I got up at 6 am in the morning as usual. I made a milky Turkish coffee and went to my garden. The tomatoes were listening to chirpy birds signing on a tree. My honeysuckle’s leaves were reaching to the ground as if asking me to water them. I took a sip of the delicious liquid with joy, then I watered the garden. It was chilly, so I put on my jacket. I have been enjoying summer mornings, when the chill touches my skin and gives it goosebumps. I watched the birds, spiders who were constantly making new webs all around, bumble bees visiting all my flowers, and regular visitors of butterflies enjoying wet flower blooms.
I got up, grabbed my camera bag and left the house. I started by walking towards the river. A few cars pass by me. I was looking at old tress, the colorful bright greens while I walked slowly. I had a lot of thoughts on my mind.
It did not matter where I was heading. Whatever the street I was fancying I walked there. No particular destination, sort of wanderer style. I took photos of flowers, houses, and the sun array playing on the ground. I was enjoying my pleasure of daily walking, thinking should I ride my bicycle today too. I arrived at Spring Water Corridor trial: runners, bicyclists, people who are walking with their dogs on leash passed me one after another. It seemed like I was the only one, who did not hurry to go anywhere. As if I was the only one did not care about the time. What is time anyway? In my opinion the concept was very subjective. I remembered Joe, who kept calling me “hey kid”. The funny thing is, I am 46 years old woman, but according to him, I am just a kid. Joe is 87 years old man, who still makes travel plans and keeps flying to Hawaii. Let me remind you, between Portland and Hawaii is a 6 hours flight. He is the man who refuse to be couch potato. I confess I admire him. I think every house needs one Joe, to remind us what energy we should have about life.
When I first met him, he was sad. He had lost his wife recently and told me about it. I was a bit surprised by him to telling me about his personal feelings when we were having coffee together. Normally people do not share their personal life with their business colleagues. Joe was my client. Yes, he was 87 and still working. He was holding to life with his job. Because of my job, I meet and work with a lot of people. I never take a job that I did not like. I always told myself “life is short don’t bother with it”. My concepts of being close and far have been completely destroyed. While I was not talking to my neighbor next to me, for years, I kept in touch with people via telephone, email. Some people whom I never met face to people helped me when I needed most.
When Joe said ‘I lost my wife 3 months ago’, to give him support I told him:
“In time, you get used to death. It just takes time. The sadness will be there, but you will learn to cope with that.”
He did not say anything, he was holding the coffee cup with his long wrinkly fingers.
I lost Steve 15 years ago, I know how much it hurts to lose spouse.
His head was down. Silence.
” How long your were married?”
When he replied 46 years, I realized, I put my foot in my mouth, “you get used to.”
They have been married 46 years! As old as my age, and am I the one, will tell him, I missed that barn by a mile.
Somehow Joe, spoke again and brought the subject to the work. I was impressed with his passion towards his work. However time to time I wondered why a person would want still want to work at the age of 87?
I figured out he was afraid of dying; therefore, he worked. While he was working, he was not alone. It made me think about loneliness. He was witnessing his friends, after they retired, they were dying. He was holding on to his job as far at it goes, even though his body was no longer young.
He visited me every Sunday as long as he was in town. Even though I made his website, got paid, it did not occur to me I would be close friend to him. He told about all about his Hawaii days, his travels, I told him about my childhood Izmir stories. He was keen on technology. I showed him how to use his iPhone and iPad. I shared my books with him. Bukowski, Edward Abbey, Bill Bryson. I was surprised that he never heard of Bukowski. I thought all hippie Americans read these books. I was wrong. Every time he visited me he was leaving something behind. Every single time. Sometimes, a glasses, a hat, a credit card. Not because he forget it. Therefore in his mind there was reason to come back and visit me again next week.
You can buy anything in this country with money except true friendship. People are afraid of loneliness. Aren’t those the two greatest fears: loneliness and death?
When I lived in Izmir, I remember how I felt alone even though I was surround by friends and family all the time. I felt alone even when I was inside a crowd. Then I moved to Portland Oregon, USA, a city I never heard of before, by myself. Then my loneliness changed. I was really alone now. I did not know anybody here. However being alone never scared me, I even had to admit, I liked being alone. I enjoyed walking alone, working alone, traveling. I went many places by myself. I went to Pasific Ocean, deserts, forest with my camera in my hand. Nature gives me joy, not to be afraid of. I loved riding bicycle 10-20 miles to unknown trails, paths.
Somebody asked me lately “doI have any fears?” I had to think about what were my fears.
When I was a little girl I remembered I was afraid of big wing cockroaches. Then I remembered how I killed them with my dad’s slipper, after so many unsuccessful attempts using my own small slipper, led me to use dad’s! It was much difficult kill a cockroach with a small slipper. The more I killed them with scream and cussing more I figured out no longer I was afraid of them.
For a long time, I feared of losing my mom. She had very serious heart condition. She has been hospitalized so many times, she was taking so many pills that I vaguely remember her healthy days. While I was fearful of losing my mom, me husband died from a heart attack. In order to put myself together after this even I moved another continent, just to deal better with my sorrow. I learned even from a tragedy, you can still start a brand new page in your life. When I was living in abroad, I knew I had to face to that inevitable event one day. One day my beautiful mom’s heart did not last any longer. She passed away. The most two terrifying feeling of losing somebody you loved most I had to deal with. What could be worse after this? Was there anything else I had to learn?
There was, three years ago, they found cancer in my body. This year, doctors told me there was no cure for my disease. When I first learn that, I was so angry. Then the first week I had fear.
I sat down and think about my fear. Was I afraid of the death? That is not even a new news. Everyone dies. Then I got it, I was afraid of what will happen to Rob. That was my concern. A week later I realized, he might cry a bit. The he will continue his life after me, just however he lived before I entered his life. So I stopped my worries.
Was I afraid of pain? After my experience of hospital days, cancer clinic days, I can easily say, drug companies a lot to offer to ease your pain. You can use morphine, Oxycodone, Codeine or any other flavor of strong pain killer you prefer if you are cancer patient. Or you can legally consume marijuana in Oregon. Make a muffin with it, turn on Reggae music, enjoy your life. Almost like drunk happiness. So there is no reason to be afraid of the pain. Since there is no reason to afraid of pain and death, mine included, I should enjoy my days I said to myself.
I continued my non-directed wandering, riding a bicycle while listening to music, continuing the work that I love. When I felt negative thoughts are invading my brain, I kept saying myself ” you have a good life. You are doing a job, you like, wherever you like to see, you are visiting , so why complain? ” I shut up the nagging woman in me.
In the afternoon when the weather was just right, not to hot, not to cold to ride around. I got on my bicycle, headed to my favorite trail, by the river I rode 7.5 mile while I was enjoying sunshine on my skin, singing along with Goran Bregović in my ears. You have to be in peace with yourself.
Instead of swimming with fear and worrying, analyze them. It is much easier than you think to overcome your fears.