Humans are afraid of death. Don’t fight me on this. It’s a thing. It’s well-documented. There are those of us who have worked to make friends with at least the concept of death, but there remains a sense of discomfort with the profound unknowability of what it will mean to cease being. There’s always the chance that, no matter how well we’ve prepared, death may still catch us on our heels, not quite ready.
I wonder if we’re actually more afraid of living than we are of death. I’m not being glib or clever here. This is what I see. The idea of freeing ourselves from the things that prevent us from living fully is terrifying.
What’s preventing you from living? Maybe it’s a marriage. Maybe it’s a job. Maybe it’s a closet full of collected stamps that belonged to your great grandfather. Maybe it’s the way you “hate to be cold.”
We’ve all made our walls and even as we die within them, we insist that we’re living. We pretend that the end of this “paradise” we’ve created is actually the scary part.
On Monday night I embarked on a journey with 34 other souls who want to stop the habit of being absent from our own lives. Each week for the next 52 weeks we will journal, we will meditate, we will deeply consider our mortality both together and alone. We will notice without judgement our habits of un-aliveness and then we will notice if a shift in those habits is something worth undertaking, for our own sake.
This week, we will journal each night before bed recording “moments of aliveness” that we remember from the day. I made my first journal entry last night. As I recalled moments that I had decided to categorize as “alive,” I began to wonder what qualified those moments.
Some felt unequivocally alive. Walking out onto the stoop of my building into the wet, breezy sunshine, surprised by the warmth and the freshness in my nostrils. Laughing unexpectedly hard at a joke my partner made as we drove to do ordinary things. Sitting at my son’s bedside, stroking his head as he vacillated between falling asleep and telling me everything.
Other experiences made the list, but left me wondering, “What does it mean to feel alive?” “Does this one really ‘count?’”
I don’t know that we can even consider death until we have touched what it really means to be alive. What if we’re actually giving up or just plain missing more life right now than we will when we actually stop breathing and our bodies go cold?