One whole week —- an entire, unencumbered week —- has presented itself and I’m taking it. I’m going to pretend I’m at a far away writing retreat right here in my own house. Plenty of coffee on hand. No appointments. No errands to be run. Laundry that can wait. Starting Monday I’ll be shutting the door, turning off these interwebs, and working like a madwoman. Or laying my head on my desk for hours in a frustration-induced coma. Or both.
Anyway. Off I go….
Nick Flynn, page 72.
The homeless shelter he works for has required him to take a Death and Dying Workshop.
What I remember of the workshop was that at some point the facilitator had us write out a list of the ten most important things in our lives. This list could include people, objects, things we liked to do, a memory that was important to us.
She gave us a few minutes to make our list, and then she spoke a little about dying — “dying is a process” she said, “death is an endpoint. Or a threshold, if that’s what you believe.” When we are dying, she told us, one by one we have to let go of those things that are precious to us, things we thought we needed to make it through our days. And so she had us cross three things off of our list, those things we would be able to let go of first, because we couldn’t move forward, toward the end, with everything.
I looked at my list. I felt like I’d been tricked. I’d already distilled everything in my life down to these ten things, and now I had to distill further. Muttering, I crossed off Paris. I crossed off photography. I crossed off my truck. The facilitator let us talk to the person next to us about what we had let go of. Now I would have to bicycle everywhere, now I would never make it back to Paris, now I would have to live with the photographs I’d already taken.
Now, the facilitator said, cross off three more. Hater. I crossed off the ocean. I crossed off the shelter. I crossed off all my ex- and future lovers. I was down to four — my friends (I shifted my then-lover to this list), my writing, my body, and the one photograph I had of me with my mother. I felt desperate.
The facilitator said to cross off two more. Vengeful god, this posed a real problem. If I crossed off my body, could I still exist? Without friends who would catch me when I fell? Could I hold the image of my mother in my mind without that photograph, when my memory was so bad? If I could no longer write, would anything ever make sense?
And on that note, my friends, I’ll see you next week.