An Optimists View of Death and Life

The math is simple. It takes a metric ton of everyday magic to equal an ounce of disappointment. And if you are tired of looking for the magic in the everyday it starts to disappear. it turns invisible. If you aren’t careful the equation will flip and you’ll find yourself living in a world of everyday disappointment struggling to see even an ounce of magic.

It’s a well trodden path for men and one I find myself at the precipice of, trying to avoid it. We’ve all seen men who’s faces have twisted into joylessness. Worse, after a time the mask becomes one of distaste, as if a terrible, acrid smell is coming from their own lip, unavoidable and constant. I can see how they get there from here. The reality is that if you choose to view life as linear and finite it’s heading to a destination that is lamentable. Particularly if you avoid the magic. After all the darks greatest virtue is patience.

I’m 41 years old. I’m no longer free to think of old age as something I may be able to avoid. It’s a magical thought of youth. Sure, there are many for whom it’s a more pressing matter, but the truth is that I have an understanding from this vantage point that I didn’t have as a younger man. Things I long for more than anything are gone forever and I’m going to die. I’m going to die. All of this is going to end. None of this is permanent. My time on earth, even if it’s longer than my fair share, even if it’s longer than anyone’s ever, is but a blip. It is not a thing, my conscience, that is inherent. It’s in fact fleeting and ultimately temporal. It’s true for me and for you and whether we think about it or not, we know it. In our bones we know it.

I’m gonna die and the things I didn’t recognize as wonderful in life, that I didn’t wallow in, aren’t coming back. What’s worse, I can no longer go forth in the blissful ignorance of youthful disbelief. We are funny animals that can know a thing and perceive such fault in it that we can convince ourselves that the truth doesn’t pertain to us. There comes a time when we have to process this information.

My greatest fear when confronting this reality is that I will become so angry that I’ll lose the life left in me rather than use it all up for every minute I’m afforded it. I see it in the men that have come before me. Not my father or even my lineage, but in life. It’s an old trope, the idea of the grumpy old man. In many ways its how the world would prefer for us to go, for sure. Anger is quite self reliant and needs little from the world other than reason, and the world can give anyone with anger reason. Far too many men jump on that reason and ride it comfortably to death. It’s a way to go. I’m very happy to discover it isn’t my way to go.

I’m able to hold death at bay by befriending it. It’s taken on a large role in my life since having kids. I’m less concerned by others concerns if I remind myself I’m going to die. I’m going to have to do very hard things and death is going to be a constant in my life from this point forward to be sure. Truth is death is always all around you, always was and always will be. The forces of optimism and pessimism are at war both within me and without me. But once I accept my fate and digest that death is a part of life it’s up to me to recognize which side I’m on. Truth is optimism and joy are the only right answer for me.

I happen to think this is it. If there’s such a thing as heaven I believe I’m a happy resident of it now. This place demands much of me, but it’s given far more than it’s taken. Truth is it will be up to those left to provide the memory of my life with meaning. I’m pretty happy with that arrangement. Besides, I’ve got plenty of time left to still discover who I can become. Freed of the burden of fighting against what’s to come, the curiosity is adding life to these years…

I have no special shield protecting me from getting angry in old age. It’s a face you see on so many men. twisted in thought or distaste. But there is a trick. It’s a practice not an outlook. It’s called gratitude.

I’m so incredibly thankful for all I’ve been afforded. Everything from the air I breathe to the family I was made by to the amazing time of miraculous ingenuity in which I will have spent my life. I’m thankful for the understanding and forgiveness that’s been shown to me. By the love that’s been heaped upon me and received so graciously by those I’ve been so lucky to know. I’m grateful for the confusion and the challenges that have pushed me to understand more than I otherwise would have. I’m even thankful for the tragedies that have taken place, for they have never failed to ignite compassion and love and humanity.

I’m thankful to for my life. For the memories that are mine and mine alone. I’m thankful that we are all given this gift. I’m thankful that know matter how many people come and go during my time here, no matter how many people come and go through all of time, mine will have been the one and only experience that was this one. And I’ve been given a brain and senses that can recreate so many times from my life by simply choosing to close my eyes and conjure. I’m glad that forces beneath and above my control can cause so many wonderful and warm memories of this magical life to sneak up on me and arrest me on the spot and return me to the most blissful times of my life. Times I may not have been able to appreciate as they were occurring are waiting for the right moment, for the moment when I’m ready to appreciate them. I’m thankful for the people and the feelings and the time and joy.

Author: joejmedler

Joe Medler lives in New Jersey with his wife, who is universally understood to be far too good for him, and his two young sons, who are far too smart for him. His work has been featured on MamaLode, The Original Bunker Punks and Sammiches and Psych Meds. You can find more of his work at and follow him on Facebook at

6 thoughts on “An Optimists View of Death and Life”

    1. Thank you so much, Donna. It’s a choice for sure, but a challenge too. Having recently found my people, you and a few others, I’m delighted to say, it feels like a considerably more welcoming world!!


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