About Being Here

By life-j

Sometimes when Jane and I are waking up together, as I lie there snuggling up to her warm body, still halfway in a dream state, my mind will go places I otherwise don’t usually have access to.

One of these mornings about three years ago, it was before my surgery, before I even knew there was something wrong with my liver, as we were coming around together, I said: “Not that I’m in any hurry to get out of here, but today would be a good day to die.” Because my life is good. I feel loved, I feel good about myself, I have accomplished, more or less, all the things I could reasonably expect to accomplish in one reasonable life. I live in a place that to me is so beautiful that I don’t ever even feel the need to go anywhere.

life-j at age 24 riding the Vienna Express in 1975.

Of course, I have done a lot of traveling, mostly before I turned 25. I have seen a lot of the world. And I have traveled a little since then too, but I mostly like to stay put. If I feel a need to go anywhere, I figure it must mean that the place I’m in I don’t like well enough. Or maybe I’m just lucky to not be restless anymore, or particularly curious about other places.

Well, I didn’t die that day, but soon after it turned out I had liver cancer. Surgery for this is a big deal. They took out two-thirds of my liver, and the recovery dragged on for about five months, which is even longer than usual.

So here it is the spring of 2017, and now I have a lot of nodules in my lungs that weren’t there at the CAT scan six months ago. Metastasized liver cancer. We don’t know how long I have to live, but they’re estimating between one and two years. Sometimes people get to live a long time after a prognosis like this, but we basically know that there is no cure for what I have. And I’m ok with this, I take it a day at a time. Jane is worried, but that makes sense since it’s always harder for those who will be left behind. They have to re-make their lives.

Me, on the other hand, I’ll just be gone. I’d still like to stick around for a good while. Enjoy Jane’s company which seems like it is getting sweeter by the day, even if we also argue, but that’s normal. If we didn’t, I’d think we were holding something in. Enjoy this beautiful place, now that it’s finally mostly silent, all the neighbors are mostly quiet, though some make a bit too much work noise for comfort sometimes.

Now that the place is mostly finished the way I want it to be, it would, of course, be nice to stick around and enjoy it. But the real issues here are of a more spiritual nature.

A number of things have contributed to my being able to take it all mostly with calm. I think the first thing to set me on a path to being able to accept death as something normal was reading Pär Lagerkvist’s The Eternal Smile. I don’t know when I came upon it, it’s more than 30 years ago. I have read it aloud for a lot of people, I remember reading it for my daughter’s mom in Yosemite or someplace like that when I was newly sober.

The way Pär Lagerkvist describes god is the only one I have ever liked. He’s humble. If I had a god I would want one like that, a god I could take a good example from, not the arrogant, vengeful one I was raised with. But I seem to do ok without one. I also like this novella for the individual stories, and especially the one about a young man who’s riding through the woods, and he comes to a mill one evening, and he completes his life there.

There’s something about that, completing one’s life. One could take the point of view that our lives are never complete, I guess, and that’s a defensible position to take, but somehow I have arrived at a place where my life feels complete. In my case it doesn’t mean it’s so complete I can’t add to it. In fact, when I was laying there on the couch for five months, one thing that kept me going was a plan to build an aquaponics system. I had taken some preliminary steps, made a level pad for the greenhouse.

Though I didn’t know much about aquaponics, I began studying it on the Internet right there on the couch. I needed a project, something to add to my life, a plan. Something to look forward to, since at that point I was presumably recovering, though I was really weak. Something to do. I have always been a doer. In some ways, I would say that project saved my life, for the time being anyway, though of course I don’t mean that to the detriment of the loving care I got from Jane and Patrick, plus help from many other people.

life-j’s aquaponics project

I’m here as a steward of my little spot on this earth. I wonder how it would be if I no longer felt I could do something good for the world. There are many other things I can do besides building stuff, of course, I just really enjoy building stuff. The writing I have done these last few years, the artwork I have made, the guidance I have been able to give my daughter, the energy I have put into AA, and the Laytonville Grange, these all feel like worthwhile contributions to this world, too.

Since I quit drinking and have been going to AA my life has, overall, only gotten better. Especially my sense of myself has improved. I started out shy and scared, and now, for the most part I’m ok with me, comfortable in my own skin. If I had been unhappy with my life, and here I’m not glossing over those periods which were nothing to be happy about, it would be different. But my life has come to a place where it is good. Where I’m happy with, how shall I put it, the way the quality of my experiences has improved, and how the way I have been able to participate in the world has left me satisfied with my contribution.

Sure, we all had big dreams when we were 20, but as we get older we at some point have to say, honestly, how much can a man do? I’m accepting that I didn’t get to be the man, after all, who changed everything about the world and made everything in it good. That’s just much bigger than me, but we can’t see that at 20 when the difference between a normal human lifespan and eternity doesn’t seem all that great.

What makes me happy with my life – that’s a funny thing to try to explain. If I weren’t happy with my life, I imagine I would look at death much differently. I’d have regrets about all sorts of things I didn’t do and want more time to do them, while in reality I’d probably just spend that extra time further lamenting that I hadn’t done them.

Without question, I wasted much time and made many poor choices in my life. But I changed it, and I’m always making my life a little better. I only contribute good things to life at this point. Well, I’m not perfect, I’m not a saint. I still make mistakes, and I can even be an asshole on occasion. But I don’t need to be a saint, I just need to be of a mind to leave the world a better place than I found it. And then accept that there’s only so much a man can do.

Speaking of events which changed my outlook on life, here’s a funny one:  A while back I got a job to translate a big genealogical project.  It was about people related to the manor house of Kjærgaard, near Ribe, Denmark. Some of it concerned the history of buildings and communities and some of the people connected with the manor house or living in the area.

Translating the genealogical records particularly was an eye opener. There was nothing in there that we don’t already know, but it got to be so real, as I was working on it: People died. Yes, of course, they died, because people die. But half of people’s kids died when small, and even when grown to adulthood they weren’t home free. Many people died in their 20s, 30s, and lots of women died in childbirth. Rich or poor, it didn’t seem to matter, they’d die early in their 50s, often of relatively minor stuff. And then there were a few who equally unexplainably would get to live into their 80s.

People died, and it’s amazing to think of how many times each of us alive today may have evaded a death that might have been certain and, if I may use this word, in a sense almost trivial 200 years ago. Granted, such deaths are still the lot of three-fourths of the world’s population. But it’s easy to lose sight of how incredibly fortunate we are to be living in this time and place, even with all its injustices and the increasingly insane and immoral politics.

Still, it angers me whenever I see a beautiful, strong, young man in his 30s with a bad limp. I am aware how this, the richest country in the world did not give him the relatively minor surgery he should have gotten. There is so much penny wise, pound foolish politics in this country which results in so much unnecessary human suffering. At least 200 years ago they simply were not able to save people. Now it’s just a result of mean-spirited, egotistical politics, and I have never been able to close my eyes to injustice.

And yet that translation job brought home to me how many events in our lives are outside of our control. Floods and other disasters happen, and people fall ill and die, and they do so whether they pray to imaginary deities to save them, or not. It is simply the course of life and its random events, in my life as in theirs.

Jason

Another big thing that happened in my life with respect to how I live it and how I think about how to live it was my friend Jason getting cancer. Let me start by acknowledging that we have both spent a lot of time in AA, and one thing we both learned there, and both have been lucky enough to be able to apply to our lives, is the concept of taking life one day at a time.

If there is any way I can do things to take care of unfinished business from the past, and it will make my present life easier to live without conflict, then, by all means, I should do them. And as for tomorrow, if I can influence the course of my life with some well-laid plans and a non-hysterical determination to carry them out, then by all means I should do so, as long as I accept that while I can increase the odds in my favor, I don’t have any sort of ultimate control. I can only do my best, and even the best-laid plans can run afoul of circumstances. I can be on my way to some important part of that plan, and a bus falls out of the sky and kills me, or I can get cancer or something, as indeed I have. I have to accept stuff like this. I know it’s easier said than done. Some people just can’t. I’m a lucky guy in many ways.

Jason had cancer so bad that when they opened him up, intending to do some surgery, they just closed him back up again, gave him a colostomy bag, and sent him home to wrap up his life. And he did it well. Six weeks before he died he was riding his Harley one more time. He still surfed half a year before, and a couple of months before he died he played a concert at Harwood Park. Brown-eyed Girl will always be a song that I remember him by.

When someone started getting sad about it all, he would just tell them, “I’m already overpaid.” His life had been good too. He was able to let go of all regrets.

There were times he was in considerable pain. Jane gave him massages sometimes, which helped. Toward the end he would sometimes come over, and go lay down on our couch, and go to sleep, just to be close. But he never seemed to lose his positive spirit. Even when he died, and I was there about three hours before he did, he had lost all strength, couldn’t even talk anymore, but he gave me a half smile and a half wink. I knew we were both home free then. Death is ok.

life-j with Charlie around 1984

Most people, when they die, have a bucket list, and it’s often about traveling and such. So then another friend of mine got cancer, Charlie. Like me, he loved building things. I’m content to run a water line or build a shelf out of plain plywood, but Charlie was a fine woodworker, turned bowls and things, and built fancy cabinets.

We worked together on some kitchen projects back when I was a contractor. When he was told he had cancer, he tried chemo once or twice but decided to not deal with all the discomfort. He was going to go out in style. And this meant not wasting his time lying around being sick with chemo treatments. He had things he needed to build, yet. A couple of somewhat ordinary things, a door, and a table, but then also he wanted to build a guitar. He’d saved just the right piece of wood for that guitar for god only knows how many years, and he wasn’t about to not get it done.

That was his bucket list, build some things. There may have been more on it, I don’t know, but these building projects took up a lot of his last bit of time, so that was probably pretty much it. I like that, shows great humility to still want to make something for the world, rather than do a whole bunch of traveling.

I have a place or two I may want to go, but it is not that big a deal to me. I’m happy here. Not idiotically happy, just happy in a content sort of way. If I never go anywhere again, that’s really ok. Any day I spend here, and maybe even get to do something I like to do, is a good day.

So in this way, I have been learning from my friends. I guess it’s all about acceptance. This is a concept they push a lot in AA, and there it is mostly a very godly thing: “Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in god’s world by mistake,” it says in The Big Book – and therefore we should accept everything.

Well, right off I think this is a bunch of shit. I have to say I don’t understand why I should or would accept things any less if instead everything, absolutely everything in “god’s world” happens by random chaos. There’s almost even more reason to accept it then because there is no way at all for me to control it.

With a god in charge, I could at least try to influence god to do things my way by praying for something, in other words, not accept god’s initial decisions after all, at least until he had taken time out to consider that maybe I had a better idea than he did. But with no god there to meddle with it all, what else can I do but to accept it?

Things are so much simpler without a god. I don’t have to concern myself with whether I go to heaven or hell after I die since neither one makes sense to me. I don’t have to wonder about my score, and whether events in my life are god’s way of rewarding me for good behavior, or punishing me, or giving me a challenge to learn from or whatever. Christians concern themselves with all that stuff way too much.

I’m simply here while I’m here, and I don’t have to clutter my mind with all that. I guess I could be called an existentialist. Believers get their morals from gods. To me, common sense is enough. I don’t want to argue with anyone about the meaning of life. Life is whatever we make of it. I can see with my own eyes that things go better in this world if I speak my truth, and conduct myself in a socially kind and responsible manner.

The meaning in my life comes from what I put into it. Ultimately one could say there is no meaning to anything. But we don’t live in a vacuum. My life has meaning in the context I live in. I have a partner, a daughter, friends I care about. I have a beautiful place where I can sit by my pond and simply be one day, and with all sorts of projects to work on another day. I have my artwork and my writing. This all has meaning in the context I live in.

I don’t need to make it complicated and ponder ultimate, irreducible questions and problems. I have been raised in a society which, while mostly Christian, has given me a variety of moral values. Doesn’t mean I would call those values Christian values, I think that is putting things on their head.

Rather, over the centuries society has infused their religion with the moral values they were going to live by anyway because in the course of the development of a culture certain ways of people relating to each other make better sense than others.

So as a society, you can collectively arrive at a social contract that says don’t kill or steal from your neighbor, or you can put together a religion that tells you the same thing. It’s nice to have it sanctioned or commanded by a god. Gives it authority and weight. If you believe in that god. Otherwise, you can just arrive at the same social contract by seeing that it works, and so may as well go by it. Same difference to me. I just can’t see making life’s big questions too big. Keep it simple.

So I have lived by this in my dedicated if imperfect way. I imagine if my brain chemistry had been just a little bit different I could have been depressed, could have lived based on regrets, and other negative feelings. In the end I guess I have to accept it as not much other than simple chance and good luck that my life is good, and that my feelings are mostly in the positive register. True, I have worked for it, but my work could as well have been fruitless as it could have been successful.

Today I have a cancer which I most likely will not be able to recover from. I could be dead a year from now, maybe two. But what else can I do but accept it? I’m just grateful that a variety of events and people in my life together have all coalesced to leave me with a positive outlook.

life-j with Jane

I want to again recognize the joy of being with Jane these last 10 years or whatever it’s been. Like everything else in my life, it has not been perfect. I haven’t, she hasn’t, it hasn’t. But it doesn’t need to be. Other than when we’ve just had an argument, anytime I look at her I jump with joy. I feel loved. Feel is probably the key word here. I may have been loved before, but not known it, not been able to fully experience it, feel it, trust it, believe it. Now I have, here I can.

We don’t know where it is all going. Maybe I’ll be gone in a year. Maybe something unexpected will let me recover, and live to be 90. Maybe Jane will die a few years before me. This would be awful for me. To be the one left behind. And I realize that Jane is facing such a scenario. But at least she has a daughter, a grandson, and siblings close by. She has finally begun establishing herself as part of the community here and making friends. And at least I can leave her a place where she has a good shot at living comfortably for a good while.

My daughter Melina has been another blessing in my life. Funny that things should happen such that I got to be a dad at 45. It has been a real gift to be able to do things with her which my own parents were always too busy to do, but which at least my uncle Hejse did with me quite a bit. I’m grateful for the things he taught me.

life-j and Melina

In turn, it was beautiful to take Melina for a walk when she was just maybe 2-1/2, up to Strawberry Creek, sit and play by the water which U.C. campus authorities warned could be unhealthy. We’d sit there, and occasionally a sun ray would find its way down through the redwoods or eucalyptus, and a water nymph would alight, and we’d look at it as if we never really had looked at it before, which in a very real sense I guess we hadn’t. It’s really a special experience to get to do all kinds of firsts with a child. We spent many days by that creek.

Now let me just wrap up with the following story. It’s all about continuity, and in a sense about closure. Doing things like this which feel like they have significance is part of what makes my life feel full, and having my life feel full is what it takes to be able to turn it over in good spirits when it is time to do so.

When I went back to Denmark in around 2012 to visit my mother, and my daughter came up from Italy, she and I went back to the creek of my childhood. Melina had just turned 16, and she is a well thought out sort of person, but still, I don’t know how much she understood of it. We did go there once when she was about three, but of course, she could not remember.

Myself, I was somewhat disoriented there and got lost a few times. Not seriously. After all, there’s no place these woods are more than a half mile across, or maybe a mile, but even though the underlying landscape is the same, things have changed a lot in the 50 years since I played here. Trees that were now large had been saplings then. A shooting range had long since been closed, no one ever came here anymore. The paths were gone, the rutted, muddy roads were gone — only thing left was the creek. It didn’t flow quite as well as when we were kids, and I no longer dared to drink from it like we did when I was 10, but somehow I needed to pass my creek on to Melina. Make it home to her like it had been to me. I know that could never really happen, but maybe I could just somehow give her the creek anyway, make it hers like it had been mine.

The creek

I thought of a ritual that would do it. I couldn’t start giving her a speech or something else weird, but what I ended up doing was to bow down and cup my hands, and ask her to cup hers. Then I scooped up a handful of water and poured it into hers. Now it’s her creek too. I think she understood, or else she was just too graceful to say she didn’t. Or maybe all she understood was that here was something really important to me.

We don’t see each other often, nowhere often enough, but I try to somehow make the time we spend together real, even if it gets to be intense sometimes. We both felt a little awkward, but not too much. Then we took pictures of the place all around and walked back out to civilization. Got lost a few times on our way out. Not seriously. After all, these woods which seemed endless to me when I was a child, and where I got lost many times until I got to know them from one end to the other, are only small. The town was small, not even a village. My grandparent’s place is gone, burned down, replaced by some contractor’s dream monstrosity. I’m gone, long gone. Continuity is a hard thing to create these days, I did my best, I hope it works, and Melina gets to walk with my creek in her heart.


About the Author:  life-j

life-j got sober in Oakland in 1988. He moved to a Northern California coastal mountain village in 2002 and helped wake up the sleepy AA fellowship there. He’s been involved in service work of every kind all along, but now thinks the most important work is to help atheists and agnostics feel safe and welcome in AA. Events in the fellowship conspired to make him become way more radicalized than he ever wanted to be, and he finds it difficult to settle back down to focus on his own program again, for better or for worse. He’s spent parts of his life as a building contractor, part as a technical translator, and has dabbled a bit in artwork and writing. life-j is now semi-retired on a five-acre homestead together with his sweetie, and his dogs, chickens, and gardens.

Origanal Photography by life j.

 Audio Story

The audio version of this story was recorded by Len R. from Jasper, Georiga. Len is interested in starting a secular AA meeting in his area. If you would like to join him, please send an email to lenr.secularsobriety@gmail.com

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  1. Ash J. July 17, 2017 at 10:36 am - Reply

    life-j,

    Thank you so much for this touching story. It seems you have come to terms with death. Death is a very tough subject for me. Realizing I will one day no longer be here scares the shit out of me. Is this an issue of ego? How does one come to terms with death? Death is a tough thing to accept. Sometimes I feel as though I act in the risky ways I do at times to possibly hurry along the process, so not to have to continue fretting about death. Fear of death, coupled with existential angst, is not a very fun place to be. I wish I could learn to be content with myself and where I am. At what age were you diagnosed? Was it caused by drinking? Thanks for inspiring me.

    Warm Regards,

    Ash J.

  2. John H July 5, 2017 at 2:09 pm - Reply

    Well life…

    Its too damn short but has been said over and over here you have made the most of yours which is probably both the best testament and legacy to leave those close to you. We chatted briefly in Austin and your inner resource shines in person as well as on the page.

    I had a close call of my own last September and somehow got up out of a hospital bed and (in my case and at least for now) walked away from it but I felt close to the end there and strangely at peace as well. I would never use the word “spiritual” to describe any state of being but it sure felt good not to be afraid.  I think many of us in this program get lucky at the end that way. I’ve seen it a number of times now and its yet another way that this thing really “works” in practical terms.

    I wish you the best on the best of your journey!

    Warm Regards,

    John

  3. Diana R July 4, 2017 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    life-j,

    Thank-you for sharing this story with us. I felt so peaceful when reading it and appreciated the themes of connection with others, personal growth, kindness, pride in your work and finding meaning in our time here. There is so much richness in this story and I am grateful you shared it with us.

     

  4. Galen T. July 3, 2017 at 1:25 pm - Reply

    life-j-

    What a beautiful story and reflection, filled with so much simple but not so easily achieved wisdom.  Reading it makes me feel grateful and peaceful.

    Galen

     

     

     

  5. John R July 3, 2017 at 10:01 am - Reply

    Thank you, life-j, for your piece (and peace).  We at the Freethinkers Living Sober group in Cottonwood, AZ had two of our members die last month within 30 days of each other.  Both of them were excellent examples of dying well.  Jim H, one of our founders, was only 4 years sober, but 85 years old.  His constant efforts on the behalf of others, and his openness to learning and growing were an inspiration.  Darold S, another of our members, was a committed atheist and 37 years sober.  He was also always concerned not just with other sober members, but with the community at large.  Both these men died in their sleep after showing us how to face the end-of-life (and life itself) with dignity and grace.

    Your writing reminds me of both of these men, and others i have known in the program who taught both how to live and how to die.  Thank you.

    john

     

  6. Kathleen C July 3, 2017 at 9:19 am - Reply

    Feeling a little choked up, no make that a LOT. So clearly I deserve a good cry today. I am so glad Agnostic AA has found me and life-j, thank you from the bottom of my ? for your sharing this. I know it inspires me to be authentic in my life and to “live life every golden minute” (credit: Oprah ?)

  7. Steve K July 3, 2017 at 1:10 am - Reply

    A very thoughtful, intimate and moving article life-j. You have an admirable and philosophical attitude to your life and a life which does sound very meaningful and rich with purpose. You communicate very effectively what’s really important in life – loving relationships, meaning and purpose, and a sense of wellbeing and contentment if we are lucky enough. Thank you for sharing this and I wish you continued peace and contentment for the rest of your life, however long that turns out to be.

  8. Doris A July 2, 2017 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    I have read this now four times and have been moved each time. I am so sad about your health, but am grateful you are a friend to the website, and to me. I am thrilled I got to meet you in November after having read so many things you have written on AAAgnositce, et.al.

    Your piece made me think about Christphor Hitchens as well, his memoir before death is a book I own.  Your attidute toward you small piece of earth you live on makes me think of Wendall Barry, a write and poet who talks about his relationship and stewardship to the land he has lived on and farmed.

    I will stay in touch.  Your friend Doris

    • life-j July 2, 2017 at 10:22 pm Reply

      Doris, and thanks for all your dedicated work on this site, and hanging in with me on getting this up and ready for posting. I think I was a bit more difficult than usual, but it was more personal than some of the things I write. And so thanks to everyone else who worked on it, too.

      Now we’ll see if I make it to, and until Toronto next year, but I’ll keep on writing as long as I can.

  9. steve b July 2, 2017 at 3:32 pm - Reply

    Life-j, I hold your AA essays and comments in the highest regard. I’m sorry that you’re sick, but glad that you’re enjoying life. By the way, what does “life-j” mean?

    • life-j July 2, 2017 at 7:08 pm Reply

      Steve, thanks…

      means life jensen which is my name so first i used lifej in my email address, then i wanted to use that when I went on stepchat many years ago, and i botched the signup, so needed something i could still recognize for my second try, so i put a dash in there. and though I do writing of a sorts for a living, in my private life i resist using caps, just because i type using the hunt and peck system. you’d be amazed how difficult it was for instance to get the grapevine to not write Life J, but by now it’s more just an ornery principle on my part to insist on doing it as life-j.

      • steve b July 2, 2017 at 7:42 pm Reply

        Is your name a variant of the Scandinavian Leif, as in Leif Erikson?

         

        • life-j July 2, 2017 at 7:51 pm Reply

          yes but dont get me started on that. I’ve been in this country 40 years and one of the benefits of dying is that people will no longer ask me about it.

  10. Jerry F. July 2, 2017 at 2:47 pm - Reply

    Thank you life-j.

    I well remember our conversation in the hotel lobby in Austin.

    Christopher Hitchens wrote his last book, Mortality, after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. There is so much of him in your story and so much of you in his story. I hope you read it if you have not already done so. It is the only gift I can think of to give you in return for all you have done for secular AA.

    • life-j July 2, 2017 at 10:17 pm Reply

      Jerry, thanks. I just ordered it

  11. Lance B. July 2, 2017 at 2:25 pm - Reply

    Like several  others, I am overwhelmed with the story you told in such exquisite detail.  I appreciated our time together in Austin and also meeting you in Olympia.  I hope to see you again in Toronto next year.  The picture you shared with your companion was just perfect for me–just the way I remember you.

    And I appreciated “keep it simple” without the assumption that it means I should just stop debating chicken and egg and assume god did it.

    Thank  you, Life.  Your friend, Lance

  12. Mike July 2, 2017 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing your story. Not to sound like an AA robot (and if you knew me you would know I am not) but the thing that sticks out to me most is when you talked about gratitude for your life events and the people you’ve met that give you a positive outlook. This to me is the key to recovery from this “dis-ease”. The dis-ease we had with life. When you find this you begin a journey of recovery. It does not matter if you are an atheist, agnostic or a believer. When you unlock this you unlock the chains that have bound you to misery, shame and remorse.

    When I read your story  I am reminded of the movie Life Is Beautiful.  Even through what may seem like the scariest times of your life you are able to keep a positive outlook. That is something to cherish my friend, and I hope I can achieve the same as you one day.

     

    Mike

  13. Kit G July 2, 2017 at 12:38 pm - Reply

    So much to ponder. Thank you.

     
     

  14. Dan L July 2, 2017 at 12:19 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much Life-j for that beautiful and moving telling of your story.  I have always enjoyed reading the thoughts you shared in this venue.  I greatly admire your serenity and insight which always seems to be delivered with such kindness.  It is my belief that a large part of sobriety is unconscious imitation (ore even conscious!) of the sober people we meet and admire.  You are one of those people.  Thank you.

     

  15. Eric Hanneman July 2, 2017 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    Thank you. Your story has calmed me and helped me accept, and affirm, that my path, and life as I choose to live it, is valid.

  16. life-j July 2, 2017 at 10:48 am - Reply

    Thank you all

    Yesterday the crows were making a racket, and I went out to see what was going on. When they’re going on like that it always means something.

    Reminded me of an incident a few years ago. My neighbor had a tenant who wasn’t paying rent, and they had a hell of a time getting her out. not only that, but she had been feeding the crows, and every morning hundreds would decend on her place to get fed. Well, when they finally got her out of there, the hundreds of crows decended on my chicken yard to eat the feed I threw out for my ten or so hens. I had no choice other than to start shooting at them, and throw the dead ones up on top of the chicken house so they could tell I meant business. They left, but they have been pissed off at me ever since.

    Yesterday what I found was a very young crow lying on my driveway, and my dogs standing there looking at it, so I picked it up, and carried it up in the yard, and started to figure out what was wrong. It had somehow gotten one of its talons tangled up in its wing, they were really stuck, I couldn’t even imagine how it had happened, how it was even possible, but  I freed them, and after a couple of minutes it was able to fly off.

    So I got to make amends to the crows too.

    • John S July 2, 2017 at 10:58 am Reply

      That is a gem.

  17. Roger C July 2, 2017 at 10:44 am - Reply

    I don’t know what to say, life, except thank you. A lot of things said in your article that are worth reflecting upon. Inspirational.

    Encore une fois: merci !

  18. Pat N. July 2, 2017 at 10:14 am - Reply

    I give up. I just can’t find how to say what your essay has stirred in me. I know that I’m going to copy it out and share it widely. Thank you for sharing this planet, for however long either of us has. And thanks to Jane for enriching your life, and to you for enriching hers and ours.

  19. Thomas B. July 2, 2017 at 9:45 am - Reply

    Just simply and beautifully lovely, life-j. Thank you !~!~!

    It is especially meaningful to me since last week I had the opportunity and privilege to visit with you last Wednesday as I was traveling north on US 101 to Oregon, where I am this morning about to get ready to visit again, perhaps for the last time, the the Beyond Belief Secular AA meeting in Portland, where Jill and I lived for several years, and to see many dear friends there, with whom we have travelled the path of secular recovery in AA.

    Though our time together, life-j, was short, it was most golden, when I visited you in the “paradise on earth” you continue to manifest for yourself and Jane. I told you then how grateful I am for your power of positive example in how you are facing your impending death. I thank you again for being a companion in our secular AA movement and also for being a stellar exemplar of how to face your death with grace, dignity and gratitude for all the gifts in life you have experienced.

    Like you, I am most content with my present life, having accomplished many of the goals I had as a younger man. I am ready and willing to face the final challenge of releasing this “mortal coil,” since I also have been “overpaid,” graced with a bountifully gifted long life in recovery through AA a day at a time.

  20. John S July 2, 2017 at 8:41 am - Reply

    I don’t have words. I’m just so moved by this. When I was posting the article and adding the photos, I was thinking about what is important to me and it’s the people who I love and my bucket list is to also just to leave the world a little better off in my own little way.

    Thank you life-j for taking the time to write this and for sharing this with us. When I need to relearn the importance of just being here, I would be wise to return to this story.

  21. Iain July 2, 2017 at 8:31 am - Reply

    Your writing is beautiful. I just feel overwhelmed reading what you wrote and just wanted to say hi

  22. boyd p. July 2, 2017 at 8:14 am - Reply

    With  a child’s senses,  appreciating the gifts of the natural world for the first time is good direction.  What could be more exciting?  ORCYPAA is in Wolf Creek Park, in Southwest Oregon for the weekend.  After meditating with a group, I put a folding chair in the creek, cooled my toes in the water, began counting the different critters I could discover and eventually a gorgeous moth flit by.    It surveyed the area, then landed on my shoulder and proceeded to explore, tickling my neck as it made trails up and down.  Sobriety has gifted me the fulness of that experience. Thanks for your share Life-j.  What’s happening today?

  23. Joe C July 2, 2017 at 8:13 am - Reply

    That picture with you and Jane is similar to my memory of life-j etched in mind, from when you and I met for the first time in Austin TX. Unabashedly joyful, I would call it, that seems to me to be a good example of how to live our lives. As I think anyone might glean from your essay, in a fellowship of many, you are a good example of life lived well.

    I didn’t want to be unabashedly joyful when I was young–it seemed vulnerable, unsafe. I wanted to be cool, reserved, not giving a fuck. I don’t know when I abandoned that MO but I don’t miss it. Looking cool and looking bored have too much in common, don’t they? Today, I don’t dismiss the value of observing but I want to be engaged in my life. Life-j, I would say, is a sound power of example for me in this aspect of living life well.

    Facing death and right-sizing it is the elephant-in-the-room of living well. Not to get too morbid, other examples come to mind of those whose life of living life well, includes faced death with dignity and on their own terms. Life-j expresses this peaceful quality to me, also.

    My mother was just such an example to me. She had a fatal illness that she succumbed to in 2015. She outlived her four-year life expectancy set in 2009 and as your friend expressed, life-j, she felt “over-paid” in life. She finished a book and approved the final edit about 36 hours before she died. Her house was a mess, her taxes were undone for the last several years. Choices had to be made and she made them. Her priorities became clear and she worked towards them. We all wanted her to hold her last book, which she never got to do. If fact, I can imagine she would have hugged that book. But it was enough for her that others would get to hold it; it was for us, not her. She pushed herself; she died at her desk awaiting a friend who was taking her to a doctor’s appointment that I would wager she had already put off, once at least. Who knows, maybe she could have lived her life longer, but it was her life and she lived life and faced death both on her terms. She wasn’t foolish but neither was she cautious.

    She right-sized death and life and how courageous is that? What a gift and what a lesson it is, those in our lives who can be an example of this type of maturity. You made me nostalgic today, life-j and I thank you for sharing. It means so much.

    A friend always, Joe C.

     

  24. Andy McIntosh July 2, 2017 at 7:08 am - Reply

    Hi Life-j,

    Thank you for sharing!

    What a beautifully story, you are very fortunate to have found peace in your life, through your story I am forced this morning to examine why I still fear so much.

    As I grow older I hear this truth about coming to good terms with oneself upon being told that death is imminent. Even though I get older and know I will die at some point probably sooner than later I still take my life for granted!

     

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