I’m tired, squashing my nice dress under my butt, and there’s a masquerade ball tomorrow.
A beautiful mask from New Orleans lies atop my dresser. But I don’t feel like wearing it. Today or tomorrow or the day after.
I’d like to be like Michael. Open and free and loving, as I found him once again in his movie tonight. Such love that filled that man’s heart. It’s almost not a wonder that he’s gone, because it looks as if he was ready.
I’ve always believed deep down that people die because they’re ready, whether they know it or not. Some question why bad things happen to good people and vice versa, and I think it’s because they’ve learned all there is to learn or they’ve done what they were meant to do here, and they just don’t know it. Neither do we. And that’s why life seems tragic — only because we get a glimpse of it and spend the rest of our lives wondering about the rest.
Maybe that’s why religious people — the real religious people who feel it in their hearts, not the ones who hide behind it — are so at peace. Because they’ve come to realize that whether we know it or not, we’ll come to that fork in the road one day that will be our destiny, and we’ll probably pass right by it and not even notice because we weren’t meant to notice.
The ones who’ve achieved what was meant to be will be rewarded with a sign — an invisible sign at the fork, a thick black arrow on the bright metal, pointing toward Death. And so it makes sense when you walk down the road past the fork and trip over a pebble and die. We only find it tragic because we didn’t see the sign. So we focus on the pebble instead, the seeming impossibility that one tiny pebble would end such an immensely wonderful life, and then we cling to our own lives, shouting Carpe Diem and other inspiring statements in anticipation of Death happening unexpectedly to us too and in the hope that squeezing every last drop out of life will almost make Death worth it.
In truth, I don’t think squeezing every drop out of life will make life itself worth it. If you had one last day to live, I don’t think you’d want to go see the world, see all your friends and eat all of your favorite foods. By the end, you’d be so tired, you’d be looking forward to Death galloping down the street like a charming suitor ready to release you from your misery.
But I do think that you should live life in balance. Take it easily, do what you feel when you feel it (responsibly, though). Eat your favorite foods (but not all the time), exercise (a little), hang out with friends (without wearing yourself thin) and spend some quality time in quiet contemplation (don’t be a hermit, however).
People say “listen to your heart.” But what they’re missing is that most people aren’t psychic and can’t hear what their heart says. (Besides, heart is so deeply lost in walls of tissue — and whatever else scientists have discovered separates organs from skin — that even if it whispered some magic desire to you, you’d miss it.) The way the heart works is different. It’s not outright; it never tells you a full sentence. In fact, it begins saying one thing, then finishes another. It only slings hints at you, hoping they’ll catch somewhere and you’ll grab onto the rope and follow. But many times, it misses. You grab onto the rope anyway, but if it hasn’t caught anywhere, you fall. And fall again. Or slide backward. Or worst of all, you begin to hang, slowly sliding down this time, edging closer and closer to the end. (Imagine the anxiety.)
I don’t remember my point anymore at the start of my rant on the heart. But I’m going to follow the trail my own heart just left me and say that I do believe that if you work with what you have, dole out the work evenly between the players of your own field (a little guessing with the heart, a little thinking with the mind, a little feeling on intuition), you’ll be OK. You’ll know what to do, slowly. You may not know what you’re doing as you’re doing it, but it’ll all make sense later when you look back — in this life or later.
I’m sure Michael can see us now, feel the love we have in our hearts for him. I’m sure he understands why he died at 51. Why he lived the life he did. What incredible inspiration he’s given so many of us.
I’m sure he smiled as I sat at the movie theater tonight, quietly bawling in my seat, and watched him perform one last time — watched him coming closer and closer to the inevitable, himself hinting at it so many times without realizing. “God bless you,” he must have said to me (like he often said to all who helped him put together his final This Is It tour), wanting to dry my tears.
I wished I could reach out then too and touch him. But then I thought about all those times he had beat me to it over the years, and then I wasn’t crying anymore. Touch is a two-way street, and it changes you. That’s one thing we know for sure in this lifetime, and since we have no luxury of further explanations, some certainties like this one fill in the gaps, nourish our wonder with hope, and give us courage to wait long enough until we meet again.