You will be standing in the market, sorting through avocados when the band Kansas “Dust in the Wind” will come pumping through the ceiling, and you’ll think “Jesus…this song is gonna out live me”.
There are few things that getting really sick illuminates:
One. Dieting? Is ridiculous. The way you look is beside the point, the biggest you bring to any room is your heart.
Two. You will ask anyone for money. Will get on your knees to beg your enemy for help and because you know that, way down under all that animosity, is a deep and abiding love, for why else would she hate you with such loyalty?
Three. Things that used to taste bitter suddenly turn to maple sugar in your mouth; what you wouldn’t give for another year to grieve that man you thoughtyou loved more than your own bone marrow.
Four. Suddenly, everything will be so beautiful. The halfhearted sunset, the rotting leaves, the way a rind hugs a lime, your own age spots—what you wouldn’t do to earn more of them.
Five. Yes, you will drink liquid seaweed. You’d stand on your head in a mini-skirt wearing no underpants in front of your ex’s new girlfriend if you thought it would make a difference but you won’t—not ever—be the same again. This is neither good nor bad, it just is, and, anyway, too much suffering is caused by trying to hold onto things. There goes your youth, there goes your lover, there goes your health, your wealth, your beauty, all of them useful when they werearound but there are other tools with which to cherish yourself now.
Six. The first thing you give up is the means of comforting yourself with thoughts of suicide.
Seven. The second thing you give up is pride. And as you do, the world will come rushing forward. It is fucking hard to ask for help, but if you don’t, you willnever know how much you matter, or the fact that the only person who didn’tlove you enough is huddled inside your skin.
Eight.Your skin – Your skin is the biggest gift you were ever given. When the doctors first said I might die—soon—what surprised me is that I didn’t wish I had written more poems, or even told people I loved them, because if I love you, you know! What I wished is that I’d seen more of the world. Let it’s salt stick to me. I’ve spent so much time in my head and in my heart that I forgot to live in my body! Maybe that’s why she’s in trouble now. I have been obsessed with achieving immortality through poetry. But when I was told in no uncertain terms that this rickety container has an actual expiration date, I knew that immortality is bullshit! So I left that hospital with a horse’s dose of right fucking now. We don’t get to take anything with us! And anything we leave behind is not one foot still in life because once we are dust we are literally for the wind. So on my agenda, for whatever time I haveleft, is joy.
Because number nine. Anticipatory grief is absurd. When I’m dead, I won’t behere to miss anything, and engaging in premising seems like an indulgence. It’s not that there isn’t pleasure in weeping—why else would we do it so much?!—but I’ve got oceans to float, I’ve got lava to peep, I’ve got a balcony in the south of France upon which to slow dance with a lover who I love down to the spaces between your eye-lashes! Poems will happen because that is how I process life, but I will no longer mistake them for living! If there is any advice I would have to give to my formerly non-sick self, or maybe you, would be this:
Eat the avocados. Love yourself down to the marrow and out past the rind. Make enemies out of good people who will hate you with their whole hearts, make it mutual and unconditional and this way you will never be alone with love. I don’t want to finite, but the fact that we are is what makes even theterror exquisite! So step out from behind your walls, let the world rush forward—rise to meet it! Turn your precious attention towards God’s most tangible gift, this physical world and while you’ve still got the chance let your beloved skin salt in the wind.