The Free Spirit

girl-2940655_1920

Arms spread wide to touch the sky,
She embraces all she is,
Not missus or madame or ma’am or mom,
She is definitely a Miz.

Her heart, it soars, it flies, it sweeps,
It blasts all in its path,
In fiery passion and flaming expression,
Her joy can flash to wrath.

In highs and lows, there’s no mid-ground,
Adventures are a must,
Experience is first upon her list,
In this, she’ll always trust.

Brazen and brave, she takes such risks,
And always bets her all,
And though catastrophe abounds,
She learns from every fall.

Her heart is light and heaven-bright,
Still full of innocence,
The twisted world has not impressed,
Or made its own imprints.

The future, now, still seems far off,
She’ll plan for that tomorrow.
Today, she’s all wrapped up in now,
And trouble, she won’t borrow.

She’s currently in the prime of life,
The world bends to her will,
And though someday, her age will fray,
For now, she takes her fill,

Of life, of hope, of love’s sweet passion,
Imagination free,
She revels in joy and tastes the day,
Content to simply be.

 

~Amarine Rose Ravenwood

Originally Published by Voice of Eve, Issue 2, 2018

© ScribbleRemedy 2019

All images public domain

Advertisements

A Mother’s Love

blaze-bonfire-burn-211157.jpg

A slower kindle,
A softer ember;
Old youthful fire,
Now just a cinder.

Mellowed like wine,
Or a half-faded rose,
A calmer waltz,
That ebbs and flows.

Less moved to passion,
But when so, deeper;
My love overflows –
For my grandchild’s keeper.

What used to matter
Matters less;
I take more time…
More time to bless.

I look for joy,
Less frivolously;
I’ve found what’s true,
More thoroughly.

My wisdom blooms;
I try to share…
But most of all,
To show my care.

Above all things,
I’ve found a love;
And where I breathe,
I breathe thereof.

A softer gait;
A slower pace,
But my full heart,
It can embrace

The ones I love,
More deeply now,
And richer still,
And this I vow:

You are my joy,
Our chain of life:
And I live now,
Much less in strife.

So let me hold
You in my heart,
My dearest child,
And never part.

 

~Amarine Rose Ravenwood

© ScribbleRemedy 2019

All images public domain

Old Shoes

shoes-2216498_1920

How do we decide:
When is a shoe old?
When it’s worn in,
and nicely soft-soled?
Or is it when it’s
tattered and threadbare?
When its color
matches your head hair?

When is the time
of your shoes’ middle age?
When they’re broke-in
and your feet they assuage?
They still look nice,
and comfy, and fit…
They might be your favorites,
they’re loved, quite a bit.

Well, this, too, is life;
we are much like our shoes:
We’re not old ‘till frail,
battered, and bruised,
By the very air ‘round us;
air we enjoy;
When we’re far too mature
and refined to be coy.

Middle age is a cross
between comfort and fear;
A time when we long
to hold close what’s held dear.
And we look to the future,
and we feel some worry,
Our hearts are still big;
our sight’s not quite blurry.

We’ve gained qualities
of wisdom and hindsight;
We still look young,
but we’ve gained Grandma’s insight.
It’s a hard age to be,
but it’s also perfect:
In between young and old;
a time to reflect.

We’re far from worn out;
we’ve still got much wear left;
And we know what joy is,
and we know what is bereft.
We keep looking forward,
while we also look back,
And we seek our own place,
and we’ve learned our own knack.

Don’t forget where you are:
you’re not olden yet,
Those shoes still have
some good tread, I’ll bet.
And while the sun
glistens and shines,
You still have sparkle,
in all kinds of times.

 

~Amarine Rose Ravenwood

© ScribbleRemedy 2019

All images public domain

Oatmeal Cookies

“…some studies show that personality traits such as optimism and pessimism can affect many areas of your health and well-being. The positive thinking that usually comes with optimism is a key part of effective stress management. And effective stress management is associated with many health benefits” ~The Mayo Clinic

 

I feel as though, if I look at my life over these past seven months, oatmeal cookies are what I see most clearly. Those cookies almost look like a light in the darkness, to me.

For years, I have rather despised cooking/having to cook. It has been a very non-enjoyable chore. I have only done the bare minimum of what is required to keep us fed and have had no interest in baking cookies or making pies from scratch, or anything else like that. Believe it or not, that was something I once enjoyed. But not in the past several years, because, let’s face it – I have not been very happy for the past several years.

adult-3052244_1920I started college in 2013 to change my life because working in bars was making me miserable. But college was work, and while I was happier, I was still not anywhere near being actually happy. I enjoyed the focus and the drive, the goal-oriented nature of education. I learned a lot about myself during college that I had had no inkling of before, even after thirty-seven years of living life. But I was not happy. There was always something more to be done, and something in the near future to keep me worried and stressed.

Then, in 2016, my body began to fail me for the first time. At the round age of forty, a ruptured disc in the spine, a herniated disc above it, chronic sciatica pain, a required hysterectomy and prolapse repair surgery (including a bladder sling for incontinence), and the development of IBS made me feel like my body was like an old house starting to break down, and no one had any new materials to fix it. It could only be bolstered up using old materials that might still fail again and again in the future. The central wall was sagging, the ground floor was drooping into the basement, the plumbing was giving out, and the electricity had a bad habit of flickering. Every few days, a toilet would explode. That’s what it was like, if you look at each of those things as analogies for what my body was doing.

For two years, I suffered with my IBS indigestion/gas/bloating and sciatica pain, eating Ibuprofen like it was candy around the clock, and focusing on work. I put my IBS as far on the back burner as I could, and attempted to finish school before I would allow myself to fix what was going wrong. I graduated college in December of 2018, and within a week, I knew I had better go to the doctor and get on some kind of medication, because I was having diarrhea attacks frequently, with only breaks of about three days in between each attack where I was diarrhea-free. Each round of diarrhea would last three-to-four days, in itself. It was like having the stomach flu constantly, and it had been going on since around September or October of 2018. I had been trying to control it with Immodium and Gas-X, but they really just were not working.

These diarrhea attacks came with fever sensations and rash. I had no idea what was wrong with me, but I would get chills and shakes when having diarrhea attacks, and I would break out sometimes two to three days before the attacks, with rashes on my hands, arms, stomach, sides, thighs, calves, and ankles. I went to my doctor and he put me on Dicyclomine, which stopped me up, and caused my body to rebel at being stopped up by putting me through anxiety, and causing acid reflux. I finally asked to see a GI Specialist, and I quit vaping, understanding that nicotine was a diarrhea trigger for people with IBS-D. I also started myself on a low-Fodmap diet, because of what I was reading online about foods to avoid for people who have IBS-D. My primary care doctor was no freaking help at all. He just said they didn’t know what caused IBS, and kept throwing pills at me.

anatomy-160524_1280When I finally got in with the GI Specialist, he began to run tests. Everything came back clear. No H. Pylori. No parasites. No liver malfunctions, blood work issues, infections, inflammatory diseases, or thyroid issues. No high fat in the stool. And so on. Three days before my first appointment with the GI Specialist, my neighbor had told me about how she had had Dysbiosis (a bacterial imbalance) in her gut after multiple ankle surgeries, caused by all the post-operative medications they had put her on that had disrupted the balance of her gut bacteria. She told me they had put her on a probiotic called Florastor and she had gotten well. Everything she mentioned sounded like she was telling my story for me, so when I went in for my first visit with the GI Specialist, I requested Florastor by name, just to try it out. Taking a probiotic couldn’t hurt – it’s good bacteria for the gut.

The specialist agreed to me trying out Florastor – and within eight days after beginning it, I was improving significantly. I took the Florastor for several months, beginning in February. By April, the bowel (diarrhea and constipation) aspects of my IBS were gone, other than when I would stray outside my low-Fodmap diet. I had developed food intolerances, and leaky gut syndrome (from Ibuprofen, of course). So when I would eat something I had developed an intolerance to (onion, garlic, etc.), I would have a diarrhea attack again.

I stopped the Ibuprofen in February, suspecting that it was part of the problem, and switched to Tylenol for my sciatica pain. But my specialist and I had an idea, due to the rapid response of my body to the probiotic, that my IBS was caused by Dysbiosis, like my neighbor’s had been. In March, we interrupted my course of Florastor probiotics for a round of Xifaxan (which irritated my bladder beyond any bladder infection I have ever had – so I also had to take Amoxicillin for the bladder infection it caused, at the same time. The two medications together made me feel just awful. Very sick), for two weeks, and then I was back on the Florastor.

hands-2238235_1920I also had tests done to check for histamines and found that my rashes were not caused by allergic reactions. They were not hives. It seemed that they, too, were bacterial. Sure enough, there are articles out there that talk about Dysbiosis in the gut, and Dysbiosis on the skin, and in other places of the body, as well. It seems to be almost common sense that one could cause the other, as, in the whole body, everything is connected. I began showering with antibacterial soap and the rashes stopped. Things were finally under control. As long as I stuck to the low-Fodmap diet and bathed with antibacterial soap, I had no bowel problems and no rashes. The other issues that went along with them (fever sensations, chills, etc.) all vanished with them.

And then, in June, I started noticing that I had a sensation, when taking my pills, of them getting stuck in the lower part of my esophagus. My GI Specialist suggested an endoscopy. The biopsies they took during that endoscopy in the third week of June showed that I had Barrett’s Esophagus and Chemical Reaction Gastropathy. Barrett’s esophagus is when the cells of your esophagus start changing to resemble the cells of your intestines, and it is caused by stomach acid rising up in reflux. Chemical Reaction Gastropathy is an injury to the stomach lining caused by too much alcohol or – you guessed it – Ibuprofen. NSAIDS, in general, can cause this. It is a step before developing ulcers (which are holes in that lining).

The Barrett’s Esophagus was most likely caused back in January when I was on the Dicyclomine and was having reflux from being backed up. I was also drinking peppermint tea on an almost daily basis back then, because it seemed to calm my stomach some. But peppermint also relaxes the stomach sphincter, allowing acid and stomach contents to rise into the esophagus, so I was really helping this along, without knowing what I was doing. Barrett’s Esophagus does not go away without surgery. You can prevent it getting worse with medications, but you cannot get rid of it without surgical removal of the top layer of the esophagus lining. It is also considered to be a precursor for cancer, even though only 1% of people (mostly men) with Barrett’s Esophagus develop Esophageal Cancer.

university-2119707_1920It is now July. The Barrett’s Esophagus issue has been put on the back burner for the moment while my GI Specialist tries to treat my Chemical Reaction Gastropathy. I was on Carafate for nearly two-weeks, until it made me super nauseous and my doctor stopped me taking it, as of yesterday. I don’t know what is coming next, but surely, stress has had a contributing role in all of this. 90% of the times when I get heartburn sensations, they are a direct reaction to stress. And I have had so much stress since… well, essentially, since the last year or so of college began, in 2018. If I am being honest, I would say my stress levels really began to rise as far back as three years ago, in the spring of 2016, when I transferred from community college to a university. The pressure just really amped up at that point, in my coursework.

The closer I got to graduation, the higher my stress levels rose in both fear and anticipation. Then I graduated, and I did not know what to do. I was back in the regular world – one without deadlines or homework, and where you are not judged by your academic score, or the quality of the latest paper you wrote. It was a paradigm shift. And when I could not immediately get a job, I began to panic. This was in January, and I was on Dicyclomine: a medication which caused my bowel motility to slow down to such a crawl that my nervous system had to ramp itself up to induce my body to have a bowel movement.

woman-3758052_1920When my nervous system would ramp up, it would give me crazy sensations of anxiety, and it even threw me into two panic attacks during those first weeks of January – and at the same time I was quitting nicotine, too! During the first panic attack, I felt like I was having a heart attack, and I literally thought for a few moments that I was dying. After that, the anxiety that lasted, even though it was entirely caused by my body and artificially slowed motility, caused me to have something of an existential crisis – one that seemed to continue daily for weeks. That moment of horrifying fear while thinking I was dying of a heart attack during the first panic attack just would not leave me alone. It lingered and haunted me. Add that to the stress of not being able to get a job, and I found myself panicking in limbo while also facing down my own mortality; having to face the fact that I could die. Anytime. Anywhere. From anything. And it suddenly dawned on me that this – this, right here – is what a “midlife crisis” is, and I was in the middle of it!

It was bad (see this post to get a glimpse into what was going through my mind – I didn’t write this until March, but I was going through it in January, and had let it stew a while before writing about it.). I went to my nearest Crisis Center in the middle of the second panic attack (in the second week of January, 2019). I could not calm myself down and I needed to talk. My Dicyclomine-filled body was ramped up and would not slow down. I had not had a bowel movement in days. I had quit nicotine a week or so before this, so I was also going through withdrawals, depression, and sleep disturbances on top of everything else. I was hardly eating, too. I felt sick. My esophagus was burning – I had heartburn from my throat all the way down to my bellybutton. For weeks – that burning sensation was there every day. After the Crisis Center, I saw a therapist for a few weeks.

In the course of that time period, I lost fifteen pounds from fearful food avoidance and nausea. The day in February that I got to meet with that GI Specialist, everything began to change – and for the better. Those last weeks before meeting up with him were some of the worst weeks of my whole life. When I got off the Dicyclomine, the anxiety – ALL OF IT – stopped. It ended. I swore I would never take Dicyclomine again. I cannot tell you how great it was to stop the Dicyclomine and start on the Florastor probiotic. When the bowel issues stopped, I felt like I got my life back.

sleeping-1353562_1920For months, I had not felt safe going anywhere outside the house, sometimes for days at a time, because I never knew when I would have diarrhea; or if not that, then I felt that I needed to lie down all day because my stomach hurt because I was blocked up from the Dicyclomine. I hadn’t been able to wear pants – anything with a waistband – since the summer of 2017. I thought I was facing a future of wearing nothing but Muumuus for the rest of my life. One of the worst things was going through this inability to leave the house or wear regular clothes, and wondering how on earth I was going to get and hold a job when I was continually so ill. So, yes, the Florastor was an absolute Godsend, for me.

Still, I was not happy, of course – even though I did feel better. I was still unwell. I was still on my low-Fodmap diet, and anytime I varied from it, I would still have a diarrhea attack. But those attacks were getting shorter and less watery in consistency when they happened. Still, I would feel like I had the stomach flu whenever they happened. My GI Specialist recommended I try reintroducing foods on my foods-to-avoid list, one at a time, but every time I experimented with that, I got an attack. I finally gave up. But still, even if on a restricted diet, my life improved dramatically once the bowel attacks stopped. They fully stopped sometime in May. And I felt so blessed when I was finally able to wear pants again instead of dresses and nightgowns all the time. My gas pressure and bloating mostly vanished, except when I would eat something that didn’t quite set me off but still caused a bit of gas. I cut more foods out of my diet in response to that.

student-849822_1920In June, finally got some kind of a job. I got into an internship in an office setting. I work with a lot of Millennials – almost all of them are around my kids’ ages – and while one might think that that would make me even more aware of my mortality than usual and make me feel stress over it, that is just not happening. The vibe at this office is so positive that it is starting to banish the gloomy clouds that always hang over the corners of my consciousness, since around 2016 or so. And somehow, the youthfulness of the office staff reminds me that each moment is to be lived the way they are living them – not worrying and stressing about how little time we have left to live, but living in the now and smiling as much as possible; finding the little joys in life and embracing them without skepticism or criticism.

The positive glow of this place is soothing me, mentally/emotionally, and I did not realize just how much I needed that! I also did not realize how much it was actually healing me until this past weekend, when I decided that I wanted to make some oatmeal raisin cookies from scratch. For the first time in more years than I can count, I wanted to bake. In celebration of this change, I took three plates of homemade cookies to three of my neighbors’ homes for their families to share in. I did not tell them why we were celebrating, I just felt it – the joy of it, and the happy little spark that was elicited by being able to share something with them that I had made from basic ingredients with my bare hands.

gourmet-cookies-1041327_1920.jpg

My diet may be more restricted than ever, still being on the low-Fodmap diet, plus the addition, now, of the GERD diet for my Barrett’s Esophagus (which cuts what I was still able to eat after going on the low-Fodmap diet in half, again). I am still not “well,” as I would define it, having these unresolved health issues. However, I am improving and my mood is still rising. My eyes lift toward the light to take in the higher view, and I feel like I can perhaps begin to dream again. And if I can attain and maintain this mentality, perhaps I can cope healthily with whatever comes next with my tummy issues, instead of responding with depression.

If I can brighten my mind, I wonder – will my body follow? Is it partially possible that some of what has been happening to me physically has been connected to the mood degeneration that began to really take effect in 2016? I know that it is not “body OR mind,” it’s “body AND mind,” – the two are not disconnected, they are intricately intertwined – so perhaps if I can lift my spirit high enough, my body might align with that and improve itself.

I will just keep the day I wanted to make oatmeal cookies in mind, and try to mimic that mood as often as possible.

~ Lorraine Hall

© ScribbleRemedy 2019

All images public domain

Existentialism – What is a Midlife Crisis?

“If we believe in nothing, if nothing has any meaning and if we can affirm no values whatsoever, then everything is possible and nothing has any importance.” 

― Albert Camus, The Rebel

“Life has no meaning a priori… It is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose.” ― Jean-Paul Sartre

candle-2038736_1920Organic, emotional, and intelligent, we are miracles – miracles which we take for granted because we take life itself for granted. We forget that it is a gift because we go on waking up every morning and going through our days in slow progression, and the regularity and repetition of time numbs us to the beauty of it. We forget that the gift is fleeting – some die within moments of their first breaths, but even the longest human lifespan is short when you think of all of time, or even just compare our lives to that of the trees that grow all around us. The older we get, the more we realize how short our time is. We are as tender and ephemeral as a flame that can be blown out with a single breath.

When we are young, it seems that we have infinite years ahead of us, and the years seem to take their time in passing, but by around forty years old, we really come face to face with the concept of our own mortality. In looking back and realizing how short a decade is – how quickly it went by – we realize that in just that short a time again, we will be fifty, and in yet one more decade, we will be sixty, and so on. It seems a short step from forty to ninety, from the perspective of a forty-year-old.

nullSociety holds standards of what we are supposed to do at certain ages – graduate high school, go to college, get married, have children, have grandchildren, when we are supposed to be working; when we are supposed to be retiring. If you did not live your life according to these dictates for when we are supposed to have done these things, you may find yourself at forty completely unprepared for retirement, never having even considered it yet, and without anything saved for it.

Suddenly, it feels as though it might be upon you as soon as tomorrow – that retirement is not as far away as it should be, and that because you are not prepared for it, you may not get to retire, but will have to work until you are ninety-five years old. The way things are in our society, it’s true that people are working longer/later in life – some because they want to; some because they have to. What strife it must be to have stress about money when you are in your sunset years. I don’t think anyone wants that.

I am one of those who did things backward. I was a free spirit and flighty in my youth. I did not graduate high school until I was thirty-seven years old. I didn’t go to college until three weeks later. I got married at nineteen and had all my children before I was twenty-three. I have had grandchildren since I was thirty-four. I worked in bars, enjoying a party atmosphere, for fifteen years. I did not save up for social security. So, here I am, on the other side of college, trying to start at the beginning like a newly-graduated twenty-two-year-old at the ripe old age of forty-three, looking ahead to a late-life retirement, and knowing the odds are against me.

desperate-2100307_1920How hard is it to get a foot in the door in your forties with no experience in your field, when people half your age have the same degree plus the experience of internships and jobs under their belts? It’s funny: I went to college to improve my chances for opportunity, because I was sick of working in bars and working in retail sales. I wanted something better. During college, I decided on a path – my dream to write and edit for a living.

So, now, I am out, and I realize that during college, my standards might have risen too high. It’s hard to remember that I just wanted a better job/chance for opportunity when I began college and that I did not yet have this dream to be a writer and editor, when I started higher education. Perhaps I need to remember the lower goals of just getting in somewhere that is not retail or bar work, and stop aiming so high, or expecting to get there immediately after graduation. I did do things backward in comparison to society’s dictates, and anyone who sees me trying to begin like a youngster knows it. I wonder how much that counts against me… Perhaps I am fooling myself in having such high dreams in light of this, too – maybe society won’t allow me to rise like that because I didn’t follow its rules… I don’t know – I’m still learning the way things work.

Your forties bring something else to you, as well – new frailties – imperfections in the body’s functioning. In my fortieth year, after a lifetime of perfect health, I suddenly injured my spine, rupturing one disc, herniating another, and giving myself sciatica. I found out I had degenerative disc disease and pelvic prolapse, the latter of which required my first major surgery – a hysterectomy and prolapse repair, which included a bladder sling. Talk about making a person feel old… a bladder sling is something you don’t expect young people to ever have a need for (of course, that turns out to be malarkey, since my daughter, who is only twenty-six, just had to have one put in, too. It must be a genetic defect in my family line). I also started having digestion problems and a lot of fatigue.

For two years, my doctors told me I had IBS. Only after seeing a GI specialist and starting on probiotics this year did I find out that it’s not IBS, it’s Dysbiosis – surely from antibiotics and Ibuprofen: pharmaceuticals that disrupt the gut’s bacterial balance. In the process of trying to get better from what I thought was IBS, I had to alter my diet entirely to a low-FODMAP diet. I had to give up fried and processed foods, dairy, and many of the foods I love, such as garlic, onions, and pistachios. I quit drinking and quit nicotine – all because these things were identified as triggers for an IBS attack. So, now I am on the mend – my tummy has not been this calm in two years, and I am utterly grateful. I find myself nicotine and alcohol-free and eating healthy foods, and I am rather glad of it. Even if it turned out it was not IBS, the journey that led me to the Dysbiosis diagnosis also cleaned up my dietary habits and possibly prolonged my life, and that matters a lot to someone my age.

sculpture-1801600_1920In your forties, when faced with the body’s frailties, and realizing you are almost halfway to ninety, you realize just how short life really is, and you begin to become afraid. This is especially true if you have ever had a panic attack during which, for just the tiniest moment, you thought you were dying or were going to die from the panic. Just the thought that you might be dying is enough to create a fear of death where none existed before, and if you were already thinking about your mortality because you are halfway to ninety, this contemplation becomes compounded with fear.

So, here you are, having a struggle with everything – with life, with the concept of death, with your imperfect health, and with looking your own mortality in the face; with fear, with disappointment in yourself for not having done as much as you think you should have by now, and with questions of faith and self-identity: What do you believe, how much do you believe in it, and where are you really going in this life? I think that this is what is meant by the term, “midlife crisis.”

It really is a crisis, because you feel anxiety and even maybe some panic, as you think about where you are, where you are going, and what is lying ahead at the end of the road for everyone who takes their first breath in this world – the big D. Death. You look back and the road from birth to today seems so short! Repeat that road once more, and you are at death’s doorstep; elderly and faded. And as you contemplate this, you find yourself wondering how the elderly deal with that fear, when you are already freaking out and you are not even as close to that end-of-life threshold as they are… How do they even cope with the concept that they are inexorably approaching the doorway to death and no amount of digging in their heels can slow the progression?

Old age itself seems like no kind of picnic. Dismiss from your mind for a second that you could die stepping out your front door tomorrow morning, that people die every day by getting hit by vehicles and other random accidents, and even that babies die in the NICU – just for a moment, set that aside, because gruesome as that truth is, yet giving us some kind of comfort because we avoided catastrophe long enough to have made it this far, it does not figure in the forward, long-view toward ancient existence that we are contemplating in this moment. If we make it to old age, what do we have to look forward to?

Our bodies have already given us a taste of what lies ahead, with their first frailties. What suffering lurks ahead of us in our elderly years? Are there broken hips and pneumonia awaiting us down the road? Death by flu? How frightening is that? Now I see why our culture is so obsessed with medical care – because a lot of people think the same way as this and don’t want a future full of suffering, if they can avoid it. Thank goodness for modern medicine – and yes, I do say that even after having suffered Dysbiosis for two years from pharmaceuticals. Modern medicine has its own miracles, and they are not to be underestimated.

However, there are other things to fear about the future, aside from simply the body’s failure to support us in a comfortable way. What if we reach old age and have no money to sustain us or to give us any comfort in those later years? ISthe person who does not make it to old age the lucky one? Or is the person who outlives all risks and makes it to absolute frailty the lucky one? I think it takes guts to make it to old age – it’s not an easy or a pretty road; it’s full of pain and discomfort.

Homeless Bag Lady
How awful would it be to have all those physical sufferings and simultaneously be financially destitute? What happens if I fail to get my feet under myself, now? Where do I end up? I’ll share a little secret: my greatest fear is of being an elderly homeless person with nothing to my name but a shopping cart full of meager possessions I managed to hang onto. And this does happen to people. Keep them in your thoughts and do what we can for them, for they have nothing aside from what they are given through our compassion and our charity.

And yet, at least we are alive! Even the destitute are alive! Someone who did not make it to old age was unfortunate to have lost life early, right? Society says we should count ourselves to be fortuitous if we missed the random accidental death… And we do enjoy many things in life when we forget to be afraid of death for the moment. But what if those who went by accident while still young had an easier transition through that gateway we call death? Quicker, with less suffering? And might it not be better to go without knowing it was coming, or dreading it – without being fully aware?

Sometimes, I envy animals – surely, they do not contemplate the moment they will end… Surely, they do not go through this kind of mental torture. I hear that the way to come to terms with fears of death is to “live in the moment” and refuse to look ahead toward that end. I just don’t know, now that I have the view of that doorway at the other end of my life’s timeline in my mind’s eye, whether I am strong enough to look away – to look at the moment and forget the larger picture. That view has me horrified yet enthralled, like the gruesome scene of a car accident you can’t stop staring at, even while it breaks your heart.

angel-1502351_1920I came to this larger view of the timeline, now – and I think perhaps I came to it late, at forty-three, because my daughter, who is twenty-six, as I said before, has been dealing with fears of death a lot longer than I have. She has known a lot of people who have died. Somehow, I was spared, aside from my grandparents, from knowing anyone who has died – that I know of. So, I was able, perhaps, to shield myself (intentionally? unintentionally?) from the view of the specter of death for longer than most. Because my daughter is also struggling with this, I know there are a lot of other people out there who are – even young people like my girl. It hurts my heart that my baby girl is already feeling this kind of fear, as I am, and that she lives with it causing her distress almost daily. I look around for things to give us both hope. One thing I see, now, is why so many people turn to religion for comfort in this: Religion offers the promise that the end is not the actual END, and that life continues on after crossing death’s threshold.

Funny thing – I used to have faith. All my life, I have believed in God. It is this view of death’s doorway that is shaking my faith and making me question – the big question being that even if God does exist, who is to say I will be granted an afterlife? This whole situation tempts me to find a church and start attending regularly – to give a portion of my life to church, to a Christian community, and to God. I would not go simply to be good, or because that promise the church offers is something I think I might need (it is true that I cannot find the answer to my fear of death problem within myself, try as I might to explore my thinking and to reassure myself, so far. I have no answers. Maybe a church doesn’t really have answers either, but better to live with faith than without it), but because it is better to nurture hope, even if it be false, so that you can go on, than to deny yourself any glimmer of light. I am seeing that rather clearly right now.

I need something to believe in, and I need the reassurance of it, so I can bring my focus back to “now” and go on doing the things I need to do, without fear and without part of my brain thinking about my ultimate end; without that long-view perspective making my current endeavors seem so meaningless and pointless in the larger scheme of things. I need to find my inner light and my freedom of spirit again.

girl-2940655_1920

Organic, emotional, and intelligent, we are miracles, and life is a gift, as I said at the beginning of this narrative. But life is a gift with a burden – a struggle with existentialism; a wrestle with the self that causes fear and doubt while we contemplate. We are given life, and at a certain point, we start to grapple with seeking meaning within it – the reason for a gift which, at the end, is to be taken away. From our first breath, death is waiting. And the thought that there might not be a reason for the gift is more than I can bear. We need life to be meaningful. Because of this, I think it is so important that we try to fill our lives with meaningful things – things that bring us joy. Walks in nature, beautiful music, art, elevated thoughts, wishful thinking, hopes, and dreams. And God. I think I see a strong need for God – at least for me. Even if it turns out to be a false concept, it serves a purpose: to keep us hopeful and dreaming of a life continuing on the other side of death, so that we can keep moving forward and can put some of the fear of our ending behind us while we place one foot in front of the other.

The time is short, but if we can at least perceive it as being full of meaning, perhaps it ends up being worth the price, in the end. If life has no inherent meaning of its own, we must imbue it with a meaning we’ve created so that we can keep moving forward. Hope equals liberation – a freedom of spirit that might make it easier to cope with the knowledge that death awaits. We need to find whatever ways exist in which we can feed that hope.

grandma-612016_1920Afternote: Ironically, in fearing what the elderly suffer, we find ourselves looking more closely at the elderly people we know and encounter in our lives to see how they are managing to cope with the closeness of death. Contrary to expectations, they seem to be contented, peaceful, and dignified; they seem as though they are looking forward with a positive attitude, overall – like they have come to terms with this obstacle of impending death and do not fear it any longer. They have achieved the freedom, and they have a beauty because of it that is all their own. May we do likewise. Looking at them brings me hope that I will overcome it, too. Until then, the struggle to accept the concept of death is probably far worse than the reality of death will be when the time arrives.

~ Lorraine Hall

© ScribbleRemedy 2019

All images public domain