In the depths of My Documents, you’ll find half-finished posts and pieces about this topic scattered by sad stories about weird relationships and slow cooker recipes (sigh, I know).
Some are too scary to publish, while others just don’t tell it right.
How do I share the fundamental core of my life with absolute strangers?
The way you do anything painful – by doing it when your gut says it’s time.
My gut? It’s screaming that it’s time to out myself.
Every inch of my existence is painted by my terrifying fear of death and the never-ending emptiness.
Let’s go back. In my family, we call this “the thought,” because it was always too scary to name. “The thought” harkens back to my earliest days. I don’t have a memory that doesn’t include this painful awareness.
It comes in waves of frequency and intensity, but I carry it around like a very uncomfortable blanket.
My Fear of Death
A few years ago, I finally asked my Mom for more information, the outsider’s perspective, on this whole thing.
It blew my mind when she said it started when I was 5 years old.
That knowledge crushed me. I saw little, 5-year-old Rachael full of inspiration and heart, going to bed only to wake later in soul-pain.
Although I prefer to keep religion off of here, I’m not afraid to share that this fear ultimately destroyed my religious faith. It required me to fixate so much on the Rational, that anything Spiritual was thrown under the bus.
That’s changed since then as I’ve given myself permission to try on ideas, but it doesn’t make the questioning any less intense.
For 20 years, I’ve known intimately the fear of nonexistence. It’s been terrible, painful, and too much to handle. It’s also the best thing that ever happened to me.
Yes, those night grips of terror are absolutely worth it.
How is this possible?
There are many reasons why I’m thankful for this creepily early knowledge of nonexistence, but none other than the central, fundamental idea inside this concept:
By knowing death, I understand the value of life.
Yin and yang, good and evil, you gotta have ‘em both.
It sounds more profound and cheesy than it really is. In fact, this knowledge hits me all the time. Though it can take me one way or the other, it always underlines in permanent marker the need to live a good life.
Although I’d never say “YOLO” except in quotes and with a hearty disclaimer like this, the idea is right. You Only Live Once. You will die. Is it worth it to toil and hurt and fumble all these years (assuming we get a good amount of them) for something that doesn’t matter to us?
What matters anyway? What is meaning? —> Now you see how my inherent Existentiaism.
Imagine yourself in the grocery store. You want to be healthy so you can have a long, physically pleasant youth without shortness of breath, achy knees, and self-esteem issues. You also really want that ice cream because it has those chunks of cookie dough and fudge and cherry, and that’s a hard combo to find.
So you stand there with a frozen pint slowly melting ice onto your hands as you try to decide.
Since I know I will die one day, I want to enjoy my time here. Is it better to have a pint of something delicious now or stick to raw carrots and celery sticks?
(My choice: A minimally processed, organic choice a la the Traditional Foods movement or homemade ice cream awesomeness. Nourish the belly and the soul, ya know?)
The fear of death also makes big career choices rather difficult. It fuels my multipotentialism, which means I not only enjoy and thrive in lots of fields, but I also demand my earning hours be spent doing things I find fulfilling.
Say what you will – “jobs aren’t supposed to be fun,” or “no pain, no gain.” I’m not adverse to hard work and even find great value in those types of tasks. But, I know there is a better way, and will do everything possible to find it.
From relationships to jobs to meals to how much TV I watch, my fear of death keeps me focused on my goals in a holistic, personal way.
It always sounds so odd to me to say that death makes my life better, but it does. I’m not much less scared of it, though I’ve learned coping skills. I’m not looking forward to it, but I certainly am looking forward to a long life of health, happiness, and self-acceptance.
Does the fear of death influence your life choices? Would you change this, if possible? Write below in the comments!