Staying alive

Death has been all the talk lately. Health reports, fatal cases, mortality rates.

It’s been all the talk, and yes, it’s not been massively reinsuring. How do I avoid dying? How do I help others not to die? Can’t we all stay alive?

But we will all die. We will! I just temporarily forgot about it. Maybe not forgotten exactly, but I ignored it. I chose not to think about it. It’s been there, in bursts of pain, in absences felt. But I didn’t truly look at it. I didn’t truly feel that it could all end tomorrow. That it could all end now.

And suddenly, it was all there, on the TV, on the radio, in our daily conversations. In our every move – or rather, in stillness. All of the words, all of the stories spoke of it.

I have been so spoiled, so incredibly spoiled, to be able to ignore it so long. So many of us are born within it, are surrounded by loss, ache, and disaster. But I was oblivious to it. Oblivious, and afraid to spoil it.

Weirdly, having death front and centre of every conversation has only made me fear it less. It has forced me to accept its hard truth – that my last hour will come, and that every second before that counts all the more for it.

Staying alive

Pull-ups

You can spend years thinking certain things aren’t for you. You know yourself, and it’s just not you, to do this, to try that.

And it’s good, in a sense, to know who you are, to know your limits.

But, limits.

I’ve spent 30 years fearing heights. Avoiding them, dreading them. I once cried standing two meters above the floor. I only realised I hadn’t really left the ground when I looked at the photo.

But recently, I found myself in a harness, on a rope, going up. I didn’t lose it – I thought I would. 20 meters above the floor, I looked down and beamed.

That moment in time. 20 meters above the floor, alive, sane, with my skull intact.

I thought I’d die on that wall, and I didn’t. I thought I was done partying, and I’m not; done running, and I’m not. I thought I’d always be clumsy, worried, weary, and a crap cook. And I’m not – or, not as much.

I thought I knew exactly who I was. And I did; I do. But you can notice your first wrinkles, sign a mortgage, enjoy staying in on Friday night and still reinvent yourself.

I guess I needed to find who I was before I could redefine it. A girl who, slowly, awkwardly, keeps pulling herself up a little higher.

Pull-ups

Families

Once or twice a year, we gather. We cook, take walks, open bottles, play games. We celebrate. We grief, sometimes. We argue, often. We catch up, check on each other, hug tightly, and leave again.

It’s exhausting, to be together like that. It’s warming, it’s wonderful – but it’s exhausting, because we constantly try to erase a distance. And bittersweet, because we need that distance to flourish.

How can you love people so much, how can be so much like them, share the same hair, the same heart, yet feel so free from them?

How can you actually be the same flesh, yet all be your own person, your own entity?

There are so many resemblances in a family, in my family, yet so many differences. It strikes me every time. Being together opens a Pandora box, brings up familiar songs, flavours, emotions.

I relish in it every time, until reality hits. Like an arrow through a cotton sheet, it reminds me of a world that’s mine. Of another family, the one I’ve met, the one I’ve made.

Families

The climb

Last week, we went climbing. We packed the cars, drove across Europe, and hung our hammocks in a forest full of rocks.

We ate a lot of croissants, drunk a lot of wine. We tried to climb. And failed, repeatedly.

It’s really hard to climb outside. Razor-thin hard, arms-and-legs-shaking hard. Afraid-of-falling-and-crushing-my-skull hard.

There was a lot of fear in the air for me, last week.

But maybe because this fear was so unfamiliar, was physical instead of intellectual, it was strangely refreshing to feel. I didn’t feel pressure, I didn’t fear failure the way I do in my daily life. I feared a life-threatening fall, knowing full well it wasn’t reasonable to think that – I stayed too close to the ground for that. But I was afraid of it nonetheless.

And I dealt with it, sort of. I stared at it, saw right through it, and tried climbing a little higher. And with every step I took, every move I made, I learned a little more about myself.

The climb

In between

Transitions don’t get a lot of love from us. Moments going from one place to another, blurred days spent looking for a home, a job, a goal.

Transitions don’t make for great stories, we think; they’re too grey, too uncertain. We prefer completion, victories, conclusions. Looking back at what was done, and what is now secured.

But a lot of life happens in between. In between places, in between phases. A lot of life is spent working towards, planning for, looking forward.

I’ve spent a lot of time in between lately. Between two homes – slowly moving from one life to another. And I’ve hated the transition. Complained profusely, cried frequently. Exhausted myself in trains, in cars, on bikes, running from one place to another, my bag always ready, my mind never at peace.

And yet. That transition saw me grow like never before. I’ve learned – and learned to like it. With every transition comes an infinite range of possibilities, of discoveries, of new beginnings. And how often can you say that of your daily life? How often is the world truly your oyster?

So I’ve learned to like the blurred lines. I’ve learned to read them, cross them and move forward.

In between