Dear Saint of Desperate Causes

November 11, 2015


I understand the fascination
The dream that comes alive at night
But if you don’t change your situation
Then you’ll die, you’ll die, don’t die, don’t die
Please don’t die

— Placebo, “Commercial For Levi”

Today I found out that nothing will make you ponder your own mortality than the death of someone not much older than you.

We had never actually met each other in person, but we chatted here and there until he got sick. We were not acquainted closely enough to really stay in touch more than over Instagram, but I followed his progress over the last year and a bit. This afternoon I found out that he had died. It’s a funny feeling, I feel sad for his daughter, his family and his friends. He was only about six years older than I am.

When I was 18, a girl I went to high school with was killed in a horrific car accident on Christmas Eve. Her death at 17 acted as a cautionary tale to all of us taking our first wobbly steps into adulthood — don’t get into a car with a drunk driver, don’t speed, drive safely, but the accidental aspect of her death allowed us to believe that we were still untouchable.

When you are that young, the idea that your own body could kill you seems impossible. For the most part we are born with perfect health, you’re young, and you’re strong, and you’re pretty. You don’t need to worry about “old person” diseases like cancer. You’re invisible. As you reach your late 20s and early 30s it gradually becomes apparent that there is more to early death than getting into the car with a drunk driver, or some other tragic accident. The lifestyle factors we mock, that we ignore, that we roll our eyes at, and laugh at in school are painfully real. The “old person” diseases aren’t really just for old people after all.

We are made to believe that to live life to the fullest is to live a life of excess. We smoke countless cigarettes, and throw back eye-popping amounts of booze while telling ourselves that because we only do it on the weekend, it can be counted as moderation. I don’t smoke from Monday to Thursday, so when I smoke a pack or two between Friday afternoon and Sunday it is somehow okay. I don’t drink on weeknights, but I’ll drink an ocean of vodka on the weekend because it is the weekend, like that somehow balances it all out. We rationalize that because Keith Richards is still standing it won’t happen to us.

I gorge on life, I embrace it so tightly my arms wrap around it twice. I run at it so fast that I forget to slow down and take stock of what is around me. I live by the quote “life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death”. I am in an endless competition with myself to be the brightest, funniest, loudest, bawdiest, sexiest, wittiest, most creative, and most interesting person in the room, and it may well be killing me.

I spent a good portion of tonight considering the consequences of my life choices and the reality was frightening as fuck. I am almost 29, I drink very heavily, to the point where I have regretted my actions for days after a bender. I smoke heavily, even though every single one of my grandparents (apart from one) has died of cancer. I use recreational drugs because for some fucked up reason I believe that as a creative it somehow feeds my art (believe me, I realize how much of an asshole that makes me sound). “Feeding my art” is generally my excuse for most of the dangerous decisions I make, but tonight I had the hard kick in the pants that if I keep up this behavior I won’t actually be alive to create any art.

The worst thing I could imagine would be my parents having to lay my body into the ground. My mum and my sister going through my wardrobe to find what I should be buried in. My father packing up my apartment, remembering how we moved everything in there together, and taking down the pictures I painstakingly instructed him to hang. My brother shouldering my coffin with my cousins and uncles, and my goddaughter growing up seeing the photos of her aunty Mad, but not having anything to remember. Just writing this I am sobbing alone in my little house, thinking about everything I love so much.

The one positive that has come out of a day of sadness and reflection, is that I am now committed to looking after myself. There is so much love, and joy, and beauty surrounding us each day that it is nothing else but logical to keep it as close as possible. I don’t know that I will be able to shake off all of my bad habits at once, but I do know that I have a start date and can only try to chip away at the bad parts of myself bit by bit, until I am in the best possible position to live a long and healthy life.

There are too many wonderful things to be found in each day to allow myself a death through carelessness and neglect. Think about what you love, and what you would give up to keep it. I don’t know what comes after this life; I don’t know whether I believe in heaven and hell, but I do believe in making what time we have count.

Tonight I believe in more than that, I believe in myself.

See Maddy’s other posts here and share your thoughts below.

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