Did I worry you for a second? Never fear, friends; I’m not going to be a big old humbug, let alone a grand tragedian, here. It’s just that, living where I live, I’m always in the shadow of some circling or perching vulture sussing out his or her next all-you-can-eat buffet. I’m pretty sure that I too would look fairly delish if I just had the kindness to croak somewhere out in the open within a vulture’s purview, yet they don’t turn up their beaks in disdain at smaller game. So I can get a regular reminder of my mortality just by looking over in the tall grass next to the road, where there is often a vulture or two munching on someone else’s gnarly remains, any time I need said reminder.
I am, as you’ve seen if you’ve spent any time around this blog, of the school that still has an appreciation for a good memento mori as a reminder of the fine and great and joyful things that being Not Dead can have to offer. It’s just about time for the biggest holidays of the year in many cultures, and as workers in the life-supporting jobs that include medicine and law enforcement and social services will tell you, depression, health crises (both physical and mental), family violence, crime and all sorts of other terrible social ills tend to peak. Unreasonable schedules and outsized expectations of delirious happiness around holidays and other celebrations are practically doomed to failure, and even those who are fairly realistic about their expectations may have actually built in a sort of assumption of disaster that only adds to their stress.
Letting go of a lot of this overwhelming and impractical perfectionism and most of the silly entitled assumptions that the world owes me satisfaction and pleasure has greatly simplified my life. It has certainly lightened the load of worry and wishing. And every time I walk under the perch of a local vulture and look up at it as a fellow living creature, I am thrilled to pieces that I have the greatest way of all to celebrate whatever holidays and special occasions I want to enjoy: alive. Not particularly wanting, not overburdened with Stuff and needs and promises I can’t keep, and simply, happily Alive. Just having one of those massive birds circle over my head without interest in me as an entree reminds me that death is close at hand, since the avian beast is clearly keeping a keen eye on something nearby that is already deliciously deceased, yet also says that I am not quite yet on that side of the equation and can go on to enjoy my holidays. Kind of makes every day seem more worth the celebrating.