I’m not reviewing a book today, or talking about my favorite monster (although the Grim Reaper kind of counts as a monster) or even providing fiction. Today I’m feeling a bit introspective and want to speak to the universe regarding mortality.
I lost an old friend this week, someone I’ve known for 30 years. He’s the second friend I’ve lost in the past year and like the last one to pass, this friend was just slightly younger than I. I share traits with both of my friends: a bit overweight, alcohol consumption, lack of exercise and more happy to be lounging with friends than doing something active with them.
I’m a statistic waiting to happen is what I’ve had driven home by both these deaths. It doesn’t have anything to do with your age if you’re just plowing ahead in your life and damn the consequences of your actions. If you’re living a destructive lifestyle you can exit this mortal coil at 20 as easily as at 90. I’m somewhere in the middle, my 50s. I have lost friends and family before but I think the rapidity of these two men, both so full of life and embracing the pleasures of their existence has hit me a bit harder than I realized. I find myself dwelling on my own mortality.
True, I’m prepared. When my father died a number of years ago I learned from his mistakes and prepared things so that my family would not be left in a lurch should I suddenly die. But, preparing for death, while a good choice, is not the best option for me. I’m far from ready to see what comes next. I’ve had my close calls in my youth and have believed I was on borrowed time since a couple incidents in my 20s that really should have ended in my death but that doesn’t mean that I should embrace my inevitable end. I want to be here for a long time to come. My family might need me and even if they can get along without me, why should I put them through suffering of a loss before the time when they can say, “He had a long life, it was a good time to pass.”
I find myself examining my priorities. There always seems to be something more important than my health getting in my way. What kind of stupid attitude is that? Without health, we have nothing. I know my late friends were warned many times by their doctors and friends about their health and they blithely soldiered on with their devil may care lifestyles and now they are gone.
I don’t want to be ‘too little, too late’ in this department. I think part of being a proper human is to not only enjoy your life but to ensure that your life is sufficiently long and healthy to obtain as much enjoyment as possible. I want to do art, I want to write, I want to sit and watch sunsets with my wife. Hell, I’d be excited to argue the merits of Picard vs Kirk with fellow geeks for many years to come.
Life is a precious thing. There’s no real evidence that we move onward after it ends and I don’t want to miss out on anything before that happens. I think any right thinking person would want to embrace as much of life as they could, for as long as possible. Even if you believe in an afterlife with some divine creator, wouldn’t your creator want you to enjoy his creation for as long as possible? Anything less would be an insult to his work in my opinion.
So, am I going to run out and become some fanatic vegan gym rat now? I don’t think so. Moderation in all things is the perfect option as I’ve always believed. I’ll take better care of myself, I’ll get more exercise (gods knows I need it – it stinks when I run out of wind after doing things that would have barely made me break a sweat 15 years ago) I’ll watch what I eat and drink a bit less. On the flip side, I want to make more time for the things that matter. I want to enjoy the universe that I inhabit. I want to explore the possibilities that are before me in art. I want to pay more attention to those around me. Hell, I want to live, and live well; and I want to do it for many many years to come. I would like to be the strange old man that the government comes to investigate some day wondering how I’ve lived for hundreds of years seemingly immune to age (OK, that probably won’t happen but I can dream).
What’s the point of this rambling missive? Take care of yourself. Enjoy your friends while you have them. Love your family. Appreciate the world around you. No matter how horrible things look, it’s all temporary. Something always changes if you give it time and if you’re taking care of yourself, the amount of time you have to wait it out is longer. Besides, for every bad day, you can always find SOMETHING to distract you until it’s over.
And to quote Baz Luhrmann: don’t forget to wear sunscreen: