I finally have a day off work. Last night I convinced myself I was going to get away today, for the sake of my sanity. I told myself I would book a room for one night in a strange hotel just outside Joshua Tree State Park, or a cheap, pretty spa in Palm Springs, or some random place in Santa Monica. Just to be in a new town all by myself, cooped up in a lonely hotel room, reading and writing to my heart’s content, with no distractions. I told myself this is the vacation I needed: to put miles between me and this place I work too hard in, to drive on a stretch of road and let my mind wander, to walk some strange downtown street at night, beneath yellow lanterns, through a cold February wind, clutching my arms across my chest and feeling lost. I told myself this was the only way I might get any perspective on my day off.
Then I woke up today and decided to give myself a vacation right here, in my apartment complex. I cleaned the bathroom, and it felt good. I made myself an english muffin breakfast, and it felt good. I did a series of stretches with the large glass patio doors as my scenery, overlooking the stream and the trees and the birds. I made three cups of matcha tea. I cut oranges, and it felt good.
I’ve needed a day away, and I’m getting it. Without even getting into the car.
Sometimes I wonder if my frequent desire and need for self-reflection, perspective, and newfound goals is what everyone else my age is doing. Then I try to look back and I realize that this isn’t even normal for me, really. I have always been thoughtful and a sucker for daydreaming, but this feels different. Every morning, I wake up with an intense hunger for self-reflection and deep thought about how I can live the life I want to live. How to create and spread happiness. I just have come to really love sitting with myself, wondering about my intentions in living.
I read Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk a while back. I thought of this passage just now:
“‘Every breath you take is because something has died.’ Something or someone lived and died so you could have this life.
This mountain of dead, they lift you into daylight. He says, ‘Will the effort and energy and momentum of their lives…’
How will it find you?
How will you enjoy their gift?
Leather shoes and fried chicken and dead soldiers are only a tragedy
if you waste their gift
sitting in front of the television. Or stuck in traffic. Or stranded at some airport.
‘How will you show all the creatures of history?’ he says.
How will you show their birth and death were worthwhile?”
Morbid, but beautifully written. It’s a unique way of saying something that has been said a thousand times before, in a thousand ways. ”Today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present.” ”Don’t throw away today.” But I think it says something more.
I am beginning to realize that I want my life to have more intention than just to be a good person, walk a straight line, and smile. To love. To worry less.
I want to “justify the dead,” in a way.
“What will you do today? How will you justify it? That mountain of dead animals and ancestors on which you stand.”
Yesterday, my coworker asked me if I’m still a vegetarian. He asked why and how long I’ve been eating this way. We went to high school together and I’m sure he can recall me joining the carpool headed to In n Out after a long rehearsal. I started rambling off the same answers I always give, like how I started dating someone a few years ago who was very interested in veganism and after watching documentaries and reading books, it just sort of stuck. But then I found myself saying something more. I told him that if I’m honest, I probably would have gone back to eating whatever food is around after this guy and I broke up, just because it was easier and what everyone else was doing—except that something really significant happened in my life right after I learned about veganism. My aunt’s colon cancer progressed to a point in which she was given a few months left. I visited her a lot with my mom, and on certain nights, stayed awake in “shifts,” as we called them. Mom would stay up for a few hours while Uncle Rick and I tried to sleep, then I would wake up and let mom and Rick try to sleep. Then Rick. And when my aunt woke up and needed to go the bathroom, Mom and I helped her. I remember sitting on the bathroom floor for nearly an hour one night, waiting for her to finish things, even though nothing was even happening. She was responding to an urge that no longer functioned. She was in a state of confusion from morphine. She didn’t make sense anymore. I remember changing the bandages that held the colostomy bag on her back. I remember the paper thin of her skin, the smell of her hair, the sheer fragility of my aunt, who was such a small woman now, night by night blowing away into the wind.
“Every breath you take is because something has died.”
I find myself now, two years after I approached veganism, two years after my aunt passed away, two years after my first experience with a new kind of hurt, the kind that happens when someone you love leaves your life before they should have. And I realize that I want the way I live now to do her justice. To be a testament to all that I’ve learned about how living any lifestyle has consequences, good or bad. My aunt inspires me and keeps me going on this path of intention and trying at all costs to avoid disease. I love her, I think of her every day, and I think she would so love to sit on my couch with me, at 22 years old, chatting and drawing with pastels and burning incense.
Today I’m getting away. My vacation is in my mind. And I’m finally able to sit here and really process these intense, passionate thoughts. It has been raining for over an hour now. I’m headed to the jacuzzi.