Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Life in the fast lane

A month or so ago I was out with some friends, enjoying a nice summer night, and I had the distinct notion that the number of nights like this left for me were numbered. That I needed to make the most of that night, and suddenly I didn't want it to end. But it was a 'schoolnight', and the clock was approaching bed time. My friends started to get up, to call it a night, and I very nearly grabbed them to shout "But what if this is my last night out!?" I knew of course that, barring some even crueler twist of fate on the way home, more than likely I would have other nights to look forward to. And honestly, part of my notion was to take advantage of my wife's generosity in staying home to take care of our girl. Even healthy parents need to get out and about once in awhile! But add a fatal illness to the equation, and the reality is you can't keep saying 'there's always next time'.

I've been struggling with the notion of 'last times' since my diagnosis. Would my day of golf with dad last fall be my last? Was skiing last February my last time on the slopes? When will be the last time I'm able to hold my daughter? Of course there are many people in the world who haven't even had their chance at a 'first time' for things they'd love to do. So I'm not complaining. But every day, I have the overwhelming notion that I need to not only appreciate every thing I do as if I might never do it again, but that I need to cram in 30 or 40 years of life into 5. Or 3. Or 2. Whatever time I will be allotted in life. I feel enormous pressure that I need to do all the things with my wife that we might otherwise spread out over a lifetime together. That I need to learn how to be a great dad in a matter of months, and there is no time for mistakes. There is no time for television or idleness. I can do that later.

Ha. How's that make you feel couch potatoes? Even a person who is completely paralyzed can still watch TV.

While my obsessing over 'last times' is a bit melodramatic, it seems to me a natural reaction, and one that has really spurred me to try and appreciate every minute of every day that I'm alive. To live in the now. I've struggled a great deal throughout my life to truly live in the present. But now I have to live life in the fast lane. To do everything I possibly can while I'm still mobile. While I'm still alive. And let me tell you, trying to count your lucky stars while traveling at the speed of light is enormously challenging, if not flat out impossible. People like to say we should all live every day like it's our last. That sounds good on paper, but it doesn't really translate well in reality. As another PALS pointed out in a book I read recently, if we all lived like that, we'd be hung over every morning and nobody would take out the trash.

The key of course is balance. We need to balance planning for our desired future with stopping to smell the roses. We need to go to school to learn and get a good job, workout to keep in shape, plan for retirement, in addition to the seemingly endless cycle of chores like cleaning house and mowing the lawn. But we also need to balance 'achievement' with 'appreciation'. To enjoy the journey along the way. Every day I endeavor to do so. To learn to live fully in the moment, even if that moment involves difficulty, hard work, or planning for the future. Although even a dying man can't spend every second focused on lapping up the life left on his plate. At least I haven't learned how to yet. Sometimes I just need to unplug and vegetate. Guess I'll have to learn that taking time to unplug is necessary too, no matter how much time I've got left.

My friends, rightly so, needed to get home and get a good night's sleep. They lead busy lives like most of us do. And I hope my ranting here won't cause anyone to feel obligated to spend more time with me, or stay out past their bedtime. That's the last thing I want (the obligation part, not the time spent with me). I just ask for your patience in dealing with my frantic and seemingly random pace of life. Some days I will want to go out and stay out. Party like it's 1999. But sometimes I just won't be able keep up, and I'll need to reign in my ambition, and live within my means. But know this my friends: whether I'm living fast or taking it slow, every second I spend with you is a blessing for me, and in my mind anyway, one for the history books.


Anonymous said...

very well said. seems to me that many people search their entire lives for what you have already found. you affect more people than you think.

Anonymous said...

Scott - you really do affect more people than you probably realize. I have been reading all of your journal entries - and they are really moving. I wish my husband could have an appreciation for life the way you do. I pray for you and your beautiful family.