Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Of Our Time Left | 2.19.23

Of Our Time Left | 2.19.23

The Sunday Edition
Grave Robbing Headstone, Stirling, Scotland

Couple of days from now it’s my brother-in-law Patrick’s birthday. 3 to be precise, and while you’re probably scratching your head and wondering why you should be bothered to care about this or why I am bringing it up at all, I am going to explain, so pipe down. First, you should care because I care, and because caring is awesome, and because anyone making it to the next birthday is rad. Also because Pat is rad. The other also, the other big reason I am calling this out, is because Pat inspires me in a lot of ways, but one of which, and I am going to risk embarrassing him in divulging, is how he’s responded to tragedy in his life, and how he inspires me to hopefully respond to any that come into my life, with the same grace and strength. Yeah, it’s a little Pat ode today, as his birthday reminded me of his inspiration and the many different ways we human beings can respond to tragedies of any shape or size, in our own lives. Let’s get into it a bit, but anyway, Happy Birthday my brother, I hope it’s a dandy one.

There are truths unalienable and universal across this planet, only a few, that we know without debate will be shared. Chiefly among them, at the top of the list will always be one, miles higher than the rest:

We have all faced tragedy in our lives, and if we’ve not yet, we will.

Man, just hitting you broadside with some altogether sour pills to swallow this year on the Signal Fire, but I promise, it’s for a reason. All of this talk, all these things we’re diving into are not just to bum you out and drag you down, no, they are to show you how capable you are and always have been of building yourself back up. Seeing the truth laid bare is the only way to step into a better plane of existence that has been in us all this time, if only we bothered to pay closer attention.

Tragedy has come before, and tragedy will come again, and it’ll show up in all the times you’re least prepared, in all the ways you don’t plan for at all. It does this, it’s a sneaky tricky asshole of a thing, tragedy. Our fragile mortality means we’re always on the very edge of dying, in fact smart scientists went as far as to calculate the amount of dying you’re dying and came up with a name for the unit: A Micromort. A micromort, essentially, is a unit of risk that equates to a 1 in a 1 million chance of dying. Simply waking up and making your way through a day is worth 24 micromorts, skydiving, oddly, is worth 8. Assuming a 1% mortality rate, getting Covid is worth an additional 10,000 micromorts. Oof. Sorry, I get nerdy and lose track when I talk about science and such, but all this is to basically say, tragedy, especially in the death sense, is looming and hunting us daily. We know this, we always know this, yet we do all we can to force that truth out of our minds as often as possible. Doing this is survival, yes, but it’s also something that leads us to being woefully underprepared when it finally knocks on our doors, when we’re finally forced to answer.

Tragedy did come to Pat, the aforementioned birthday-boy-brother-in-law-extraordinaire and the way he handled it made me realize that in truth, when all is broken down, we’re given two options on how we proceed in the face of it:

It can handcuff us to negativity, and regret, OR, it can remind us of who we should be, and how little time we all truly have left.

Trick is, we get to decide, and no one tells you that. Obviously in the immediate face of it, the aftermath that see us still struggling to find solid ground, no one expects anyone else to choose the latter, not right away. Grief is the most natural and important response to tragedy, and trying to speed through it is a recipe for disaster. Our choice comes later, sometimes weeks, sometimes months, sometimes in the years that follow, but we’re still forced to choose all the same. Like Gandalf said before me, “so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” That’s the rub, the time given to us, measured in memories and mistakes, in micromorts and mundanity, is still ours, though tragedy did its best to convince us otherwise.

From the moment we’re born, we’re on the way out, we and every other we that we know, we’re all slipping back into the brief pause between beginnings every moment we’re alive. Sometimes, others begin again before we’re ready, sometimes, we lose things that cannot be replaced, sometimes we fall down and what we once called bottom turned out to be nowhere close. It’s here, right here, that we’re called to action, and that action is choice. Active, evolving, constant. We must choose to be reminded of who we should be, and how little time there actually is to be it, we must grab hold of those that remain with all we have and show them, every single moment, how valued and cherished they are.

We must choose, over and over again, to pick the lock on the handcuffs tragedy forced around our wrists, toss them aside, and run like hell until we’re sure we lost ‘em, double checking at every street corner until they are left fumbling for someone else. They’ll find them, they always do, and I only wish enough of us chose what we can choose, that they become a harmless ghost that haunts the background noise of our days, our weeks, our years.

For all who have lost, I am sorry, I know what you know, maybe not precisely, but the broad strokes of it, and I am sorry. If you are struggling to choose the brighter path, reach out to someone, to anyone, to me, and ask for help. Turns out, making that choice is a hell of a lot easier when you’re holding someone else’s hand.

Handcuffed to regret,

reminded of our time left:

only we can choose.

Haiku on Life by Tyler Knott Gregson

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Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Tyler Knott Gregson and his weekly "Sunday Edition" of his Signal Fire newsletter. Diving into life, poetry, relationships, sex, human nature, the universe, and all things beautiful.