A u g u s t   2 0 0 4

Guest Writer

Packing up, clearing out, forging a future
My life without me
by Terry Lopez

he isolated cabin in the woods as a Thoreauean ideal was dealt a serious blow by Ted Kaczynski, but I'm willing to light a fire under it. Blow those bad overtones sky high.

Okay, enough. I have always wanted to escape to an ideal. Now I will. You can safely open any packages from me, unless they smell heavily of cheap wine. Then, beware.

I quit my job yesterday.

I'm packing up, I'm clearing out, I'm forging a new future for myself. God, I'm exhausted. I am leaping, I am catapulting, I am ... falling off a precipice?

No, no, I am boldly going where ... fuck that. I am simply making of my life what I will. I am tired of living scared, going through the motions, letting others lead me where I never meant to be.

So I watched Coixet's "My Life Without Me" a few nights ago and at first, when the protagonist made the list of things she wanted to do before she died, I was pretty pissed, or maybe just sad, that she didn't want some things more exciting, more lasting in some way. But as I watched, I realized: this was good enough for her. But not for me.

If I were to know I would die, what would I want?

Time and inclination to write, to be beautiful in words, to amuse myself and others with my own turn of phrase. To see new things without wanting to change them into something potentially better. To accept. To teach my daughter her own worth. To spare her some of the pain, but not the pain that heals, that eventually exhilarates. To forgive my younger self.

So, need anything? I have couches, beds, gardening tools, power tools, china, crystal, gadgets, pets, clothes, linen, artwork, the accumulation of years of trying to be happy surrounding myself with stuff. And the only things I ever regretted selling off were my books. I can do without a crock pot, a breadmaker, a king size bed. A TV?

I'm pretty sure I can do without six different sets of china, even if some were my grandmother's. I can do without a dining set that was my grandfather's. In fact, I have a lot of stuff that I never chose, but was thrust upon me by my mother. I will sell it and deal with the guilt of shirking charity, and history.

I am shedding, not simply sloughing. Not dying, but recognizing the potential of death.

Is that living?

Read more from Terry in our archives.

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