Nobody I knew well died, first off.
Sorry for the non-posting, second-off.
Life has been touching on the fragile stuff lately, though, and I've had a hard time expressing it - three posts started, all unfinished because they just didn't get to the heart of what I was feeling.
Multiple layers of intersection on the fragility of human life, though, in the last month.
A friend of mine lost a dear friend to cancer.
My mom is going in for a hip replacement tomorrow (I have medical power of attorney, along with my brother).
A dear friend from forever was diagnosed with cancer. His wife is pregnant with their first child.
Another dear friend from forever has been diagnosed with multiple joint osteoarthritis (she's younger than me).
My dad was hospitalized with a bad asthma attack.
I spent part of yesterday worried about Mr B, who was having intense abdominal pain. He recovered like nothing had happened, but it set me to thinking.
Our bodies are fragile. Sturdy in some ways, but strikingly fragile in others. I am usually quite okay with this - it's part of what makes life precious and beautiful.
But some days, it's leaning a lot harder on the 'this sucks' side than the 'hold to the joy' side. And I'm sure that as I continue to tread my way past 40, more and more of my family and friends will pass their warranty end date, and the aches and pains that are starting to show will transition to more disorder and disease than just aches and pains. More treatments, more medications, more surgeries, more things to prop our health up, remove the difficult stuff, and try to reassemble us in some kind of useful order.
My great-aunt once told me that one of the worst parts of getting old is that you have to avoid stresses of all sorts - you just can't handle stress anymore, it makes you sick. Oh, and by the way, she added, being old is stressful. You can't escape that loop.
It was funny at the time, in a sardonic kind of way. But it is less funny now that I am nearer that, and not 14 years old anymore. There was no advice there, only warning (I did - unintentionally - take her advice to marry a younger man, since she said that it is also more stressful to be old alone, and men die sooner - I didn't quite get to her advice of marrying someone six years younger than me, though).
So, in the face of the fragility of human life, what do we do?
I've had pregnancy losses, but not many other losses close in, so I can only take my lessons from where I've had them. And the lesson has always been to allow myself to be reminded of the pure intensity of being alive.
Loss always brings me to that rawness, the too-painful awareness that I am a physical, living being. I can feel my entire body, each breath, each heartbeat. In the depth of it, each heartbeat is agonizingly real, each breath is an in-rushing and expulsion at a cosmic scale, like the universe is breathing through me. The layers of insensitivity I've padded my skin with melt away, and here I am, naked to reality, fully and intensely alive. It isn't a joyfulness of living, but it is a pure state nonetheless.
From there, I can make my way back to the bittersweet passion of knowing I'm alive, and that life is complex and searing and gentle and overwhelming and wide open. It isn't the narrow confines of the view I've set with my own blinders. It is only what it is, and that is ... well, everything. And from there I find the joy again, and the fierceness of living, and the willingness to hurt because pain is part of life.
So, again, here I am. Working my way through to the place where I can be my mother's shoulder, instead of her being mine, changing from adult-child to adult-child-caregiver.
It was easier to leap immediately to the aid of my friends, the one with the newly diagnosed cancer and his wife - I'd taken that role before with them, ages ago when he had heart surgery. I didn't expect to take it again so soon, but ... it would be unthinkable to not step into the gap, to not start weaving a net for them. (Any of my dancing friends who read this blog, I'm talking about the residents of Kiloran - email me and I'll add you to the yahoo group I've set up for supporting them.)
I think I notice this stuff particularly because I've lived without being alive before, protected from pain and fear by layers of refusal and denial and dissociation. But I took down those walls a ways back.
I like it better when life is real. Real, painful, scary, joyful, fragile, intense, passionate, precious. It takes me by surprise, sometimes, how deeply I can be affected by a moment, how strongly I can feel being alive.
At the same time, it can suprise me how very much being alive is an everyday thing. Strange, how knowing I'm truly alive does not make the laundry go away. The dishes will still pile up, and the trash will still need to be taken out.
So, tomorrow morning, I'll do the quotidian tasks, shower, dress, get ready for work, and then I will drive my mother to the hospital, and sit with her, and remind her to do her hypnotherapy work pre-op, and tell her that I love her, and wait for my brother to come tag in, then go off and work while I wait for news that her hip has been replaced by a metal stand-in. Wait knowing that sometimes things go perfectly, and sometimes they do not, and that there is no choice in this beyond the choices we have already made - finding the best center, the best doctor, the best care, making the best preparations we can.
We can set things up only so far.
After that, it is letting go of the death-grip on life, opening hands cupped around the butterfly-wing fragility of the people we hold dear, and then stepping forward freely into today's reality, in whatever form it takes.