diptych: getting dark on y’all. Not for the weak of spirit.

(photos taken in Chinatown at night)

Do you ever contemplate your own mortality? Duh, of course you do because that’s what people do. I feel like lately I’ve been thinking about death quite a bit. Not in a suicidal way or anything weird or too morbid, don’t worry. It’s just that I’ve finally realized and understood that I am going to die someday. So is Ryan. So is my mom. So is everybody. 
I mean, I’m not an idiot, I’ve always known the words that say that everybody dies and I have been to many funerals and I knew people who do not exist anymore…but for some reason the emotional anguish of knowing that it will happen to ME is something new. 
I’ve found myself lying semi-awake at night for hours, alternating between that weird half-sleep twilight and full-on heart pounding panic. Because I am afraid of that single moment where I will realize I am dying. I’m not afraid of being dead. I am afraid of knowing that I am dying.
Damn you, sentience! Damn you conscience! That whole “knowledge of your own mortality” part of humanity is bullshit! Why do we need to know that? It’s taking part of the joy out of my late twenties in a subtle yet very real kind of way. It’s making me too cautious and a little bit un-fun.
You know when you look at tumblr and it’s like “ooh a cute video of a kitty, naked lady picture, naked lady picture, naked lady with tattoos, kitty, naked lady holding a kitty, hipster with bowling shoes on in the forest, naked lady picture, hipster with balloons instead of eyes, DEAD BODY I WISH I NEVER SAW THAT LOOK AWAY LOOK AWAY” 
If you’re not on tumblr that’s the gist right there. 
Anyway that happened to me the other day, but rather than quickly scrolling away as I usually do, I read the article. It was about beheading…or rather it was about the experience of being beheaded from the victim’s point of view. I won’t post the picture because ew, but this is what I read: 

Does Beheading Hurt?

On many levels, it’s one of life’s great unanswerables. Does beheading hurt? Who would know?

On a spiritual level, many would agree, beheading hurts us all. It’s designed to. The mere sight of a severed head seals itself into every witness; always we wonder as we tug at our throats: But does it hurt? Is there pain? Does the brain remain aware?

Yes to all. Yes, it hurts very much to have your head cut off, and the longer it takes, the worse it hurts. Once your spinal cord is cut and your head is severed you will continue to experience the full spectrum of pain, without the heavenly numb of shock-absorbing chemicals, which are back there with your body. You can’t talk, of course, but you can move your lips and appear to scream, and you can focus and blink your eyes, as proved by dozens of deathhouse deals.

A severed head is conscious, and in some ways hyperconscious. The head knows it’s been picked up by the hair and shown to the crowd. The head sees the crowd, hears the crowd, smells the breath of the executioner, thinks happy thoughts, cannot believe how long 40 seconds is, because 40 seconds is how long the average head remains fully aware, if not alive. Forty seconds of indescribable pain and horror.

(by Curt Fisher)
I guess I read it because we were just watching the Game of Thrones series again and I won’t ruin the show for you if you haven’t seen it but somebody gets their head cut off. So I was more curious than usual about the experience that comes with beheading. But I’ve become obsessed with those forty seconds. Those forty seconds are what are keeping me up at night. Forty seconds is an awfully long time to be so helpless in the knowledge that something irrevocable has happened and it’s too late and it’s over.
Anyway I know I’m not coming up with something profound and new, talking about my own mortality, but it’s been bothering me too much to not say anything. I had to get it out somewhere. Thanks, internet. You’re my analrapist.
***
Strange, I wrote this a few days ago and couldn’t sleep that night. Normally I go to bed and am sleeping in minutes, that night I was up for hours tossing and turning, again thinking about scary and morbid things. And the next day I found out a friend had died. I’m not writing this for sympathy or any ‘thoughts and prayers are with you’ bullshit, I just think it’s a weird series of events. 
There is actually something really weird about a young person passing away in this age of social media. I’m not sure how I feel about it.  First of all I found out the bad news via somebody’s Facebook status which is rather surreal. And then all day long people posted on his wall…some of the posts were of genuine, heartfelt memories and lovely “I’ll miss you, may you skateboard in heaven” or whatever, that type of thing. But then there are the others, and these are the ones that kind of bother me. 
I sometimes feel like people will latch onto others’ tragedies for their own gain. A great example of this is during high school a few people I knew died of various causes; suicide, car accident, drug overdose, etc. Of course it is sad, and of course everybody has their own way of expressing grief, but there are always people who hardly knew the deceased who are … can I say overly dramatic without sounding terribly insensitive? 
Some people want it to be about them, and relish the drama of the situation too much. I mentioned high school because teenagers are natural drama queens and you can’t walk two steps down the hallway without tripping over somebody who has fallen to their knees, sobbing, in those situations. But there are absolutely adults who still act this way. They’re the ones who’ll whisper the grisley details of the person’s death to you in the back of the funeral hall. And today they’re the ones who post facebook statuses with generic “RIP ____” and tag the dead person in the post.
Coming from a small town where people I knew overdosed on heroin more than I’d care to remember, you see this a lot. Maybe there’s not enough excitement in the town, or maybe they just don’t get enough attention and crave sympathy. Who can tell? I might be judging too harshly but really the other day I was real bummed out by the whole situation because although I didn’t know this person super well, a lot of my friends are genuinely grieving and heartbroken, and I felt that because this person was well known in skateboarding and tattooing circles, people were latching on and demeaning his true relationships with people.
Or maybe I’m just angry because I’m sad? Anyway I can’t imagine how the families of celebrities feel in these situations. 
***
One of my friends is going to nursing school, and she is being forced into working the maternity ward for months. Like me and a few of our other friends, she is very anti-baby. It seems that quite a few of us have been born without maternal instincts. We never want to have babies. We don’t think pregnancy is cute or beautiful. We don’t want to be called “mama” and we hate when people put pictures of their babies or breastfeeding on Facebook. We feel weird when you hand us your floppy infant and struggle to be polite about it while looking at the clock and counting the seconds until we can hand it back. I almost feel like it’s an evolutionary phonomenon, our species is overpopulating our habitat, it’s time for us to stop breeding. 
Anyway, that’s beside the point. What she told me is that in the maternity ward at the hospital there’s a wing where she wants to work. It’s for people who are having stillborns and people who had to terminate their pregnancies for whatever reason, stuff like that. But the nursing students aren’t even allowed to go in there. They used to make them go in and attend these types of births, but it “bothered the students too much”. So todays nurses will have never seen a dead baby until suddenly they will. Because that’s their job. 
Doesn’t it seem like something they’d really try and prepare you for? Like, show you the worst case scenarios? She says it’s all glitter and rainbows in their classes, talking about the ‘miracle of life’ and bla bla bla. That seems counterintuitive to me.
We also talked about the value that is placed on the lives of individuals who are suffering and just want to die. She’s worked with the sweetest 90 year old women who have told her they’re finished but the doctors and their families keep giving them drugs. No matter how tired they get they’re forced to push on. I feel like I’m swimming into real controversial territory here so maybe I’ll stop, but it’s some food for thought anyway. 
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