The End

I’ve had death on my mind quite a bit lately (yes, I know, a cheery topic for your pleasure reading). Not just because of the anniversary of my father’s death. Not because I almost just asphyxiated myself in my Taos hotel room (more on that later). It’s more unusual that I’ve gone for so long not thinking about death.

For years, before the New Crisis, before the middle-aged crisis, before this marriage and the one before it, I started obsessing about death. Not death in the abstract; no, just the self-centered fixation on my own. It’s what first started the panic attacks I’ve talked about often here – or maybe, come to think of it, the first panic attacks got me focused on death. In either case, there I was, consumed with fear about dying, which led to an unhealthy preoccupation with my chronic pains and the fear of another cancer (no cancer too obscure, in these worries) and constant visits to the doctor’s, all another thing for the Fex to get frustrated about, which ultimately led to the sense that she just couldn’t absorb one more iota of my negative energy (not that she ever had any…).

Then, oddly enough, the New Crisis seemed to bring a change. As I sorted through the immediate emotional pain and turmoil, the fear of mortality seemed to go out the window. Until this week. Even amidst the creative satisfaction and natural beauty and rewarding social interactions that have filled these days in NM, I have been hit with the old fear. In spades. The thought of a void beyond the conscious reality of life scares the shit out of me. The question for me is, how have I gone so long without wallowing in and feeling paralyzed by that fear, as happened so often when I was so much younger. I mean, now, 20-plus years on from those days, I have even more reason to fear it, right? It’s only getting closer.

And adding to my enduring fear is another one: For some reason, it feels like it would be worse to die alone. With no wife/partner/significant other to comfort me in those last moments (assuming she is anywhere nearby; if I got hit by a truck while away on a trip, there would be no chance for comforting, hmm?).  And part of me knows that’s silly. It’s like saying, “Yes, I want a partner to leave behind in a lonely and miserable state, bereft over my loss.” Well, no, that’s not what I mean. But for some reason, it always seemed  like it would be easier to face death, whether lingering or instantaneous, if I knew I had the love of a significant other at that moment.

And now, I don’t, and so the fear seems to take on a new dimension. It could be a while before the divorce is done and I’m truly ready to commit again. And who’s to say that when I’m ready, there will be someone there for me. I imagine myself alone until the end and it is the saddest image of myself I can conjure. It’s even worse than the thought of never having someone to trim my ear hairs when I’m too arthritic to do it myself, or not having someone by my side to discretely tell me to pick the green stuff out of my teeth.

There is no solution to the big fear, I fear, unless I find some spiritual certainly that convinces me the end of this bodily existence is not the end of me, my essence (though it will be the end of this consciousness, which is the only one I know and which I kinda like, and I really don’t want to see it end no matter what goodness awaits my enduring essence). And the fear of being alone until the Grand Termination comes; that won’t fade anytime soon either, I reckon. Because the certainty I had that this marriage was truly till death do us part was ripped away from me; how will I ever have it again no matter what my next partner might say?

The flames of hell, just waiting to snatch me away...

So, tonight’s near-death experience. My new room has a fireplace. When I got in, I checked it out, played with the flue to make sure it was open. Only I wasn’t sure; it wasn’t like any fireplace I had used before. But when I lit some newspaper, the smoke seemed to go up, so I thought I was cool. Just to be sure, I checked at the front desk. The woman was not very helpful, except for this tidbit – “Well, if it’s not open you should know pretty quick.“ Yes, about what I figured, but I really wanted to avoid a room full of smoke, you know?

So after dinner, I came back and fired up one of those fake logs. It seemed to be going ok; the room was not engulfed in gray smoke. But there seemed to be some seeping into the room. Yes, I noticed a definite fog starting to roll in…I called the front desk, got the same woman, and she suggested what I had already done – open the window. But as long as the smoke detector wasn’t going – so of course it started beeping at just that moment. I got off the phone with her, opened the screen door all the way, turned on the fan on the AC and the vent in the bathroom, opened the front door. All while the temp was slowing making its way down to its nightly low somewhere in the teens. Those measures seemed to help a bit, but I was not going to let the potentially toxic fake log keep burning through the night. A few cups of water doused the flames – and sent more smoke into the room. Oh, god, please don’t send the fire department. Please don’t let me be overcome and die a smoke-related death 1800 miles from home. But slowly, with all the air circulating, the room seemed to clear a bit. Everything still had that standing-around-the-bonfire-at-the-keg-party smell, but at least nothing new was being added to the mix. Now, an hour later, the room is basically clear. I moved the doused log out onto the balcony, just in case it was still emitting toxicity. The balcony door is still open, the temperature continues its plunge, the smoky smell endures.

Why do I feel like this kind of stupidity only happens to me?

My head is not clear. I worry it might be from the fumes, invisibly present, even though the room seems to be smoke free. Or else it’s the margarita I had down the street with dinner, followed by a Celebration Ale. No, I bet it’s the fumes. This could be my last night, folks; this could be the bizarre, untimely death I’ve fretted about for almost 25 years. Or not. I’ll let you know tomorrow.

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~ by mburgan on November 11, 2010.

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