suspect I am not the only one who has them.
So, hear me out without casting judgement if you can.
I’ve attempted to identify what exactly is causing my persistently bland and unenthusiastic reaction to what should be a good time in my life. But I find now neither my personal accomplishments nor kind and gentle words brings much more than a momentary feeling of appreciation and affection, but then my dial settles back to neutral and I am left feeling lackluster and uninspired.
I simply can’t find the meat in which to dig my teeth. Nothing seems to hold my attention or give me the thrill I used to get when I fell in love, reached a professional milestone, or traveled to a new and exciting place. Things used to excite me, ignite my passion, turn me on, or just plain piss me off. But now, they don’t.
Is it a case of “been there, done that” leaving me with a feeling that nothing is new and exciting? I don’t know. I keep doing new things, pushing my boundaries, challenging myself, reaching higher, and trying harder, but the adrenaline high still eludes me.
The other night, lying there awake watching the moon rise, it came to me—death is the next big thing. And I’m ready. Not in an intentional way, but as a natural process of entropy.
It would be something I’ve not experienced. Something I imagine to be extraordinary, especially if I can approach it mindfully and engage in the process, with time to say goodbye and have experiences that would certainly be all the more intense by virtue of being “for the last time.”
Think about this, if you can; set aside your fear or the taboo of thinking about death and let your mind wander down this path with me.
Imagine how it would be to talk with those who truly love us and finally have full permission to express our inner emotions. We could share precious memories, tell our long kept secrets and be more intimate than we’ve ever dared.
We’d do those things we’ve denied ourselves, having preserved money, calories, energy, or our sanity not knowing what reserves we’d need to last the duration of an unknown number of years. We’d know our time is up and we could become bold, untethered, honest, and outspoken. We could buy what we’ve always wanted, eat what tastes sweet, and allow our heart to lead our head, unshielded and courageous in every way.
No one knows precisely what death feels like, for obvious reasons. There are lots of scientific assumptions and a few people who have temporarily been without heart function who recount all kinds of glorious sights, sounds, and spiritual transformations. But we still don’t know. We can’t know, not until that magical moment when it all shifts and who we are becomes who we were.
So, my friends, that is why I now say death is the next big thing. And ironically, thinking about it, wondering how best to prepare to fully appreciate its finality, somehow gives me a renewed purpose and a better outlook into the future.