Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Prayer for the Dying

There is a point that one reaches in life where the reality of mortality comes face to face with the reality of living. Where the inevitable fate that awaits all of us runs pace with the requirements of living. Work, mopping, paying taxes-they all compete with the desire to experience life rather than maintaining it.

Recently I saw a commercial for an anti-aging cream. The promise that the collagens encapsulated within the unguent would restore voids created by the loss of moisture in the sub dermal layers of the skin. Collagen is contained in the connective tissue found in cartilage and muscles. It’s the protein rich stuff that binds while giving flexibility to the structures it is entwined in. It’s also the stuff that cooks out of meat. The matrix formed of the proteins that gives meat sauces the rich velvety texture that we devour. We lose it and then reclaim it in our diets. And now, we want to rub it on our skin to re-plump ourselves to the bodies of our youth.

What I found more interesting was that while people are looking in the mirror day after day trying to slow the process of aging, they are asleep to the fact that their thoughts are focused on the wrong loss. While youth is slowly leaving them, the locus of their angst blinds them to the fact that they are missing the life that they have. A blind eye misses the gift in front of them. The here and now.

One of the most difficult challenges I have come to realize is, as actors refer to as, “being in the moment”. That’s spending time appreciating the experience that life is. Not looking backward or forward. Just being “in the now”.

Being middle aged kind of sucks. The waistline spreads. Muscles and joints ache. The body that I dwell in has started to fail. I realized it one afternoon when I dropped an object to the ground. Instead of quickly bending over and picking the dropped item up, I found myself maneuvering to hold against the wall and I struggled to pick it up. In my minds eye, I saw myself as an eighty year old man. Oddly, I wasn’t sad, just aggravated. The clash of the desire to move, based the sense memory of being a youth, collided with the body that could no longer accommodate the actions of my intentions.

The typical American reaction to this moment of age awareness is to take collagen rendered from the left over body parts of chickens, pigs and cows and slather on my skin in hopes that I can fend aging, and more to the point, death off. The reality is I can’t. So what am I to do?

Step 1: Understand that this day comes once.

No “do-overs”. You’ve got one shot at today. Lull yourself into a distraction, watch another rerun and you will have squandered what you will never have again. Wake up and inhale every sensation. Blink and it’s gone.

Step 2: Know that tomorrow is not guaranteed.

If you could have a conversation with the dead who passed today, chances are few of them expected it was their last day. But the slip on the ice, the fallen power line, the drunk driver who never intended to hurt a soul-all are out there where you are not looking for them.

Step 3: Don’t look back.

Okay, we learn from our experiences. The trick is not to dwell on them. Take them in and get on with it. You will never be 1 second younger. You are 1 second younger than you will be by the time you get to the end of this sentence. Why spend your energy trying to hang on to the image of who you were. Embrace who you are and what your life is right now.

One of my favorite ads was for a chocolate company. The headline read something like this: “No one ever lies on their death bed wishing they’d eaten another rice cake”. While the ad was more about yielding to the temptations of consuming a pleasurable foodstuff, the point is valid. When you are facing the final moments of your life, do you really want to look back and say “that’s it”? No, I want my life to reflect this quote that I could find no attribution for:

“Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, your body thoroughly used up, totally worn out. You last thought being “what a ride”.” -Unknown

For the past five or six years, my goal has been to make everyday count. Not to live for the weekend, or to look back and say “where did the week go”? No, I’m living with the idea that I know and can account for every second that was left in the stream of my life’s timeline. That said, I’ll leave the collagen in the gravy and off my face because wrinkles are the least of my concerns. It’s the living that makes the wrinkles that count.

1 comment:

  1. I randomly stumbled upon this and thought it was really, really good. =]