On the bus in Spain. To the small, three-hour-away town of Benidorm to go back to the quaint hostel I was at the day before. The sun not only shines through the ventanas of the comfortable bus that I am rambling down the road in but they appear to be drawing back the misty curtains to the windows of my soul and I take my one finger and draw out the words ‘freedom’ on the fogged-up glass.
This surely is an amazing country. By all accounts, my trip has been amazing….lots of exploring, tons of learning and interaction with beautiful people. I love it. The Orange House hostel, founded by Rich Mayfield and run temporarily by Maregna is like a safe haven of desperate addicts. Not a rehab center. A safe haven. These people are soaked in dirt and debris from the mountains, happy to pursue send after send after send to get tremendously higher. Off the ground. I’ve become one unshamefully and I absolutely love all my hostel mates. They are the best thing since ice cream.
I have come to the conclusion that I may leave this place in a week or so with quite an amazing tick list, new friends, a smile and a British accent. At least what I carry away will not add to the weight of my pack but more so the depth of my mind and my experiences. And after having befriended a spirited and wonderful Rich, I am applying myself to be the manager of this place starting in May. The thought excites me unbelievably.
But now, in another thought, I am drawn to remember my stepmother. My dad’s wife of 15 years tossing about restlessly in a gloomy, sterile and cold darkness of an intensive care unit in Salem. She probably slowly draws breath after sedated breath not even able to form a perspective of what is happening. Dying. Her prognosis worsens as cancer has not only eaten up her defeated body but her mind and spirit as well. I feel sad in this moment. My father’s hopes are soon to be overrun by a despair that comes from his inability to do anything to prevent her from slipping away.
In truth, I wasn’t very close to my stepmother and was sporadically out of correspondence with her and my father since 1995. Still…time proves to us that any harsh feelings held closely are useless emotions only created to handicap the understandings that we, and our situations, are not all perfect in this life. I’ve long since let bygones be beautiful experiences and the appreciation of having her in my life to make my father so happy was born a few years back as we slowly (very slowly) began reconnecting again.
I still feel like I didn’t know her very well.
I also see her as such a defenseless human being right now and think about our own particular phase we will all reach one day: a confrontation of our own mortality – something that was abruptly realized when at the age of seven, I was unable to sleep and I can still envision my little skinny body tossing and turning in bed, only to upheave myself and my emotions down the stairs to race to my father who was in his comfortable position on the floor watching an HBO movie.
“Daddy…..what happens when we die?” I asked escorted with a stress-stricken expression.
He turned to look at me, unemotioned and replied, “We cease to exist.”. I will never forget it.
I cried. I just realized in that moment that we all die and I would follow the same path of every single living creature in the world…including the whole planet that we stand on. I really didn’t understand though. And yeah, at times, it’s obvious that I still don’t.
Of course, each of our precious legacies will be different. Some of us will face slow disease. Others of us may meet with sudden accidents. The one thing that is certain is that we will all have to greet Death in her face one day and and share the same life as her fearsomely unknown being…..and she will force us to accept it. Accept that it will be okay. Because ultimately, we are all in this together as life-livers on planet Earth. That’s why I don’t understand why people kill each other. We are all brother and sisters in a sense…facing similar challenges in life – our own introspective struggles and insecurities, trying to survive, trying to hold on to happiness, yet we are all threats to each other? We could be a million times stronger as supporters to each other. But of course, throw in the human factor to mess up the recipe to existence.
I try not to hold too fast to happiness as much these days. Each time I feel like it wounds me more deeply at times that it finally escapes me. I feel like this profound craving for “happiness” is a skewed goal to have to obtain and completely unrealistic anyway. We eat yummy food to be “happy”. We have lots of sex to be “happy”. We “shop” to feel “satisfaction”. We watch movies and tv and play on the internet to escape us from reality so we can “be happy”. How bullshit does this actually sound when we stand back? If you have to, pretend you are an alien viewing the world for the first time…….and look at these deliberate actions we take and then look at the world’s goings-on as a whole and all the options in it to be doing something that creates contentment. We are programmed to take action for things that feel comfortable and good to us yet in the long-run, it’s really not doing us any favors. If we could adapt to not getting what we wanted and practiced the acceptance of it, we’d be better off.
We adopt these happy, feel-good emotions and attempt to christen them with our names…….attempt to embrace that adorable orphan of a feeling so closely as to pretend it shares our bloodline and can never leave us. But you can’t. You can’t expect it to be forever. There is never a guarantee except that we are created to be here….and then ultimately reach a demise that should be not be a day of ill reckoning so much as it should be the last breath you take for your mind to reflect about all the wonderful things life has taught you and what we have given back to others.
Unfortunately, I don’t think the masses think about this. The masses are “programmed”. Programmed to do what they know from a powerful cocktail of societal conditioning and genetics. And to tell you the truth, it ain’t that easy. It’s easier to stay programmed.
Anyway, I digress….
I may cancel my trip to be with family in Oregon during this time. My stepmother has been so strong throughout her years of treatment to this rare form of leukemia. She has been treated twice and suffered so many permanent symptoms of it. Every step is pain for her. She has had a difficult life period it seems even though she went to an excellent medical school to become a Physician’s Assistant and traveled to Africa, S. America and S. East Asia to volunteer her expertise in fixing children’s genetically malformed cleftplates into normal, adorable kid smiles (I speak of ‘Operation Smile’) and she still got dealt out a bad hand. I couldn’t even tell her that my former boss in NYC whose mother had the same form of cancer died a year ago from it. When I coincidentally found out that his mother had been diagnosed with it, I linked them up for support as they shared similar experiences even though this woman was in the Philippines. They lost touch but I’ve always kept in touch with my former boss only to be informed from him that his mother had passed away about a year or so after her diagnosis. Still, I know my stepmother was very lucky to even last this long.
I want to be able to accept that these things happen….. heartbreak, death, tragedies such as the earthquake in Haiti but at the same time, I am not to remain numb to it.