You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.
And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.
And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.
And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.
When you’re dying, I bet you listen to tons of music while reading tons of books. You definitely stop buying clothes. You probably spend significantly less time with people. You move to New York and rent some shitty, tiny apartment on the Lower East Side or in Brooklyn or something — not someplace you’d decorate, and not someplace too far from Union Square because, as crowded as that place is, there’s nothing like sitting in the middle of it all at midnight in July.
When you’re dying, I bet you run whenever you feel like it, because you’ve always loved running, but not enough to do it every day. You probably sit outside in the sun, because you love the sun, and read all the books you’ve accumulated but have yet to read. You’d definitely reread the beginnings of books you never finished and then read the endings as well.
When you’re dying, you probably want to sit quietly with friends and read together. You probably write down all your ideas, and you’d like them to sound poetic, though what you write isn’t exactly poetry. You’d probably like someone who knows something about writing to read them, then you’d like that person to tell you how to be better at whatever it is that you’re doing here. There isn’t much you can do with that information, but you’d like to know anyway.
When you’re dying, you probably like to go to bars at night and drink with friends or strangers and have conversations that last until the sun is rising. You’d like to wake up against the skin of a boy who likes you enough to let you stay the night, but not so much that he’ll be sad when you’re gone.
When you’re dying, you probably like to drink way too much coffee and feel giddy and excited and worry not at all about how little work you’ve done while your brain is moving quickly across the galaxies of knowledge you’ve acquired throughout your too-short life.
When you’re dying, I bet you realize that you have been something; you are something. You probably think about all the friends and lovers and teachers and strangers you’ve known and those you’ve lost and want them to know that you are something, you would have been something, you would have mattered. But then you’d want them to walk away once more because, when you’re dying, you also realize it’s time to walk away.
When you’re dying, you probably enjoy the bitter cold because it’s good in its own way, and lay out on a blanket and sweat all summer long, because the heat is amazing as well.
When you’re dying, you probably worry less about conventional learning and school books and fights and the number of friends you’ve lost and the number of lovers you’ve had. You probably hug more, kiss more, hold hands more, use the word ‘love’ more, look more, read more, run more, try to smile more. More museums, more art, more words, more writing. More dresses, more sweatpants, more cozy coats, more sun shining through the trees. More peace.
Of course I know that writers, like everyone else, have to pay the bills. But I believe that blind subservience to an imagined final product is harmful to body and soul and is also often unnecessary.
Please! Try not to acquiesce too quickly in projects that you know aren’t right for who you are. Think about other financial solutions that will free you to focus on the primary task of becoming a writer. Give more thought to the longer trajectory of your life. Your most important work-in-progress is not the story you’re working on now. Your most important work-in-progress is you.
You might think it’s quirky and endearing, especially if you’ve just finished a lengthy conversation about Liz Lemon, and maybe one day it will be. For now though, nothing cuts a date short like tipping the hand of your neuroses. Hold it in, even if that means you cry all the way home because you’re pretty sure there’s no cat heaven.
“These things are usually simple. It’s the best song on your iPod. It’s the first bite of a good sandwich. It’s the walk home from the subway. The collapse into bed. The sound of your goddamn Gchat. The music venue before a concert starts, the fresh ice in your freezer, the phone conversation with your friend, the crush you have, the socks you found matching. The moment you let yourself sit in your room and just let it be. I want you allow yourself one lovely moment every day of your unsettled life.”—The Frenemy
This morning it really hit me that you’re gone. This morning I woke up and reached for my phone — I couldn’t wait to tell you about my night, about the conversation and the dancing and the boy whose breath currently brushed my neck. As I leaned onto my elbow, pushed my hair away from my face, and scanned the room for my phone, I felt the knot my stomach. It was at this moment, this exact second, that, for the first time, I truly understood what it meant for you to be gone. This is it — the tightening in my throat, the sinking of my shoulders, the emptiness in my lungs — this is the day I let you go.
This is the day it all becomes real. It’s funny how it hits you like this, so suddenly. I’ve known for as long as it’s been true that you were gone. That knowledge has existed within my brain. I think, though, I’ve made a new life, a different life, a life that isn’t a reminder of your absence, so I could avoid coming to terms with the truth.
I changed my routine so that I wouldn’t pass by your door. I stopped drinking so I wouldn’t miss your company over ice and whiskey. I stopped reading about restaurants so I wouldn’t be reminded that we’ll no longer share a meal. I stay in more, I speak to fewer people, I read more books, I take longer runs, I rearranged my apartment.
I made new friends and planned new activities — I’ve been doing things we’d never have done together — things you’d never have enjoyed anyway. I listen to music you’ve never heard of, music you probably wouldn’t like. Now, I don’t feel like I need to call you to tell you about a song you should download, I don’t suggest that we meet in an hour for bloody marys and brunch on warm saturday mornings, I don’t call you to tell you about my days. because there are no songs, and there is no brunch, and there are no afternoons spent catching up over coffee. And you wouldn’t be at the other end of that phone call anyway.
Dear friend, today is the day I say goodbye and truly understand what that means. Dear friend, goodbye.
“depression presents itself as a realism regarding the rottenness of the world in general and the rottenness of your life in particular. but the realism is merely a mask for depression’s actual essence, which is an overwhelming estrangement from humanity. the more persuaded you are of your unique access to the rottenness, the more afraid you become of engaging with the world; and the less you engage with the world, the more perfidiously happy-faced the rest of humanity seems for continuing to engage with it.”—Jonathan Franzen | How to be Alone.
this weekend was spent with old friends — friends who have been around for nearly a decade and a half. though I enjoy meeting new people and exploring new cities, sometimes it’s equally important to connect with your roots. friday night: restaurant week crab cakes. wading through manhattan snow on saturday, followed by drinks and snacks at the tippler. sunday was for music, friends, family, long conversations, and staying up late.
I spent this weekend finally feeling as though I could breathe in. and out. I left this weekend feeling incredibly renewed.
“… overly intense and short term is the perfect combination if you’re looking to end badly and get hung up on it. he’s really more of an enigma to me at this point; I don’t really remember him or what being with him was like, but lord knows I still think about it a lot.”—
“Here’s the truth: friendships between women are often the deepest and most profound love stories, but they are often discussed as if they are ancillary, “bonus” relationships to the truly important ones. Women’s friendships outlast jobs, parents, husbands, boyfriends, lovers, and sometimes children.
I saw, on that afternoon, that it’s possible to transcend the limits of your skin in a friendship. That a friend can take you out of the boxes you’ve made for yourself and burn them up. This kind of friendship is not a frivolous connection, a supplementary relationship to the ones we’re taught and told are primary – spouses, children, parents. It is love.”—Transformation and Transcendence: The Power of Female Friendship