C’est la vie.

April 2nd, 2008

Tonight, the other four members of my bookclub came to dinner. We used to be six, but one of us, Rose, died in a car accident a few years ago. We could never bring ourselves to bring someone else into the club, so instead, we pass from member to member a huge heavy wood birdhouse that was built and subsequently decorated and embellished and filled with messages to the dead in her honor. Honestly, Rose was eccentric in life, but in death she looms. The birdhouse is so big that it dominates any room it’s in. For the past several months that it’s been in my house (because we’re so laid back we don’t have regular monthly meetings like other clubs), I’ve tripped over it, moved it out of the way of repairmen, tried to push it into an empty corner, all to no avail. The birdhouse is not only a constant reminder of Rose’s absence, but it’s also an uncomfortable reminder of my own mortality. Yes, Rose’s death was wholly unexpected and random and shocking, but aren’t they all? Tonight, we hadn’t read a book to discuss, so after many bottles of wine, amid the debris of lasagne and chocolate cake, I pulled out the spirit edition of Table Topics. One of the questions was, “if you died today would you have any regrets”. Oh yes, I thought, so many, so very many. I haven’t seen Paris, I have an off-key relationship with someone I love, I behaved badly at work when I was much younger, I demanded too much from men who didn’t have enough to give, I’ve been uncomfortable in my own body for too long, I can’t swim, I’m passive aggressive, I’ve never been rescued (don’t we all long for it, and don’t some people actually get it, dammit?), I was not a Good Mother, I need to see the Northern Lights–don’t ask me why, I just do, and so on, blah blah blah, in that same vein of those stupid ‘1,000 things to do/see/visit before you die’ books. I love that we remember Rose with an object that is so tangible, so physical, so damned difficult, but I know it’s for us, not for her. Maybe a better personal memorial would be for me to stop thinking I have all the time in the world or that I have to be constantly WORKING to fill that time with meaningful life events. Straining for one peak experience after another–climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro or studying yoga in India or seeing Kathmandu is not going to vault me into some American Express Platinum Plateau of Spirituality. Seeing Venice might inspire me and just walking around London makes me deliriously happy, but is racking up frequent flyer miles going to prove that my life is a critical success and a box office hit? I can’t go back and be a better employee or a better mother, but if I have the strength and will for it, I can struggle with uncomfortable relationships here and now like Jacob wrestling with an angel. I can go to Paris and love every minute of it, but I can also accept that it won’t “cure” anything or give me an aha epiphany that will Change My Life, because being human is all mixed up with regret and rejoicing. And I’ll probably come away from Paris with a few more regrets to add to my list…like I didn’t go to the Eiffel Tower or I took a nap instead of a tour of the Louvre or I was too afraid to try my French. I think Rose would just shrug and say, “C’est la vie.”

One Response to “C’est la vie.”

  1. ida b. says:

    When I return to Charleston, we’re going to have floating dates at the pool. Not swimming lessons… mermaid floating dates!