BAIPA member David Colin Carr is in the process of writing a book about dying and death, with the working title “Time Bomb,” a how-to about aging and dying, and he wants to share some of his current writing with you. See below. Enjoy!
At times I find myself obsessed with the reality that I’m dying. No, obsessed has a connotation of an out-of-control passion. Nor is preoccupied correct. Vitally curious is more like it. It is what I want to explore, to have constantly in awareness no matter what else I’m doing. Perhaps this is because I’m writing about it, which puts my orientation in a frame of constant inquiry about the subject.
I recently told a young (35 year old) man I’ve been mentoring for many years to not expect the kind of attention from me that I’ve freely given before. He could not understand what was going on. I finally said, “I’m deathing.” To me that word had a sacred quality that demanded respect, to allow me to travel my path with all the concentration I have available, as the aging process leaves me with less than I’m used to assuming.
From the outside, friends may think I’m depressed or unbalanced. But vitally is the operative word. It is like my life and vitality are devoted to that curiosity.
In fact, we are all dying. I just happen to be intrigued by every nuance of the phenomenon. And I don’t want to be distracted to the point of losing my thread, so I’m setting protective boundaries.
As I write that, I remember that I know this experience from the other side. A very dear friend, a brother on the adventure of self-discovery, became progressively unavailable. He had been living with HIV for as long as I’d known him, so I was always alert to the limitations of his investment in life, people, things – aware that I would likely outlive him. My experience of our bond has never waned, but – with full respect for his need to protect the life he has left – I have felt bereft of our friendship. And that is simply what is. There is no room for attacking his barriers. They are serving a vital function in his life. And there is an objective sorrow about being unable to share our delight in the planet together.
Now from the inside of the boundaries, they feel appropriate. I find the deathing process more engaging than others’ narcissistic struggles (I am using that adjective objectively, not judgmentally). I don’t have the energy to devote to their process of clarification or (to use an appropriate spiritual term) liberation, when my own seems to be at stake. In reality, in some not-too-distant future I will be gone and they will have to find other support. As I grieve for the friendship with my seeker-brother, they will have to grieve for me.
This consideration helps me evaluate what is supporting my growth. And, indeed, I am growing even as I die. I am growing into death. There! I have talked my way into the definition of deathing.
David Colin Carr, Editor
Moving your words
so your words move others