May 10, 2017

“To Be Happier Start Thinking About Your Own Death.”


This was the headline to a NY Times article from January 9th, 2016. Now I know: “Failing NY Times, fake news, #sad.” But I think they’re on to something.

Not that I’ve been sitting around since my diagnosis thinking that this is end of days. I fully expect to beat this and go back to taking life for granted. But it is natural for something like this to bring up thoughts of my own mortality and I have to say…I’ve been oddly happy.

I’ve had this feeling once before. It was around 2006 and I was walking around Charleston. I was there for three weeks and I hadn’t spent significant time there since college. It was a wonderful experience getting to rediscover a town I knew so well. What struck me most that particular trip were the graveyards and cemeteries. They are everywhere. Behind each church, around each corner. And not just the famous ones in the center of town. Every little side street has a little church with a cemetery in the back. I had been living in New York City for three years at that point and New York doesn’t have any time for death. It’s just building building building future future future. It’s odd because Charleston feels that way now. It’s heartbreaking to see the people who own the city continuously sell it of to the highest bidder. If you have the most money you get the best buildings. Hence everything that was once interesting is now a Walgreens or a Footlocker or a Verizon store. Or a hotel. So people can come and see the very same things that are in their own home towns in buildings that used to be cool. Maybe we need all those cemeteries and graveyards. In a few years they might be the only land without Hiltons.

But back in 2006 I was walking around mesmerized by these little streets with the little churches with the cemeteries in the back. For the first time I had a tactile understanding that these used to be people. Real people who had walked these very streets. Real people who I am sure thought they had all the time in the world. Yet here is was 300 years later, and I was staring at their tombstone with the name and date weathered away by time. How many of those people would give anything to be able to walk around this city again. Being alive made me one of the lucky ones.

Because all we get is a hundred years. Most of us check out a lot sooner, but 100 years that is the limit.

Sure some people live to be 105 or 106 but let’s be honest… are those people really human?

I say that because people that age are always asked “what’s your secret” and they’re always like “bacon” or “ I drink shit loads of beer” and I’m like “ok, I get it, you’re an alien.”

And 100 years is nothing! The earth is 4.5 billion years old. Actually it’s 4.543 billion years old so I was rounding down… 430,000 years. And all we get is 100?? If we’re lucky??

Maybe getting cancer is a blessing. It’s certainly knocked me off my center, which in an of itself is a good thing. Because no matter how much time we have left, the truth is none of us will be here much longer.

And if I can remember that than it’s easier to let things slide off my back. Who cares who cut me off in traffic! Who cares if the Cubs lose! Who cares that my neighbors are playing the same song over and over and over again. We’re all gonna be dead soon! So be happy now!

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