I’ve been spending a lot of time lately working out the issues of how I want to spend the balance of my days. Given my family history (mom dead at 62, dad at 76) if I make it to 80, it will be a miracle. Combine that with having smoked for way too many years, which thankfully I quit some years back, and I figure I have about 9,490 days left. It seems like so many, doesn’t it? Well, maybe not so much when you realize that I’ve already spent 19,710 days with limited success and relatively little of consequence to show for it.
I’ve amassed weeks worth of pains and suffering. Headaches, stomach issues, gray depressed days, all days that are lost to me in trying to ‘recover’ a sense of balance and perspective. At the same time, I’ve had some of the most marvelous days anyone could ask for. Incredible days of making love when I imagined that this special connection could last forever. Other days when the sun shone so brightly I felt I had received it in my soul and never again would I feel cold.
But, through all of this, I have always had a sense of the end. Some people, like me, get this gift quite young. Maybe it was because my favorite person in the world, as a boy, my mother’s friend and our special ‘aunt’, died of kidney failure or cancer. Who knows. Whatever it was, it meant visiting her in the hospital on some early version of dialysis. We got to watch her waste away and though I don’t remember being sad, I do remember being completely aware of what was happening. She wasn’t going ‘on a trip’. She was dying and what that meant, exactly, had some serious repercussions for me as well.
So what talk about this? Because as an artist and a meditator, it’s my responsibility to stare bravely at this place and find someway to wrap my hands around it, embrace it like a new born, and prepare for it in as normal a way as possible. I mean, it’s completely normal, right? Death and taxes, remember? There’s nothing wrong or unheard of or even extraordinary about dying.
At times, in moment of clarity, I can see just how quotidian it really is. It’s like breathing, in, out, in, out. I’m astounded by how much fear it engenders and how much I don’t want that fear. I believe there is a place and a manner through which we can just accept it and then really live life, no tremors, no concerns.
I have always wondered how, as an artist, I might bring this perspective into my work. I have, in fact, touched on this many times in my work. The work is always autobiographical and as such captures that ‘darkness’ that I carry.
A good friend said to me recently, after viewing some recent work, that he was struck how much of my work has a dark edge to it, a darkness that is at times only a glimmer. Nonetheless, it is there and perceptible. That darkness is something that came with the territory and so very often not what people want to see. Yet, there is an incredible beauty in it that all the paintings of sun and glory can’t quite capture.
So most days, I think about what I’m supposed to do and I dream about what I’d like to do and underneath it all is some inner voice that’s making lunch for the long journey ahead.