Life, death and decisions.
Beirut, April 1st, 2015.
Lots of thoughts are running through my head right now. Vaguely, (female) arm hair, feminism, old age, vegetarianism and Beirut.
Recurring in my mind is the idea that when I grow old, I do not want to encumber anybody with my existence. Being in an old people's home doesn't scare me. Nor does death, for that matter. Perhaps it's easy to say that, being 25 and (supposedly) brimming with life. Not so when I am 75, my health failing and my days numbered.
The reason why I bring this up, is because I went to visit my aunt (my father's sister), who now lives in an old people's home. This was not her choice. I will not speak or criticise the choice that has been made on her behalf because I am in no position to do so.
So, when my brother and I walked into the place, it was open, airy and filled with light. Which felt good. I thought to myself: I am happy that my auntie lives here. But then we walked into her room-- a large room with three identical beds in it, three identical bedcovers, three identical plain bedside tables, two identical dressers and one large closet (identical to the rest of the furniture), and it felt bizarre. It looked bare and sterile. I had a hard time adjusting to the idea that my auntie lived here now. That she didn't have her small table by her side with her glass of water and her medication. That she didn't have her cushions or her blanket. That she didn't have hanging on the wall the large framed pictures of some members of her family. Those who died first: her father, and two of her brothers (one of which was my father, who was by the way, the youngest of his brothers. And died aged 40. But that's not about him. Well maybe it is. We'll see.)
She tried to be cheerful, but the bitterness resurfaced quickly. I understood the way she felt. Nobody should feel like death was coming soon. Like this bare, empty bedroom was temporary-- until they died. Nobody. As if death was the resolution, the solution. So I did not know how to make it up for her. Her loneliness. This naked room that she lived in. I am not currently in Beirut, and even if I was, I probably would be trying selfishly to get out of the tangle that is my life before trying to help anybody else. I wouldn't know how to make it up for her. So I told her that I would bring her some books to read. And I did. We'll see how that turns out.
Despite all of this, I would not want my family to go out of their way to take care of me. I would respect their decision to place me in an old people's home if I couldn't take care of myself. If I couldn't live on my own. But I would want their decision to be mine, as well. And I would like to leave my home with dignity. Not to be dropped off from the bus (destination death,) thrown into a temporary – plain – world without my things or my memories, and without even getting a say in the matter.
And this whole idea of waiting for death -- resilient, strong and pulsing in my aunt, unfortunately -- is an idea that I would like to avoid altogether if I can. Living isn't just about breathing. As cheesy as it sounds (and it probably sounds like the Queen of Cheeseworld, the Sequel -- ever heard of it? No? You really should check it out,) living is about continuously doing something that keeps you alive. And that's what I intend/hope to remind myself to do everyday. And if death should take me away even as I did not expect it, as I did not wait for it patiently, then I guess that that would make me one of the lucky ones. Bref. Enough cheese on my watch.
My auntie did carry with her a small album, filled with pictures of my eldest cousin as a baby (all taken on the same day,) and a flotsam of pictures of various people in the family. There were quite a few pictures of my father that you will see below.
But first this little parenthesis:
Not one week ago, I went to the British Museum. There was a beautiful project about life, and growing old that the artist manifested through pictures that ordinary people shared, of ordinary moments in their lives. The pictures did not belong to one family, but to several, and each family provided a picture from a moment in the life of a human being: from birth to death. Under each photo was a little description of what was going on in the picture. The artist also created a large structure that contained about 14,000 small pockets filled with little pills: the number of pills that one human being supposedly takes during his/her lifetime. From afar, the structure looked like one long and beautiful blanket. But I was mesmerised by the beauty of ordinary moments in these photographs. Moments where strangers are posing for their loved ones, moments of intimacy captured on camera forever (or at least until the colours fade,) moments that show grief, moments that are plain, that are meaningless to us, but so incredibly meaningful to those to whom they belong. The creators of these pictures. Ordinary moments would win, in my opinion, over celebrity moments anytime. Allow me to present you with some ordinary moments from my family. (Featuring the one and only. You know who I'm talking about.)
[All taken against the beautiful backdrop that is my goosey skirt.]
The other topics that were on my mind when I opened up the post are just topics that remind me slightly how difficult it sometimes is to be accepted for the choices you make. I have only been living abroad for six months, but I feel that things have changed within me (it's time to try defying gravity, ahahaha). My mum accused me of "having changed so much." As if that was a bad thing. I do not think that I changed at all. I feel that all of the things that I had bottled up inside of me, ideas, thoughts, decisions, choices, have finally found some room to roam free and to fly in the world. And I was happy with that. With these thoughts. Proud, even. But returning back home has not ceased to remind me that before really accepting myself for the decisions I now make (as unimportant and vain as they are. e.g. holding on to my ugly arm hair, or not eating meat anymore, or walking silly in public) maybe I need to convince the people in my life about them first. Ahaha. That was a good joke.
Good night, spoon.