I know it’s a Monday morning when I haven’t even lifted my head off the pillow yet, and I’m filled with existential angst.

Great - you know I can't swim...

Great - you know I can't swim...

Of course, it doesn’t take much for me to feel that way. It’s a rare thing when a month or so goes by and I don’t contemplate my mortality and get hit with a complete, paralyzing fear when I think about the nothingness that may – may: I guess I’m largely agnostic, despite some of my spiritual tendencies – lie beyond it.

I suppose Mondays are as a good as any to get that reinforcing shot of Arctic death-chill, as the meteorologists might say (just heard the update on the next 2 snowstorm due to sweep through here this week…). The stress of starting a new week (or the payback for too celebratory a weekend) makes Monday the most likely day for heart attacks and suicides, so why not my thoughts about the futility of it all.

I think today’s onslaught was fueled by some of my musings over the weekend. I had been talking about my father and the untimely death of his mother, which left him basically orphaned at 10 years old. Then I thought about his dying just over two years ago, and the still-palpable sense of loss that can overcome me without warning, remind me that I have no other male figure in my life who will ever give me the unconditional love he did. dad

Then I remember one of our last times together: It was in July, about five months before he died. I came back to CT and visited him in the hospital, where he had just undergone surgery for something unrelated to the massive stroke that four months later would silently render him brain-dead as he slept, even as his body held on for a few more days.

On that July visit, although my father knew his prognosis was good, I saw something in his eyes, heard it in his voice, as he clutched my arm. He knew he was now, at 84, truly old and failing. He knew he could die anytime. And he was afraid.

He had converted to Catholicism when he married my mother and dutifully went to church,  but I never had the sense he was deeply faithful.  If he did believe the Christian teachings, it didn’t show in that moment. He seemed to sense that nothingness awaited him, and it terrified him. Or even if he did believe in an afterlife, he was still scared about the earthly consciousness he would be abandoning when the synapses stopped firing and the heart slowly wound down to its last faltering thumps.

And if religion could not comfort him and he sought that solace in a loved one – me –  he really fucked up. Me, who had been struck with the fear of death since my mid-20’s, when the panic attacks started. Even as drugs and therapy helped control them, I could not shake that certainty. I would die. I did not know what, if anything, awaited me after, and realistically, there would be no “me” to experience anything anyway. Not the me who loved music and women and food and baseball and writing, and who could feel my father’s grasp on his arm, but could do or say nada to ameliorate his fears.

So in a much shorter time than it took to write about this, that image, those thoughts, filled my head. Then, paradoxically, as I worried about the ending of life, and what I would give to prolong earthly existence, I thought about suicide. Not seriously, mind you. As I may have written here before, I am not enough of an ironist to be so filled with fear about death that I would help it along, to end the fear once and for all. But my fear of life, of having to confront my weaknesses and the work I sometimes dread and the aspects of the Crisis that frequently seem too much to bear, even as they are mostly in my head and not the experiential world – that’s enough to stir wonder about what it would be like to prevent more Mondays from sneaking up and biting me in ass (where, of course, my brain is stored.)

So, no, don’t worry about finding my name in the papers anytime soon. Not from suicide, anyway. The fear of death, along with the memory of the suffering I and so many others endured when a good friend killed himself, that keeps me from doing anything drastic. But how many times have I gone down the front stairs to get the mail or paper and I think, “Hmm, just a little misstep, a tumble, broken leg or arm, concussion, something to give me an excuse to stop work, stop responsibilities, check out without totally checking out.” Ah, but with my luck, the slip would be fatal. Or with my luck, the act of thinking of such a stupid scenario will lead to it accidentally happening someday, and I won’t really like it all.

The nice thing about waking up with these kinds of thoughts on a Monday is, I know they won’t last. They’re real, yet ephemeral. Exercise, meditation, a little work, and they start to fade. Thoughts of death? Still there, but pushed aside. Life goes on. Maybe even some things to look forward to, for today, tomorrow, next week. For now, anyway. For now.


~ by mburgan on January 12, 2009.

2 Responses to “Moanday”

  1. Maybe you need to find God. He’s waiting, you know. He’s waiting for you to believe. Have faith. Hallelujah. Life is eternal – there’s everlasting life. You only need to believe in the one and only Jesus Christ, the son of the holy Lord Father. Amen.

  2. Why didn’t I think of that…

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