Saturday, October 04, 2008

About me....

I left a comment over at Do not read this blog, and Blane asked me a question:
yanub, you seem to have developed a very balanced and healthy perspective on these things. I don't know anything about you--but is there anything you'd be willing to share about your life or background that would illuminate us regarding your outlook? I agreed with your comment about comfort, but still, don't you ever have just a small bit of sadness when you think about your consciousness ceasing to exist?

Do I have any sadness over my consciousness ceasing to exist? No, not really. I regret that, when I do die, there will be people who will be sad because I won't be around. At the same time, it would be even sadder if no one missed me. I fret more at the prospective loss of those I love than over my own prospective death, and want to stay alive because I know others feel the same way about me.

I've lived through a long period of depression, which is behind me now. What got me through my own lack of desire for life was knowing that I was loved, even if I couldn't fully feel it, knowing that my death would affect others and hurt them. And I've never wanted anyone to hurt because of me. But when I am dead? I will be as aware as I was before I ever came into existence. I figure, if I don't mind the previous non-existence, I have nothing to fear from that non-existence to come, either. I really only regret my decades of depression. I wish I could have somehow stopped that sooner, because that is a sort of existence without existence. But a disease must run its course, and there is no fault in being sick. And no turning back time, either.

So, now I am well into middle age, with a body that creaks and gives out like I am well into old age. And while I feel free to grumble when I hurt or have to bypass doing something I would have liked to do because I can't get cooperation from all the important bits and pieces, I also don't really care. I don't care if people stare when I limp. I don't care if they think bad thoughts when I use a handicapped spot and seem to walk pretty good at the moment. I don't care if they keep asking what happened to my neck. Or if they ask about my finger splints. I have no problem saying "no" if asked to do things that I simply can't do. I have nothing to prove, no one to impress, and wouldn't try to prove anything or impress anyone if I did. 

I owe a great deal of how I feel about things now to Carapace, who talked me through my depression and my outrageous anxiety attacks, and who still impresses me with her (un)natural good humor. Oh, yeah, she's my daughter, but I've always admired her as a person. Wearing her reverse headgear to fifth grade with such confidence and hope for improvement that all teasing bounced off her and shriveled away. Her indignation over the school's treatment of a mentally ill classmate while brushing aside her own treatment by the school while she was using a wheelchair. Her intense excitement over her crafting and art despite the high cost she bears with the associated migraines and seizures during a creative burst.

And then there's Elizabeth, about whom I've recently posted. How can I help but want to be a better friend and neighbor when Elizabeth is such a great one across so many miles? Or my friend Sheila, who is always concerned about my welfare even when she is most despondent? Or my religious parents, who were once disfellowshipped for actually caring about people instead of just trying to "save" them? Or my atheist boss who everyday exemplifies gratitude and the sort of humility that comes from really believing in equality? My grandmother who traded pies for tamales, who insisted on being known by her first name by her neighbors because she was her own person, not her husband's.  My grandpa, who completely agreed.  I could go on and on. But the point is, all these people have had and continue to have an enormous affect on me. When I lose one of them to death, they will still be alive--in me. And if I go first, I will be alive in them. We are all shaping lives yet to come, people who will never know our names. Our personalities and goals, our hopes and dreams, everything that is essentially what we think of as our consciousness, we get that from other people, from people who are around us now, and from the people in the past who passed on their hopes and dreams. When I die, then, my awareness of consciousness will stop, but what is essential about it--that belongs to the living, and always will for as long as it is worth passing on.

I was raised Christian, and taught to expect, at anytime, the end of the world and a final judgment that would leave the majority of people ever born in eternal torment. Compared to such a horrible thing, death, plain and simple, is a small thing, and the ability to participate in making the present and maybe the future more pleasant for everyone is a large and wonderful thing. 

Blane, I hope all that sort of addresses your curiosity.  

5 comments:

Blane Conklin said...

That more than addresses it. Thank you. The most credible people on this (to me) are those who are honestly "acquainted with grief" and have consciously rejected religious answers.

I understand the sadness you feel when thinking about those who will be left behind. A couple years ago I had a health crisis, and went into surgery having accepted the possibility that I might not wake up. That was my feeling, too: Sadness for my wife and daughters.

I also come from a religious background (it lasted well into my adulthood). I agree that the promised rewards are not so attractive, and the promised torments so sadistic, that reality itself is far preferable.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Thanks for this interesting blog. Often I don't count the human connection enough; I do things not just because of me but becuase of the people like my grandfather who taught me how to keep going, how to get things done, and people like Linda who was there for me in anxiety and depression. Though my grandfather is gone, I hope that what good I do is a reflection is some part of him. This world IS for the living and whether his effect on me is consciously realized doesn't stop its effect even if I don't understand or acknowledge it. In the same way, when I am gone, whatever the believe, I am not here, and in this world, in this place, what aspects of me continue will be how I have been with others, and the victories I won with myself. Did your fight with depression which was won ever count on the great scoreboard. I think in that you have been a great friend to me now, it has. Could you care or understand as much if you had not fought the same fight?

Thanks again for such an interesting post.

OneSick said...

yanub,

This is deep.

And very brave of you to put it all out there like that. Thanks.

I think Elizabeth has good instincts about the depression. I do think going through something like that changes one's perspective. As does mothering a child with special needs; be they medical needs or the other kind of special.

These kinds of experiences really draw us out of ourselves and allow us to see much bigger pictures; more forest, less trees.

But I still think you are brave to put it all out there. In fact to preform the analysis in the first place is brave. I don't think I am that evolved quite yet.

OSM.

yanub said...

Blane, isn't it something...we wish we could avoid the sorrow of death, but the only way to do that is to never connect, to never really live. And so we willingly accept sorrow as the cost of joy. Religion, I think, tries to express the transcendence of that trade, but people still flee from its reality and end up creating elaborate structures of ritual in an effort to disguise that we are all inextrictably caught up in the web of life.

Elizabeth, I am glad to have wrestled with depression, and to know that it could descend upon me again. I know something more of the human mind than I would have otherwise, and can be more patient. At the same time, I would not wish it on anyone.

OSM, I don't know that it's bravery. Blane and Elizabeth are brave. They both go by their real names on the wild and woolly intertubes. But, thanks. It's a nice compliment.

Lisa Moon said...

Wow. I've been mulling your post over for the last couple of days as it perfectly coincides with the giant thoughts I'm wrestling with.

I'm not sure I can even articulate here why I wished to comment! I think it's the grief process for me, coming to some sort of 'acceptance' with my disability - the mobility part doesn't scare me so much as the constant pain... hearing what was helpful for you and your outlook has given me food for thought. I love thoughts. :)

I admit to envying the wonderful sounding people you have/had in your life! What I treasure now is the connections I'm making online. Hearing others' tales has been therapeutic and a relief as I know I'm not truly alone.

As others have said, this is a great post, very well considered and written.