Everyone Dies.

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Warning: Naughty language ahead.

Monday morning.

I got out of bed and zoomed off to my 8:30 yoga class, where I saw my friend Adrienne.

“We lost a friend last night…” Damn, here we go again.

Death is _____________________.  Any connotation of “fucked up” will do.

Okay, this might not be the time for Mad Libs. When someone close to you dies, the disbelief, followed by an immeasurable amount of pain and maybe the fist-in-the-air gesture combined with the “why, god, why?” plea all show up to the party.

And considering the families, spouses, kids and everything else the recently deceased leaves behind, it’s no wonder I’ve noticed a little confusion about the fact that we all have an expiration date

I know, we’re all sensitive little snowflakes. But it’s true. Spoiler alert—we’re all going to die one day.

Flowers get sent. People gather with casseroles and well wishes for a smooth sail into the afterlife. Hopefully we see something good in the situation, because when the dust finally settles, that’s when the grief kicks in like an obnoxious, uninvited guest who barges into your house, climbs into your bed and orders a pizza. Lord only knows how long they’ll be there.

So I think about my life, and the people and things that have made it what it is…

My first kiss, my first love. The murky bay by our summer house, where so much worth writing about happened. My father in his Air Force Uniform. The missteps, the darkness and the little victories. My grandfather’s powder blue Mustang in the driveway of the house in West L.A.

I was 30 years old when my father died.

He was a lawyer, and on a Friday morning he had a heart attack walking up the steps to the Santa Monica Courthouse. For me, it took a year and a half for it to finally become brutally real.

I went through what you might call a “dark phase.” Nothing made sense, nothing felt the same; it was the loneliest time in my whole life. It may have been worse than what I went through when I was 18, the I-wear-all-black-have-black-hair-listen-to-The-Cure-get-drunk-in-the-morning-crash-the-car-starve-myself-and-act-like-I-might-open-a-vein-at-any-moment phase.

What can I say? It was the 80’s.

I’d love to meet up with that sad soul on the loose and tell her it’s all going to be okay. Also, quit acting so fucking gloomy—it’s a completely self-indulgent waste of time. You’re too young to have an existential crisis. Life will eventually throw enough garbage at you for you to really have something to be upset over, and no amount of cocktails or Marlboro Reds can fix it. Please stop spilling hair dye, there’s black spots over the bathroom rug. Oh, and never throw away those Doc Martens now that they’re broken in. You won’t be sorry.

A theory:

According to the Terror Management Theory, when human beings begin to contemplate one’s mortality and their vulnerability to death, feelings of terror emerge because of the simple fact that humans want to avoid the inevitable death.

It’s happening, friends. Life is now terrorizing us. Pull up to the bumper, baby, Mr. Death might be right behind you. I know it all sounds pretty dismal; you might even be in a panic. Here’s an idea—let’s all blow everything off, meet up and go dance at the cemetery with our long lost friends.

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In the parking lot at my yoga studio, sometimes I see a powder blue Mustang with old 70′s black and yellow California license plates. Of course, I’ve weaved together a whole story in my mind about that car and my grandfather, who I barely remember.

The Bhagavad Gita tells us that you can kill people, but you can never kill a soul. No weapon can cleave it, no fire can burn it, because the soul is immortal.

Thank the gods for yoga—I’d never figure this shit out by myself.

But back when I showed up for my first class, I wasn’t exactly thinking I was there to unravel my karma, take a long look at the hideousness of it and build it back up with every  warrior pose. It was just a Saturday morning in West Hollywood.

I’ve heard stories of spontaneous enlightenment, and I’ve experienced a certain liberation with the same passion I used to have for swigging beer right out of the pitcher and dancing on the tops of bars.

And reincarnation? Hopefully I won’t end up as an unfortunate looking, bottom-dwelling scavenger kind of fish, the kind that never sees daylight in their whole life. I haven’t been much of an angel…

“Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.” ~ Arthur Miller

My husband had a grandmother in Italy who lived to be 102 years old. This is what you might call a “ripe old age.” Or, to put it bluntly, “a fucking nightmare you never asked for.”

102 is kind of pushing it. Did you know The Queen of England will send you a congratulatory messege on your hundreth birthday? Yay, you!  An impersonal form letter will end up in your mailbox on your special day! It’s like being in the Scott Baio Fan Club all over again.

I had my father’s dog tag with me when I got married. And my husband wore his vintage Omega watch from 1953. At my wedding everyone kept telling me my parents were there, but the bittersweet truth is they’re both gone now; no father to give me away, and no mother to gush over me and my dress or to tell me I’m wearing too much black eyeliner and Annie, did you really have to paint your nails black, too?

It’s been almost two years since my mother died, and I can still hear her voice.

If you’re reading this, you’re alive—let’s act like it and boogie down. Be good to yourself in this life. Don’t call yourself fat, ugly or stupid.

Negative thoughts go way further than anything else, by the way. This is a scientific fact. And if you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, go ahead and eat some chocolate cake for breakfast, call in sick to work and go to the beach. Trust me, it’ll feel awesome.

Get good at being a nicer to people, and don’t walk around being a shithead. William Shakespeare wrote, “Lillies that fester smell far worse than weeds.”

Think about that, bitches.

Be sweet. Do good stuff. Everyone deserves a little dignity, so stop judging the homeless guy asking for money by the freeway off ramp. He’s your brother in this life.

If you have a dog, tell him how much you love him, give him a big hug and lots of love, and take him out today for a long walk. Tell someone you love them, immediately. Stop wasting so much time being angry and rude. Spread some love and support and compassion.

I don’t really want to live to 100. And I really don’t need a card from The Queen, unless it has money in it.

It all doesn’t have to be a huge question mark, really. Remember the ones you’ve loved, the ones you’ve lost and everyone in between. Give ’em a high five, and talk to their boundless soul. We can all live forever.

No earthly being will know, but the great beyond may be underrated anyway… Who knows?  Maybe there is more to life, death and everything in between than a Smiths’ song.

The other day I saw a woman getting into that powder blue Mustang by the studio. I probably scared the shit out of her. “Excuse me, how long have you had that car…?” 

Let’s raise a glass of kombucha tea to life, and to the apparent illusion of death.  One day we’ll all  live on in that eternal slumber—you, me, them, all of us.

I hope the angels will be there to sing me to sleep.

 

 

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Editor: Emily Bartran

Photos: Ronna Holtz (used with permission); Rick Genest.

The Elephant Ecosystem

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Anne Clendening

Anne Clendening was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She is a yoga teacher and author of Bent: How Yoga Saved My Ass, published January, 2018. You can read her darker thoughts on her blog Dirty Blonde Ink. She is currently living in L.A. with her husband and their boxer dog Sabina.

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