Friday, May 20, 2011

On Mortality, the End of the World, and Those Joyful Moments in Life

Couch on the Porch by Frederick Childe Hassam

Sometimes, I have to ask myself, Why do things happen the way they do? And because there’s usually not a clear-cut answer to the question, I just let it go and move along. But this morning… this morning was something else.

My husband and I woke up early. Not unusual. As soon as we got up, he flipped on the TV. Unusual. We don’t normally watch TV in the morning. But I guess this morning he felt the urge, for one reason or the other. And we sat together and watched the news. And a segment came on about the End of Days. This segment was not all news to us, though; we’d been hearing about this phenomenon for the past few weeks. Apparently, there’s a group of people who believe tomorrow, May 21, 2011, is the beginning of the end of the world… or the end of it… or something like that. To be honest, I didn’t really pay much attention to it all because I don’t believe in any of that drabble. The end of my world is when I die. Selfish, but true. But then, my husband turned to me and said, “What would you do today if tomorrow really was the end of the world?” And it’s funny that I took his question seriously, all things considered. But I did. And without a moment’s pause, I said, “I’d read. And I’d write. What would you do?” And he said, “I don’t know. I have to think about it.” And we had breakfast, while discussing what he would do. And he left for the day.

But it didn’t end there for me, because his question struck something inside me. Something… elemental. And I got to thinking, Well, what if tomorrow really was the end of the world? How would I go about today? And it came to me naturally that I would read. And I would write. Because there’s really not much you can do in a single day that would truly leave its mark. And so that’s just what I decided to do, today. I read. And I wrote. And I read. And I wrote. And I drank tea… but not just any tea… my favorite tea—Earl Grey with lemon slices. And for lunch, I cooked my favorite meal—angel hair with cherry tomato and garlic basil sauce. And with my lunch, I had a glass of dry red wine, which I sipped slowly while eating, also slowly. And after lunch, I watched Immortal Beloved. And by the end of the movie, I was ready for some fresh air, so I went out to my back porch and watered my plants. And then I grabbed a book and read some more, right there on my back porch… because by then, the sun had moved to the other side of my house, and there was an irresistible breeze swishing around like a ghost. And I listened to Vivaldi… and Albinoni… because Baroque was just the mood of the day. And when I felt saturated from reading and listening, I paused for a few minutes… actually, more like an hour… and did nothing at all. Well, that’s a lie. I did something: I thought. About Life. About Time. About Mortality. About my own End of the World. And what would I like for that to look like? And I realized that… if I had time… say, if I found out I was dying from a terminal disease but I had six months, things would be different than, say, if I just found out, for a fact, that the world was ending tomorrow. Because… if I had a terminal illness and a certain measure of time, I would want to travel to my favorite places… and spend time with my favorite people… doing my favorite things... and maybe… I would want to do something with which to immortalize myself… not literally… but… you know. But, given only twenty-four hours, I had chosen the more solitary experiences of reading… and writing… and enjoying some of my favorite things by myself. And… after thinking and thinking… I wrote some more. And before I knew it, late afternoon was here and my husband was at the door.

“How was your day, princess?”
“It was slow. And delicious.”
“Delicious! What did you do?”
“I read. And I wrote. Among other things.”
“Other things like what?”
“Like tea. And angel hair. And a movie. And just… nothing.”
“Well, that’s nice that you had some free time, today. But, really? You did nothing? I don’t see you doing nothing, Nevine.”
“Trust me, I did nothing.”
“Okay, you did nothing. But while you were doing nothing, your mind was buzzing at a hundred miles an hour. Right?”

And he pulled me close. And we smiled at one another. And here was another joyful moment in my day. But it wasn’t a solitary moment. It was a shared moment. Although, I have to say that today, having gone about things with thoughts of an end lingering… just there… I realized with full clarity that, shared or solitary, the most joyful moments in life are both delivered… and received…
one at a time.