Mortality’s a Sticky Wicket

10/16/2009 at 7:07 am | Posted in News & Explanations | Comments Off on Mortality’s a Sticky Wicket
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Resolutions Marian makes when reminded of her own finite lifespan:

  1. Wear skirts more often
  2. Send thank you notes
  3. Cook stuff from scratch and eat it with red wine
  4. Spend all my time with friends who are easy to be with
  5. Call my Mom
  6. Write some less silly, peppy, juvenile songs, for goodness’ sake
  7. Forget about Inbox Zero
  8. Do something about health care reform
  9. If it’s pretty outdoors, go outdoors, immediately
  10. Get a cat someday (borrow if necessary)
  11. Forget about number 6
  12. Do breast exams more regularly

I spent the month of September planning my upcoming recording project, working backstage at The Lion King, and wondering whether the lump in my breast would kill me, ruin me financially, or just disappear.

The odds of finding something deadly in my left breast are very small at my age.  But don’t we all have that friend — relative — high school classmate — who meets an unfair and early end through cancer?  It’s a code word for “unjust” when applied to the young.  So I couldn’t help worrying just a little.  That’s what you do when you think you’re sick: worry.

Then, of course, the realization always follows that I WILL die, sooner or later.  And that doesn’t make me special; all of you will too.  I could survive a dozen deadly cancers, be a walking medical miracle, and then unexpectedly have a run-in with a rabid illegally imported chinchilla that would end me. And what a way to go.  It’s embarrassing how poorly we (Americans in particular) cope with the inevitability of death when the fact iswe walk with it daily.

In any case, mortality has been on my mind for the last six weeks or so.  I fretted, I fussed, and between doctor and hospital visits I found I wanted to do very different things than I imagined I’d want to do.  Go hiking — now.  Sit for an hour with a borrowed cat — now.  Step outside and look at the mountains — now.

Why bring this up with you?  Well, it’s breast cancer awareness month, for one.  Check ’em, ladies.  Set an alarm on your fancy phone.  And it’s never a bad time to ponder the stuff you need to do to have a full life — now.  Please take a second to remember.

Suppose you and I never realize our full potential as human beings; suppose we either don’t work hard enough, or we’re not good enough, or life thwarts us, or whatever.  And we don’t reach our goals, and we’re unsatisfied with the Cliff’s Notes version of our life.  Then what are we left with?  How we lived along the way. How we used our eyes to see and hands to do.  That’s all we get.  You know this.  I don’t have to preach at you.  But I’m happy to remind you.

I got a clean bill of health last week — the lump was nothing, though for quite a while they thought it was — and I’m feeling much better now.*

But I want to remember what I learned while I was wondering about the length of my barely-significant life.  I want to remember how deeply I loved looking at Alaska, and how much I appreciated the company of good friends.  How staying positive and thankful, inasmuch as I could, held me together.  How risks suddenly seemed smaller, less scary, and more appealing.  Hold that knowledge tight.

I’m not at all special for going through this; it’s a little little nothing, and so many people go through worse every day.  But it’s real.  Sharing stories is what we do, so this is mine at the moment.  Please be mindful of your life and death.  Be mindful.  That’s all.

I look forward to seeing some of you in New York City, Massachusetts, and Seattle next month —


*I also got another kind of bill that made me less than thrilled.  But had I needed some sort of operation, I would be filing for bankruptcy and ending my career.  For the record, and this is my first openly public political statement ever: though I’m in many ways a conservative, I support the public option, partially because I have little to no hope of health care in the foreseeable future, and neither do most of my friends — I know far too many artists and musicians desperately fundraising tens of thousands or more to cover a single illness that’s long past.  But I won’t discuss politics at length here, or in the comments.  If it helps you to put a face on the solvent yet uninsured, anyway, mine will do.


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