It’s time to erect those maypoles and get festive with fire and ribbons, people!
Happy Beltane/May Day everyone!
It also happens to be my birthday! Woo Hoo! Another year older, and still not a clue how to adult properly. Hey-ho, maybe I’ll have it figured out by next birthday? Anyway, seeing as it’s the only day of the year where I get to act like a spoilt knob-head (get me CAKE Husband), I decided to throw caution to the wind and head down a self-absorbed topic this week… a subject that I’m obsessively—naively—passionate about.
For anyone who hasn’t read my novel’s blurb or seen the Watership Down-esque-bunny I have as my main background picture (drawn by the very talented Patricia), death plays a central role in my writing.
I can’t say I’ve had much experience with it, though. I’m still alive… sooo... that puts an end to that avenue of exploration. I’ve only been present at one person’s passing. And my brief, but comprehensive, university module on death and dying was never fully absorbed in the grey matter. I’m notoriously bad at remembering information. Just ask my library colleagues… whatsaname and thingamabob.
For the sake of staying inoffensive, I’m not delving into any religious territories either… whether you believe in a God or a Giant Spaghetti Monster… it’s all good here.
However, given the tentative subjective nature of death, I can’t promise to not step on anyone’s emotional toes, but, I’ll try not to be an upturned plug in your barefooted path or a memento-mori-mate sucking the soul out of your party.
This isn’t a blog about grief or loss. Well, maybe just a teensy-tiny bit. But if you chose to carry on reading, you shouldn’t notice me too much. I’ll try to remain unobtrusive.
Death is the one unbending inevitability of life that’s guaranteed (unless you’re planning a cryogenic funeral—I applaud your optimism, my chilly friends); but, for those who don’t have a gazillion quid and a big freezer filled with liquid nitrogen, death is something most of us feel a little bit uncomfortable talking about.
Why not pull up a chair, take a seat, and let’s get snuggly together.
From the moment we harness self-awareness, we begin to understand the consequence of life: it all has an end sometime… and no, I’m not talking about the sun turning into a red giant and swallowing the earth in a few billion years’ time… that’s just freaking mind-boggling. I’m talking about the knowledge of our own mortality.
My jovial flippancy isn’t born out of disregard. It’s simply grounded in a place of acknowledgment. There is nothing I can do about that part of fate. One day, I will die.
We do, however, have choices on how we view that certainty: freak the hell out, philosophise and consider what mortality means, or ignore it and crack on.
I’ve visited all the above emotions. I think most people have; depending on what mood I’m in, I dip in and out of each of them. Hey, I’m no guru, if I were, I wouldn’t be sitting behind my laptop typing this whist sipping a cold cup of tea— I’d be on top of some mountain, folded in the lotus position, watching the sunset and making ‘ommm’ noises.
The only consistent and comforting conclusion I’ve come to about death is this: it’s inspiration is unending;
death enables us to create beauty out of seeming ugliness.
Think of all the amazing literature, incredible art, emotive music, and philosophical debate death’s ever-presence has stirred and nurtured.
Really, think about it…
And before my husband accuses me of being a pretentious horse-head, I’m not just talking about the kind of intellectual you’ve-got-to-have-studied-a-decade-to-understand-it kind of art or even the spiritually-altering Alan Watts kind of thought (although I happen to think his lectures are flipping awesome). I’m talking about all the stuff we don’t even think about: from TV black comedies, to mind-candy pop songs. Death’s inspirational impact is everywhere.
Now, this doesn’t lead me into a segment where I talk about my own literary work. Sure, death inspires me to explore what it means to be human, to question life and all its brilliantly floored nuances; but, as a result of my writing, my own personal journey has turned out to be a little less epic.
I’ve realised that I have a choice in how I view life; I get to choose what I do with my limited time. It doesn’t matter what happens to us, what external forces whack us across the head with their copper-based frying-pans. You get to decide how the hurt of metaphorical-metal impacts your noggin. That biological clock never stops ticking… do you really want to waste it rolling around in hurt?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not after leaving an awe-inspiring legacy, or even trying to reach nirvana. That kind of pressure is crippling. Why would I want to do that to myself? I’m an emotional hodge-podge of crazy at times— I don’t think I’d be writing if I wasn’t. But writers get to make good stuff, helpful stuff, out of craptastic moments. And that’s pretty flipping awesome. Everyone should try their hand at getting creative!
Moving beyond the narcissistic ramblings of my own mortality, I’m only briefly mentioning the other side of death: losing someone you love.
Because I’m not an insensitive twat to try and deconstruct that kind of personal pain.
And besides, I promised this post wouldn’t be morose. And I keep my promises.
So I’ll leave you with this…
When my Grandad’s ashes were being sprinkled off Hunstanton Cliffs in Norfolk, I was a little tired, a little cold, and I yawned. I didn’t expect there to be any air trapped in my gullet. But there was. And out popped an accidental burp right in the midst of Grandad’s eulogy.
If you’ve read my post about humiliation, you’ll probably realise I have gas problems. What can I say? I eat a lot of fibrous foods.
Anyway, I got a few dirty looks, and I’m not ashamed to admit, being twelve-years-old, I cried a little harder for my awful faux pas; but, in the end, I came to realise: Grandad would’ve seen the funny side. He would have laughed. And so, in the end, that's what I did.
Humour in the bleakest of moments isn’t inappropriate or disrespectful. It’s like the flicker of a candle in a shadowy cave. It might not seem all that useful; it certainly won’t show you the way out of that dank cave. But it’s there to remind us that even when everything seems dark, light still exists.