Dance Of The Mayflies

Today is the TENTH anniversary of the day I had a stroke. Ever since then, I traditionally give thanks on Boxing Day, that I survived my brain insurrection(s. TWO so far). Lately though, I’ve been thinking more broadly – about mortality, and how tenuous it is. Not just for me, but for humans generally. 

Many people who were healthy during my medical crisis a decade ago have subsequently become ill too, and a few have died. In particular, 2022 was a terrible year for losing friends. A few months ago, I was writing blog eulogies for beloved pals every few weeks, when 3 friends died in quick succession..

Middle age is a strange time of life. We see the earlier generation that raised us leaving, as the first of our own generation go too. I was exposed to this lesson early, when my own mother was the first of her own generation to die, at the shockingly young age of 39.

As my own mortality has become more apparent, I’ve found that the sense of humour required in my job as a cartoonist has been an indispensable survival tool. Laughing at my inevitable decline helps keep it (and myself) in perspective. Also grounding me, is my gratitude for the many family & friends who’ve been by my side throughout this journey & my good fortune for my second chances to be here at all.

I still vividly remember foggily regaining consciousness in a hospital bed 10 years ago. Nightmarishly, I’d incurred almost a quarter of a million dollars of medical debt while unconscious. Additionally, my entire right side was completely paralyzed, including my drawing arm. My health, career & financial security had all vanished in a heartbeat.

It seemed utterly impossible that I’d ever dig myself out of that pit of emotional & financial despair. That harrowing time is always very fresh in my memory, but I especially ponder it on this day each year. With a sadness at what I lost, yes, but joy too, at what I’ve managed to regain.

At 58, I am now almost 20 years older than my young mother ever got to be. In fact, I am hardly middle aged anymore. If ‘young’ is 0-30, ‘middle’ is 31-60, and ‘old’ is 61-END, I must accept that I’m nearing the younger subset of a genuinely OLD demographic. So it goes. We are all mayflies.

“There is no conclusive evidence of life after death, but there is no evidence of any sort against it.
Soon enough you will know, so why fret about it?” 
― Robert A. Heinlein

For an eternity before our lives, we don’t exist.. Briefly, we POP into life as bubbles of mortality to blow on the breeze, and soon vanish. Then, another eternity of not existing afterward. It’s quite a blow to the ego to realise how brief is our moment on stage. I do not know if there is something next. What I do know, is that coping with impermanence & encroaching time is what a human LIFE here on Earth is all about.

We must shoulder our burdens, and patch our wounds, without giving in to self pity, regret, bitterness or recrimination. Dealing with this decrepitude ourselves, and helping others persevere through their own mounting frailties, is one of the main missions of being human, I think. While giving (& getting) some joy along the way!

I am very grateful to all of you who tolerate my meandering ramblings here on my blog (home to my non-stop blather since 2001). Here’s to a happy NEW YEAR to us all, as we dance down the runway to 2023!

30 thoughts on “Dance Of The Mayflies”

  1. Very well said, James. Your “meandering ramblings” help us all, and sometimes without us even realising it.
    My best wishes to you for a Happy New Year and may you continue to surprise and delight us with your observations.

  2. Hey James!!!
    Well put, once again.
    I rate your ramblings as invaluable pick-me-ups.
    Your humility and eloquence give me food for thought.
    Congratulations on this spooky anniversary. What a journey.
    We shall raise a toast to you over here in London!

    Big virtual hugs,
    Phil and Lisa

  3. Nicely put it Jamie!
    Your ramblings always take me to a better place.
    To a healthy and happy 2023 for us all!

    Much love,

  4. Hey James, thanks for the insightful words and recollections. Being even a bit further “down the road ” than you are on life’s track, your thoughts are all the more relevant. I look forward to lots more of your always appreciated posts – keep ’em coming cobber!

  5. Love it Jamie.. as usual. If you don’t gather up these ramblings and put them in book form , I will.(and take credit for it) . Happy new year old chum!

  6. A milestone anniversary, for sure, James!

    Your patient fortitude has been a huge inspiration for me these past ten years. Quite the Aussie Battler!

    Here’s to the next ten years!

    • Yes. A monumental milestone. And you were there with me from the very beginning, and have helped me navigate several hurdles since. I’ll never forget that, Jo. Thank you.

    • I’ve always thought about that stuff, and do so more & more these days. Sadly, no closer to any answers than I ever was, but maybe that is simply the way of it, eh?
      Thanks for reading, George!

  7. Profound & moving Jamie. You should consider writing the book on the 90s history of Bay Area commercial/indie animation – Maverix, Colossal, Wild Brain etc. You’ve got the pix and you were there! The ILM Frankenstein alone would make a great book- maybe that’s a way into it since it was a confluence of a lot of the ‘main characters’?

  8. Dear James, I look forward to reading these each time they appear. Your tenderly written words are uplifting for others and are far-reaching. I’m grateful to share the planet with people like you.
    (I found you because I shared a painting class with Julia in San Francisco several years ago.)
    Thank you for your art and your words,

  9. “I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that man cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
    from Ecclesiastes


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