On being in life right here and now
The slim volumes were stacked high off to the side of the table. They caught my eye as I rushed through the hall, a major Colorado snow storm about to cut short the meetings industry show. Along with the typical swag of bespoke pens and small collectibles, there was something about the neatness of the item that caught my attention.
I grabbed two, tossed them into my conference bag and rushed to the parking garage. I barely made it from Denver to Lakewood that March day before snow obliterated the roads completely.
That was almost two years ago. I moved to Eugene, where such storms are highly unlikely. Well, okay, for now they aren’t, just as fires on this side of the Cascades aren’t supposed to happen, yet they wiped out thousands of homes and millions of trees.
What is inevitable is time. That, along with dumb politicians, taxes and the insults that come with our shifting bodies, you and I can take to the bank.
I finally opened some of the boxes that have sat in my new office to get the contents sorted and put away. Out came that slim volume. This time, I could register what it had to say:
Twenty Year Planner
Huh. Hadda let that sink in for a moment.
The calendar lines you out to 2038, which if you’re twenty, or even forty, that may not seem like a big deal. Unless you suffer from gerascophobia which is a different kettle of fish.
I was 66 when I first picked that calendar up. In a few months, I will have already used up two years of the alloted time in that tiny volume.
By the end of it I will be 86.
Eighty-six. Holy cow. In just eighteen years. That kind of time goes by in a heartbeat. I already lived nearly 68. Went by like lightning. Didn’t feel that way at the time. But then, we don’t really notice until we start heading for a deadline. Like, being dead.
You and I, and my hand is up here, squander time as though there’s an unlimited supply of it.
The other day I penned a tongue-in-cheek story, well sort of, about middle age. I have no clue when mine happened. Last I knew I was thirty. Now I am barely two years from seventy.
Like many, I am a dedicated LOTR fan ( Lord of the Rings, for the uninitiated). Gandalf spouts some of my favorite sayings. Among them, he says to the young Frodo…
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Yet even as we are under quarantine, even as we are forced to face our inevitable mortality, we so often choose to divert our attention from life and into anything else but. Anything else other than to learn to be in the moment, moments which slow down for none of us.
I had to cancel a much-anticipated return to Mongolia last August. As it was, I still took some massive chances, selling and moving to a new state, now surrounded this Christmas afternoon with soft rain, rising fog and the patter of drops on my roof. Because if I wanted that dream to come true I had to do it. Just effing DO it. Take the chance, sell the house, get on the road.
Helluva year. I flipped my car at speed on that road, got injured a buncha times, was in and out of the gym and the hospital. The house came together just enough to provide a lovely place to briefly acknowledge Christmas. By noon, I’d already wrapped the few decorations for next year. I am not in the mood to reminisce. I AM in the mood to focus on right here, right now. I am planning a shoulder surgery early next year, because we’re still on lockdown. What better time to do a tune up than when we’re in the garage?
Some time ago I read a comment by someone who said that life wasn’t a dress rehearsal. While I can understand that people have trepidation about new things, strange things, all I know is this, again from Gandalf:
“The world is not in your books and maps. It’s out there.”
How you live your life out loud is very different from my choices, as it should be. I prefer to take raw chances, and if injured, that’s part of the price I pay to live. While I am temporarily sidelined because of the pandemic, that doesn’t prevent a great many things: building out a basement gym, getting back into training and full shape for the next adventure, doing what it takes to prepare for a day when you and I can do what we can’t right now. For me, that’s adventure travel.
For you, who knows? It’s for you to decide.
But here’s the question:
If you got a twenty-year planner, and it got put away until twenty years later, would you be able to point to any one particular Big Hairy Ass Goal that you achieved? Would you be happy that you finally gave yourself that education, that trip, that date with the man/woman you like so much? Or will you dither away that precious time watching Game of Thrones, effectively watching other people live a novel while yours gets lived out on the couch?
I just set up my elliptical so that if I want to watch a series, I’ll be exercising. Here in Eugene, I am minutes from hiking trails, riding stables, ninety minutes from wind-swept, gorgeous beaches. Life awaits in the Cascades, the Puget Sound, the great sequoia forests of Northern California. As I wait for my second vaccine, I'm back in full training mode so that when I do hit a hard, high trail in the mountains that surround Bend, I'll be able to fully enjoy myself in the time that I have left to me.
How quickly so many of us say “I’m too old for this sh*t,” when the years when we were young(er), we didn’t take those chances then either?
The older I get, the more I push. The more I push, the more I can do. The more I can do the more I live. I am two years into that planner. I do not get a do-over. None of us does.
My world is “out there.” I don’t know how soon I can get back out in those parts I am so eager to see, but when it’s time, I’ll be ready.
What will do you do with the time you are given?
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