Not too long after a dire diagnosis such as my cancer, an unwelcome fact appears in one's mind (or, at least, in mine): “Oh, you mean I'm mortal after all?”
Once it appears, there is no denying it, no going back to that blissful state where all your life you kind of vaguely believed death would always be somewhere down the road.
Of course I knew that wasn't true, but when reality is too complex or too painful, humans are good at fooling themselves. I am not immune.
It has been awhile, certainly more than a year now, since this stark reality began plopping itself down next to me several times a day, poking me in the ribs to remind me that I need to prepare, to make peace, to be ready when the time comes.
Sometimes I pay attention, performing a mental check see how I'm feeling in regard to shuffling off this mortal coil. I've already done some fairly major preparation such as a magic mushroom (psilocybin) session last December (which you can read about in Part 1 and Part 2).
That “trip” was every bit as useful to me in reducing my dread as responsible researchers at major medical and academic institutions have been reporting for the past 10 years or so. And it continues.
Having been given this fairly lengthy reprieve from death – more than a year now - I have made it my job to get ready to die. I don't want to leave being terrified.
On the other hand, sometimes I wonder if giving one's death any attention at all is worth the effort. Like it or not, we are each going to die whatever we feel or think about it.
Nevertheless, it is in my nature to watch myself, to pay attention to what's going on in my mind when I'm not directing it, as now while writing a blog post.
I have discovered that without naming it or dwelling on it much, I seem to have believed for a long time that when people are nearing death, they lose interest in the world around them. I don't know if that's true or not but it doesn't matter because somewhere years ago I came to believe it.
And nowadays, when I have stopped doing certain things either because they are too physically taxing or, more likely so far, take up more time than I am willing to allot them anymore, I start to wonder if death is closing in.
When that happens, my mind takes off to my personal fantasy land telling me that if I instead keep doing those things, I will forestall the grim reaper.
What horseshit. Apparently, for some of us, there is no end to our ability to deny the inevitable even when medical science has been clear about what is next.
But maybe that's laying it on too thick. Not counting psilocybin, the best thing I've done for myself is to start meditating again. I had done so off and on for most of my life but even as I appreciated its effect, it was still more off than on.
Today, I think of it as, simply, my daily quiet time. A few minutes to be still and just notice what's going on around and within me.
When thoughts of death creep in, they occasionally feel as natural as the breathing to which I am paying close attention. I'm working on increasing the frequency of those feelings but there is no pushing that kind of thing further than it's ready for.
For now, I am trusting this “quiet time” will help me build on the good that the magic mushrooms did and lead me to welcome the wide river and drifting into the sea, as Bertram Russell describes the end of life. (See Wednesday's post.)
It's my job, or rather, the job I have assigned myself to make this time of my life and particularly its end as peaceful as I can manage.