Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Free Life

"I was supposed to die, and I just didn't.  And it kinda felt like I had a free life, an extra life."
        - Bukowski

I watched a documentary about Charles Bukowski recently.  I've always been interested in the man's words.  Although tortured and hard-earned, his views and expressions are primal, unrelenting, and pure.  He exhibits a fascinating reality, one that is unfamiliar to me in most regards, which probably accounts for my fascination.  However, I did not expect to hear him say those words, and it opened up an entirely new perspective on his life.

Because this is how I feel.  So I understand more fully where he came from now.  Obviously, this is one chunk of the man's personality, and while I identify with certain aspects of his character, I don't claim to understand the rest.  I, too, should have died, and I didn't.

There is no cure for what I have.

Typing those words is one of the hardest things I've ever done.  I literally had to take a minute to brace myself.  What else could possibly be worth worrying about?  Well, turns out, a lot of things.  Because we are not as isolated as we would like to think.  Those pesky people, all of the rest of them that live here with us -- they always get in the way of our plans.  No matter how hard we try, with our five-year plans and our ten-year plans, there are always things that derail us.  Organic, living, loving things.

For a long time I thought I was alone.  A very, very long time.  I had resigned myself to several things, none of which I'm ready to publicly admit.  But there is a strange power in hardening your resolve, and preparing yourself for a certain future that you have planned for, absurdly, without any thought as to how easily you might be swayed from it.  The reason this power is strange, is because it isn't real.  Because you don't have any power over your future.  It will happen 100% without you, if it has to.  Ride with it, or deny yourself the experience.  But there is no in-between.

My point was that worst of these concerns, the ones that cause us the most grief, are for the first life.  The free life is for remembering how absurd it is to obsess over these things, and to let yourself be caught up in the winds of fate, and taken wherever you will yourself to go, and some places that you don't.  Some people never have cause to own their free life.  Others go back and forth between the two.  For my own life, I hope there's a balance to be found between the two; between caring about the day-to-day, and remembering how superfluous most things are.  There is no question that I must remember the wisdom I etched into my heart the day I was diagnosed.  But as much as I'd like to have my effervescent transformation solidify and hold for the rest of my days, I'm only human, and the wisdom of the free life fades.

I'd like to delve deeper into the free life and what it means to me at another time.  For now, though, I believe 2 a.m. is threatening to swallow me whole and resurrect me into another day.


  1. In my experience balancing the two lives is one of the hardest things to do. I overwhelm most people I meet because I have such a zest for life, the 2nd life, as you named it. I'm constantly trying to live as fully as possible before that gets taken away. I did okay with the mundane day to day things but had a hard time planning the future "my" future. While all I wanted was to be here long enough to see my son graduate from High School and attend College. It's finally here! I'm so excited! At the end of May I will be celebrating his accomplishment and mine too. Then what? I have no plans..... I never thought past just living to this moment. I guess for me everyday from here on out is the cherry on top. I'll let you know what I end up doing, it will be the first time in ten years I can do whatever I want without worrying.

    1. Congratulations to your son. Having met your goal, it seems like you're in an exciting position. Though I'm sure it's a little scary for you at the same time. I would be very interested to find out what you end up doing now that you can do whatever you want without worrying. To be honest, I go back and forth between the two mindsets. I either get caught up in ultra-perfect, movie moment type situations, or get stuck in mundane, day-to-day things like I used to. Although I don't worry at all like I once did. I've been known to overwhelm people too, at first, but I've gotten much better at gauging who is and isn't receptive to my movie moments. I'm still hoping there's a balance to be found, where I can deal with regular life while at the same time remembering the important things. I think it's likely that I'll go back and forth for a while before I level out. But thanks for sharing your story, I greatly appreciate it.

  2. I forgot to sign my name in my post it's Natalie from twitter. I have already started some new things; I motivate young kids going through chemo with daily posts to their facebook pages, cards, pictures of me when I was in chemo treatment. It's hard because I can't make them well. I would happily give even just one of them my extra days if I could.

  3. Beautiful, absolutely beautiful!

    1. Thanks so much. It was a difficult post to write, and still hard to read sometimes. It's hard to go between the two perspectives, but I'm told that eventually you find a balance.