In this new year, I have spent the past two days on my couch with a cold. It’s just a cold. It’s not a big deal. But a trip to the supermarket this afternoon for more drugs exhausted me. So, I feel totally useless.
Before the new year, I saw this film chronicling the events of one day — giving me space to wonder and reflect upon what makes a good day. What makes life sweet. What makes life worth living. What makes a good life.
It reminded me of that beloved song from Rent.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand Six hundred minutes,
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Moments so dear.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand Six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?
Is it cups of coffee? Is it sunsets? Or sunrises? Is it the moments shared? Or is it as the song suggests love? What is it that measures a year or a day? What is it that measures a good life?
It’s the question I’m pondering as I begin this year on my couch. Not because I’m sick. But because this is the year where I might not live. This is the year that I betray my mother’s memory by living longer than her. It’s the year that I’ve most feared for most of my life. This year, I will turn 33. This year, I will outlive my mother. As any motherless daughter will tell you (and if she doesn’t then you’re just going to have to believe me on this one), we irrationally believe that we can’t possibly live longer than our mothers did. My mother died when she was 33. And so, this is the year that I have always thought that I might die. It’s irrational. I didn’t say that it made any sense. And yet, this horrible fear has always been there. It has never gone away. No matter what, I have always feared this year. I’ve been told I’m crazy countless times. I’ve been told that this is ridiculous. I know all of this. It doesn’t make this feeling go away. It’s true for me. And so, it’s true. It’s not something to argue. It’s just something to understand.
Still, I know that there are tons of people — even those whom I love dearly — who don’t understand this. They think I should be talked out of this craziness. They think I should get over it. They insist that this won’t be the end. I know. I know. I know. I just can’t explain what it feels like to imagine life past this point. I can’t fully articulate the strange betrayal it is to outlive my mother. I can’t describe the fear of this unknown birthday. So, I’m not really thinking about those things. I’m thinking about what makes a life. What makes life sweet. What makes life good. I’m thinking about the kind of life that I want to live.
It was the question asked to me on New Years Day. In my friend’s sermon at Sojourners UCC, she asked the question I’d rather avoid. She asked it in the way that only a farmer’s daughter from Nebraska could. She asked: How will you grow? It wasn’t demanding. It wasn’t insistent. It was heartfelt and honest. We all want to change. We all want to imagine some other possibility than the fears we’ve always held. We all want to grow. I just don’t know how.