bookmark_borderHow to continue living…

How to continue living when you’ve failed to get your way on something that matters so incredibly much that without it, life is not worth living.

Something so incredibly important that in my opinion, it is not a matter of merely getting one’s way at all, but a matter of whether or not one’s fundamental rights are respected.

There are no words adequate to the task of fully conveying how upset the failure to get my way, the failure of others to respect my fundamental rights, has made me.

There are no words capable of fully conveying the pain, the anguish, the suffering that I have endured.

How to continue living when the topic on which I’ve been defeated is so crucially important to my life, to my happiness, to my well-being, that all other topics are trifles in comparison, and putting time and energy into them seems equivalent to fretting about the arrangement of deck chairs on the Titanic.

Conventional wisdom says that one shouldn’t dwell on things over which one has no control, that one should instead direct one’s focus and energy towards the things that one can control.

But how can it be wise, or sensible, or worthwhile, to direct my focus and energy towards the things that don’t matter, and away from the things that do?

How to continue living when the defeat is so complete, so thorough, that it is difficult if not impossible to find a silver lining, to find any reason for hope, to find any way of putting a positive spin on the situation?

How to continue living in a society that is collectively responsible for inflicting this horrific defeat on me, for taking away the thing that I need in order to have a life that is worth living?

How to enjoy anything when every company, every institution, every organization, every governmental and non-governmental entity, is to some extent complicit in this atrocity, in this violation of my rights?

How to coexist with a loss that involves a subject of such crucial importance to me, a loss that is so complete as to allow no room for hope, a loss that was inflicted on purpose?

These are just a few of the thoughts swirling around my head today.

These are the questions with which I’ve wrestled for over three years, and with which I must continue to wrestle.

At the moment, I don’t have answers. Only questions.

bookmark_borderOn death, grief, and loss

As everyone knows, dying is an inevitable part of life. I remember the moment I first realized this. I was five, and I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep and mulling over various topics. I knew intellectually that everyone eventually dies, but until that moment it hadn’t fully hit me exactly what that entailed. Somehow, at that moment, I came to the realization that one day, I would completely cease to exist. It would be like I was asleep, but permanent. I would not be conscious ever again. The events of the world would go on, but I would not be around to witness them. The entirety of what it meant to be me – seeing, feeling, thinking, perceiving – would come to an end.

That thought disturbed me tremendously. It caused a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. After a while, I fell asleep. Although I never again dedicated significant amounts of time to focusing on that realization, the knowledge of my mortality has been around ever since, an ominous presence lurking in the back of my mind.

Last October, my grandfather passed away. He was 91, had lived a full life, and suffered from various medical conditions that were gradually growing worse and reducing his quality of life. Over the past four months, my mom has struggled with this loss more than I have (not surprising since it is usually considered a bigger loss to lose a parent than a grandparent). One day she asked me how I was able to handle my grandfather’s death without getting sad. I thought this over for a while and then answered:

For me, Papa’s death is not truly a loss. First of all, because his medical conditions caused him so much discomfort and so many limitations, he is better off dead than continuing with that same quality of life. But more than that, the experiences that I’ve had with Papa are not gone. The memories of playing poker, watching football, and going to the racetrack with him, are still inside me. They always will be. Papa’s death means, of course, that no new experiences with Papa will take place. No more memories will be added to the collection. But that is okay. I am happy with the existing collection of experiences and memories, and that collection remains intact.

Papa dressed as Napoleon for my 13th birthday

My feelings about the loss of my grandfather stand in sharp contrast with my feelings about the destruction of historical statues and monuments that has taken place over the past two years. Although I love my grandfather very much, the latter has proven far more painful for me. I think often about the reasons why this might be the case. Why am I not able to view the deaths of the statues that I love in the same way that I view the death of Papa?

Perhaps it is because statues, unlike human beings, are supposed to last forever. They are not supposed to die. The loss of them was not a possibility that I ever considered I might one day have to deal with. Perhaps it is because, unlike my grandfather who died of natural causes, the statues were killed on purpose. Perhaps it is because, with the exception of the statue of Christopher Columbus in Boston, I had not actually seen these statues in person. The knowledge that they existed was enough to fill me with happiness. I intended to visit them eventually but hadn’t yet made specific travel plans. Now, because people decided to brutally and selfishly destroy them, I will never get to view these monuments, photograph them, take in the atmosphere surrounding them, or simply be in their presence. Now, I am robbed of the ability to ever have those experiences. I am robbed of exciting and interesting things to look forward to, robbed of any desire to explore the world around me, and robbed of hope for the future.

Maybe one day the anguish, grief, and rage that I feel will fade into the background and become bearable. Maybe there will be more days when I am able to go about my routine with lightness in my heart and images of beauty in my mind, and fewer days when I am completely beaten down by the leaden, sickening feeling of overwhelming injustice and loss. But more than one year and eight months after these disastrous events began, that has not yet happened. For now, the pain continues unabated.