Janet (j4) wrote,

The skull beneath the skin

Several relatives of friends are sick or dying, and there is nothing I can think of to say to comfort my friends, there is nothing that will comfort them, and nothing I can say that would not seem insultingly futile. But it is not just my futility that keeps me silent. It is partly the fact that the first thought that always -- horribly, selfishly -- comes to me is "It will be my relatives next". And from there it's a small step to "and then it will be my friends, and then it will be me".

["I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart.
I am, I am, I am."

Nobody can imagine death, the absence of self. We imagine by imagining ourselves as the viewer, the onlooker, the person having the experience; we can't imagine the inability to view, to look on, to experience. Even imagining other people's reactions can only be achieved with the implicit imagination of oneself as the observer. The self cannot imagine itself out of existence. Imagination dead imagine. It's a black hole which hurts the soul, and the more you look into it, the more it paralyses thought.

The thought comes and hisses its whispers of mortality into my ear when I am close to sleep, or alone, or tired, or in some other way emotionally vulnerable. You will be gone, it says, and no matter what you do, you will have done nothing, nothing. And I think of all the things I want to do, and how little time there is, and how much time I have already wasted, and how much more time I will waste, and I feel nauseous, panicked.

If I start counting I'm done for. Divide and conquer. If I live to n, I'm over a quarter of the way through, in two years it'll be more like a third, and look how fast this year has gone, halfway through already, and how much faster it gets, the accelerator jammed down to the floor, out of control, towards the cliff-edge. Figures buzzing around my head like flies. If I read a book a week, that's 52 books a year, which means I only have n times n times n more books to read in my life, which means I should be choosing more carefully, should be whittling my life down to top 50, top 10, top 5, top 1, top what-would-you-do-if-you-knew-you-were-going-to-die-tomorrow?

And then comes the guilt for feeling this when others are older. I should be grateful. For what? That people I care for are first in the firing line? How can I be grateful for that? The fear comes on me physically, viscerally, dissolving me, reducing me to that heartbeat, that insistent ειμι (οιμοι!) by which we are all declared gods of our separate worlds.

The panic assails me at every level; faced with an hour of time, I worry how little time that is and how little I can do in that time out of the millions of things I want to do. Inevitably I end up wasting the entire hour doing nothing, paralysed by indecision, It is only when the time is over that the motivation returns, telling me do something! anything!, and of course then there is no time, only guilt for time wasted, piling up around me in persistent whispers, like rumours, like sand.

["I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story… I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet."]

Thus it is in the bigger picture, with life as a whole. Now more than ever. I feel as though I'm freeze-framed, waiting for somebody to un-pause my life. I want to live now, and I don't know how. The minutes tick away as if they were years, and I'm grasping at them so frantically, so hopelessly, that they slip through my fingers until I'm hopelessly sobbing, clutching, clawing at the fabric of space and time, screaming stop, wait, I WANT MORE LIFE.

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