I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I’ve been consumed with thoughts of my dear dead brother for the past couple of weeks. I miss him, yes, but that’s not new. I think it’s because I’ve been thinking about the rules lately. The rules of life.
You grow up, you go to school, you get a job, you become a consumer, you start a family, you pay your bills, you raise your family, you keep consuming, your kids leave home, you retire, you die. Throw in a few vacations, taxes, and birthday parties and there you have most people’s lives. The rules are that you do these things properly: get the right house, the right job, marry the right person, say the right things at parties and at work…and you can choose small things to distinguish yourself like sports team loyalties and haircuts, but you cannot make up your own rules. Unless you want to have no peers, that is. I guess I grew up believing that I was somehow different, important, and am finding out that I’m just ordinary. I didn’t travel the world after high school or start a commune in the west indies. I wasn’t even involved in a dangerous but sexy real life murder mystery. I used to want people to know my name after I die. Now I know that for that to happen, I have to sacrifice the comfort I have become accustomed to, because no one remembers your name when you lead the life I described above. We remember martyrs, we remember people who had ideas that were hated before they were embraced. That makes for a tough life. Everything has a price, especially fame. Is it a price I’m willing to pay? I’m begining to think that it isn’t, and that brings on this sort of identity crisis for me. There’s a Bon Iver song I keep listening to, and my favourite line is “And at once I knew I was not magnificent”. These thoughts make me think of Tyler, who died suddenly at the age of 22. He told my Mom he’d be home for dinner, but he never came back. He was living: paying bills, consuming, working, socializing…and then he wasn’t. And the thing that gets me, is no one had any inkling that was going to happen. I might agonize over the renovations we’re doing right now, or my stupid job, or getting pregnant, and then get in a car accident on the way to work and it’s just…over.
I’m not a hedonist, nor am I a Puritan. I’d like to think I’m somewhere in the middle, though if I’m honest I do favour the hedonist mantra of live for today. (I’m not a big saver, and tend to shun owning things that would necesitate upkeep and extra work.) My problem here is one that I’m sure many before me have experienced, and many after me will experience. How do I make my life count? I’m going on 32, so even if I live a long life, I’m almost in the middle of it. Or I could die tomorrow. Either way, this is not a dress rehearsal, is it? Tyler’s death taught me that. Loving someone and needing them and being used to them existing does not mean that they can’t die, so it counts for me too.
So here’s my question to myself: Am I following the rules of life as set up by the status quo? Have I elevated the not so important to the very important? Am I sweating the small stuff? What I wouldn’t give for a tragedy right now to set my mind straight. I don’t want anyone to die, but I do remember how clear I was about what was important when someone did. I loathe my human weakness that makes me forget the important things almost every day. I loathe the status quo. And yet, somehow, that’s eactly what I’m living for.
I know I don’t want to devote my life to making rich companies richer. I know I don’t want to say one thing and do another. And I know that if I can inspire people to see what’s important and make changes accordingly in their own lives, then I will be satisfied with mine. What does this all add up to? I have no idea. But I guess acknowledging and expressing it are the first steps to finding out. I get frustrated that my life seems to be full of new begingings, but it occurs to me from time to time that’s it’s what I was meant for. That at least satisfies me.
I wonder what my brother would tell me to do. I wonder what he’d be doing now. I wonder how different my life would be if he’d stayed home from work that day. And most of all, I wonder what all this wondering is going to produce.
Time will tell.