The life that’s left
“She’s still in bed,” Mert said to me. I’d called to wish my cousin Joyce a happy birthday. My cousin who, though young at 64, has been battling dementia for the last two years.
I’d waited to call, knowing she spends a lot of time in bed. It was 10 am.
Mert, my cousin’s doting husband, and I chatted for a bit. We caught up on Joyce’s condition, the state of her decline, how he was holding up.
“There’s not much life left in her, Jamie,” he said.
The words cut us both as they left his mouth. We let them fall, neither one of us wanting to pick them up.
We each inhaled. His short. Mine long and slow, like I was trying to remember how to do it.
“But you know,” he said, perking up. “She still surprises me. Just the other day she walked passed the mirror and said, ‘I look like hell and I feel like shit.’”
Joyce was always a wit to behold.
“That’s my Joyce,” he said, choking back the tears and smile vying for space in his throat.
I think about Joyce’s decline often. Contemplating the impermanence of life, how things can change on a dime and how fucking unfair it all seems.
I could let it scare me and keep me in bed. I could also ignore it, push through, use it as an excuse to kill myself hunting down accomplishment to make my life “worth it” before my end.
And then I remember no one ever promised me life would be perfect. No one ever promised me a life without illness, pain, or death.
The only thing I was ever promised at birth was life and THIS, this loss wrapped in pain wrapped in sweet remembrance wrapped in joy, is all part of the package.
The workouts we do, the vegetables we eat, the good work we produce, the love we give and receive are not meant to protect us from pain but to prepare of us for it. The better we care for ourselves, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, the more equipped we are when life delivers on its promise.
And so I’ve been thinking about the life that’s left in me and how I want to spend it.
What do I want give and receive with the time I’ve been granted? Who do I want to spend that time with?
This is less about “life is short, make the most of it!” (that perspective always freaks me out, like I’m never doing enough) but more wondering how much life can I experience?
How much can I feel? How much love can I share with myself and others? How can I, as Rilke writes, “live my life in widening circles”, extending my arms wide to hold whatever comes, joy and pain, and be better for it?
How can I take exquisite care of myself so that I may gracefully ride the waves that life will forever gift me?
These are the questions my dear cousin Joyce’s life has brought to mine, reminding me that life’s only promise to me, and all us, is that we get a shot at it. And that, is my estimation, is promise enough.
All my love,
P.S. If life’s thrown you a curveball that’s making everything look far from perfect, let’s talk. I have two remaining Clarity sessions for February and during our hour together we’ll explore where you feel stuck and how to move you through to feel at peace and compassionately connected to yourself. Just email me and we’ll get you on calendar.
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