I woke up the other night from a nightmare, and I could barely breathe. The darkness pressed around me, and I struggled to calm my galloping heart, to rein in my breathing. My hands felt numb, my limbs tingly, sure signs of an imminent panic attack.
It wasn’t the nightmare that brought it on. Not directly, anyway. When I woke up, I woke holding the hand of my mortality, my impermanence, as it whispered in my ear, “You’re going to die someday.”
This isn’t new information, or even a new experience. It’s been awhile but this has certainly happened before. I don’t know why that night felt different. Just subtly so, a small shift in the usual song and dance. It seemed more real to me, I guess, more potent somehow. I realized that, just as time passed to bring me to that moment, and to this one where I sit writing about it, as it seemed to fold and unfold itself so that it took both forever and an instant to get here, I knew it would do the same with my death. I am here now, and one day I will be there, dead or on the verge of it, and it will have been both forever and an instant since now.
There are moments when the reality of life hits me with startling clarity. When I realize, really realize, not just in an intellectual capacity but in the depths of my soul, that my time on earth is limited. I could have 60 years left. Or I could have 60 minutes. In those moments, things become really clear: what I want to do, what direction I should go. Because I don’t want to waste any of that precious time.
What was there to do about it? I moved into the comfort of Bryan’s arms, pressed my cheek into his heartbeat and let it anchor me to the here and now. That’s all there is, after all.
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