The End

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Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David. (sidenote: great article on an Art Basel project involving this painting, Lady Gaga, and Robert Wilson).

Work has been… work. As much as I try to be grateful for a job – and I don’t absolutely hate it – I can’t help but wonder if the life I am living is “worthwhile and good”. Is what I do important? Not really. Does it bring me joy? Nah.

While it is nice to make money and be comfortable, life is short. When I try to come up with jobs that would bring more joy and purpose into my life I get stuck – because none of those jobs actually make money. While I don’t need much to live, I do need to eat.

The reason all of this has been on my mind is because I’ve found myself thinking about “The End”. As in – death.

I am not particularly fond of the macabre. I hate haunted houses and tend to shy away from darkness. But, after being present when my father passed away in 2013, I cannot stop thinking about the last exit. Why is it so terrifying? Why as a culture have we demonized death if it is inevitable? Try as we might, we cannot stop the march of death.

I just finished the book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty (also known as the lady from Jezebel’s Ask a Mortician feature). It details all the banal (and often gnarly) tasks that go into preparing the dead for burial/cremation. At times horrifying, it was incredibly refreshing. When we pass away, the bodies we leave behind are shells. I certainly saw that with my father – he was gone. His body was white and small. My father as I knew him had left the building.

Doughty shares more information – including fascinating historical facts about death – on her site The Order of the Good Death. Her writing really makes me think about what it means to not only have a “good death” but how to live a good life. To my mind, if your life is satisfying then death is a little less tragic. You did something with that gift of life. You made yourself happy. You contributed something. It wasn’t all about suffering or just muddling through. When it is time to go, you can leave in peace knowing you did your bit.

Along these lines, this article in the NYT on Zen and the Art of Dying is a great read. Instead of thinking about the past or the future, this hospice like center focuses on the present moment of the patient. I strive to be more in my moments constantly – and I certainly hope that as I grow older can I do so (even as Death starts to stare me down).

On the flip side, this NYT article discusses new approaches to grief. While sadness is human, getting stuck in grief can be crippling.

Sigh. I’m still on the journey of figuring what my “worthwhile and good” life is. Maybe that journey never ends. At least until death, anyhow.

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The Sorrow and the Beauty

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A little Helen Frankenthaler for your thoughts?

Listening to the radio this morning, I was hit with a wave of sadness. There was brief coverage of the services in Charleston and the grief smacked me right in the face. Shitty things happen all the time. For some reason, this tragedy in Charleston feels different. It brings fresh sorrow every time I see a photograph of mourners or hear a family member speak of their lost loved one.

Something has to change. How can we as a country live like this?

I don’t have any of the answers. I don’t know what the next steps are. All I know is something is wrong and (unfortunately) I don’t think we, the American people, can rely on government to fix it.

For now, I am keeping the people of Charleston in my thoughts and in my heart. I hope they can feel the love so many are sending their way. Even in the face of such terribleness, there is always love.

Some brighter notes from the day:

This tragedy is opening up some very overdue dialogue around use of the Confederate Flag.

Yes – more Nina Simone. 

Wish I was in Paris for this exhibition. 

Um – I love this list and I love how wrong Fox was about a film with a female protagonist.

Lianne La Havas? Yes, please. 

I can’t claim to understand it all – but gotta give Taylor Swift props for standing up to Apple. Girls got balls.

Hello Old Friend

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It’s been awhile.

I haven’t been very motivated lately to write or… to do anything. After my dad’s passing everything has taken on a hint of blue. Even little tasks feel monumental. Instead of trying to fight it, I am trying to take good care of myself. There have been lots of ups and downs – which I’m sure I will feel like writing about at some point – just not there yet. 

It is okay to be sad. Having a good cry is liberating. Sometimes I forget that.

That being said, I am getting back to engaging with the world again – which feels pretty good. Some neat stuff of the world:

This project is AMAZING. I would love to see more art and less ads EVERYWHERE.

Come on Brooklyn! You are better than this! Yuck.

My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 7 years ago. I found Seth Rogan’s testimony so sincere. It brightened my heart a little.

This is old old news – but how the heck did I miss Julianne Moore as famous works of art?!?!?

United Colors of Lupita? YES PLEASE!

Now I must dash off to park my butt in front the television and gorge on Oscar frivolity.

The Act Of Mourning

I have been thinking lots about mourning lately. Over the holidays I lost someone I loved very much. 

As someone who pushes pain down and ignores it for as long as possible – at least until it rears its ugly head and explodes at an inopportune moment, like oh say, your boyfriends birthday party or a major holiday – I have come to realize that taking the time to be present and mourn things lost is really important.

Generally, when we think about mourning it is related to someone. They have died or our relationship with them has died – i.e. a break up – and we miss them. It is about the person. How they were: what we loved about them, their company, their smell, their touch, etc. Saying goodbye to that person. It is profoundly sad.

I have begun to realize that really, for me, the mourning is more about change. Living and moving on beyond my experience of that person. My lost time with that person is sad. But I own that. The experience is mine. My memories of that experience/person and the way it shaped me live on in me. That is empowering. It is still a sense of loss – but more about growth then about pangs. It feels more honorable to the people you love in a way.

I was thinking about the definition of mourning and came across this:

MOURN

I really love seeing how the use of the word has declined. I wonder why that is? Just another word fallen to the wayside of our own diminishing vocabularies? Or is it related to some larger cultural shift away from grief? 

Sigh.