The Joy of “AHA!”


Spoiler alert: I love “AHA!” moments. I really do. I love them.


I’ve had a long and complicated relationship with death. This is not a non-sequitur; it’s at the heart of tonight’s post. I’ve cursed it – when my grandpa died in 1975. I’ve wept at it – when my father died in 1985. I’ve marveled at it – when my mom died in 2011. And I’ve lusted after it – since I was three years old.

For most of my life, I have seen death as a friend. As a would-be welcome relief. A potential grant of peace. For most of my life, I thought I wanted to die. It was a consummation I believed was devoutly to be wished. In my devotion, I prayed for it. For the surrender to it. For the quiet of it.

So much of my life has been cacophony. In childhood, the noise of an alcoholic father. A mean drunk. Who was also the kindest person in the world in sobriety. Cognitive dissonance. Cacophony.

In adulthood, the clamor came from within. From a brain that never stopped. Thoughts that never ceased. Words that tripped off my tongue fast and furious. Mostly furious. A 24/7 mind that would not let me be – not even in my dreams. Continuous clamor.

No wonder death had me in its thrall. Anything to end the noise. Anything for some quiet. Some stillness. Some peace.

There have been times – many times – when I wanted my life to end. I thought about ending it. Medication took the edge off the wish, most of the time. Once, I made a plan. It was foiled. Maybe I foiled it. I don’t know. I certainly didn’t think so at the time. My team of therapists caught me, grabbed me by the nape of my neck, and refused to let me jump into the arms of the not-so-grim reaper.

A few years later, I sat with my mother in the lead-up to her death. As she took her final breath, so peacefully. There was no pain. No struggle. There was only holiness. I understood the beauty of death in a different way. No longer merely my friend, I felt it was my partner. We were tied together. I had no fear.

Last night, I was thinking again about my absence of angst surrounding dying. I realized how grateful I was to be acquitted of anxiety about the eventual end of my life. When it comes, I’ll be comfortable with it. Here’s my AHA! moment: not fearing death doesn’t mean I have to invite it in. Accepting my mortality is not the same as wanting to die. Feeling like I need to die. Imagining what it would be like to die. It will come in its time. When it’s ready for me. Maybe when I’m ready for it. Maybe before. I can’t say.

What I know now is that the task of quieting my brain, calming the demons, is mine. I didn’t know that – not for a long, long time. It’s a challenge I welcome. Slowly, surely, I’m acquiring skills. Noise-cancelling skills. Virtual Bose® headphones. Peace is within my purview. I can feel it – my new friend. Welcome to the family.

My vision of peace.

About armsakimbobook

I'm a mother, a lawyer, a feminist, a writer, a potter, and an inveterate and unapologetic New Yorker. My book, Arms Akimbo: A Journey of Healing, tells of my journey of healing over a number of years, learning to live a full life after I was molested by my father at a very young age. I live in Maynard, MA, with my wife and and our two moose-cats, Samson and Hercules. My daughter used to live with me part-time, but she's all grown up now and in her junior year of college, which I can't quite fathom, since she was born about five minutes ago...
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2 Responses to The Joy of “AHA!”

  1. writerchick says:

    Wow, you say eloquently and I understand what you mean. That need for quiet and peace I think it true for many if not all writers. I think our brains are wired differently, hard to shut them down because there is such an innate urge to let the thoughts out, spill them onto paper, mold them into stories. But unlike you, death makes me sad – probably because it always comes so unexpectedly. Oddly though, it is a part of life.

    BTW, love your dog’s name. Too cute.



    • Thanks so much, Annie. Hmmm…I hadn’t really thought about the writer aspect of my brain. Then again, I’ve never really fully convinced myself that I’m a writer. About death – it makes me unutterably sad. I miss my mom with a ferocity I can’t adequately describe. I’m just not scared of dying. As you say, it’s a part of life.

      My dog’s cuteness matches her name, btw. I’ll post pictures soon.


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