Is it anxiety? Perhaps it is. Those moments never really went away. I still lie in bed and, somewhat automatically, my thoughts go to death, to dying.
You could say it's because these are extraordinary times we're living in. Suddenly doing what you used to do could mean dying a debilitating death. A fair amount has been said about how being stuck in one place, how hearing all this news about the coronavirus, is amping up your anxiety, or triggering it for the first time. I haven't really read up on it. I can't be bothered, for one, and also, I'm not really going to learn anything new. Not that I ascribed these thoughts to the pandemic. I've had them before. I've had them in batches before. This just happens to be a pretty big batch.
Is it because I've been away from home? Some times I have certainly stayed awake pondering about what will happen when one of my parents suddenly die, if it happened in the height of movement restrictions, if all that meant I can't even say a proper goodbye, because I'm here, and they're there.
More often, though, I end up pondering my own death. Whether I choose to do so or otherwise... well, it doesn't make a difference, does it? When the moment arrives, that's it. Nothing. In an instant, no awareness, no chance to process, nothing.
When I was a kid, I always thought that after we die, we somehow have visions of us going to heaven - optimistic, very optimistic - and being greeted by the ones who have gone ahead of us. That delusion was bound to rip apart as I grew older. Now I end up thinking about how I wasn't aware of anything before I was born - of course, because this combination of atoms had yet to be conceived - and how, when this body ceases to function and begins to change its form in one way or another, I will not be aware of anything either, because this combination of atoms is giving way to a different one altogether, broken down by high temperatures or by bacteria.
I'm afraid of nothing. I mean, I'm afraid of "nothing". I'm not sure how I can articulate this without sounding pathetic, but then, deep-seated fears will make you look pathetic anyway, so: I'm afraid of not knowing. I'm afraid of not knowing what's going on. I'm afraid of not knowing what people think of me. I'm afraid of not being able to do anything about it. Does all that make me look pathetic enough? It's a fear that's complex and difficult to explain and possibly irrational, especially if you're one of those people who believe in embracing the unknown because "that's how you live your life to the fullest" or something. But there you go. That's where my head always ends up in whenever I sleep at night. They still come even if I have the radio on, even if I've been sleeping in the sofa in recent days, as Shalla works away. It's a fear so irrational it single-handedly overrides my occasional desperation to end it all.
You'll say that I should not dwell on these, that I should just let things be. Besides, if I'm so anxious about what people will say about me when I die, I might as well make sure they have good things to say. You know that fantasy of being at your own wake and hearing what they do have to say? For me, it's perhaps the one chance I'll have of truly knowing when I'm appreciated or merely tolerated. But, instead, when the sun is up and I'm busy with work or preoccupied with something else, I do not have these thoughts.
But then, you swipe your phone's screen mindlessly. It's not the deaths of people you don't know that you notice - although I have been watching a lot of Regis Philbin clips the past couple of days - but of those people you do know, or had known, or at the very least is close to someone you had known. Someone I worked with died of a heart attack a few months ago. Someone my girlfriend worked with suddenly died a few days ago. The father of one of my elementary school classmates passed yesterday. Just today, a musician who I wouldn't have known about otherwise if not for a couple of write-ups on my old music blog and a handful of conversations on Twitter, about K-pop and writing, about politics and rediscovering your dreams.
I checked. It's been roughly eleven months since she announced she was diagnosed with cancer. It's the sort of thing that prepares you for the inevitable, even if many of us root for a different outcome: an all-clear, a bunch more songs in the cloud, the wider recognition I genuinely believe she deserves.
Me? My fear of "nothing" could be because I have no way to prepare for it. I can be a stickler for preparation, for knowing what's ahead and having the proper response. But not everybody gets to wake up knowing it's their last day in the world. Most of us just don't know. You just don't know. And here come those thoughts again.