I went to the cardiologist the other day, and my numbers all look good. LDL cholesterol is still a wee bit high, but trending in the right direction. I’m exercising, eating right, doing all the things I’m supposed to be doing.
But I had an odd thought. I turn 60 this spring. Ferrett and I have lived in this house for almost 20 years. Going by average lifespans, I can really only bet that I will continue living here going forward for as long as I’ve lived here thus far.
And wow have those years gone fast. I really felt my mortality in that moment; this is all going to be over with in a blink of the eye.
So I’m going to do what it takes to try and extend those 20 years into 30 or 35. But I’m thinking about how best to spend my final stretch. Several things come to mind.
- I’m done with reading “important” books that just make me depressed. I’ve read some amazing books over the years thanks to lists like The Big Read. But I’ve also slogged through books that I felt I should read. And now I wonder if there is any point other than bragging rights. So when The God of Small Things was just making me sad, I thought, “Nope. ” This may mean I read a lot more fluffy romance, or urban fantasy, or fantasy from the pre-everything-is-gritty era. And the world will not crumble.
- I have too much sentimental stuff, and my kids shouldn’t have to deal with it. Without a doubt, when they carry me out of here toes-first my girls will have a ton of junk to dispose of. But right now there is a cedar chest in the basement that contains my mother’s wedding dress (unwearably awful 1050s waltz-length dress that she always regretted her mother talking her into), and albums of birthday cards from when she was a child, and all kinds of other stuff that means almost nothing to me and will mean far less to my girls. They are going to have enough to deal with deciding what to keep from the things I cherish (mostly quilts, I suspect); they shouldn’t have to deal with my parent’s and grandparent’s and great-grandparent’s things–at least not the ones to which I’m not terribly attached. Great Grandma’s tea set and music box definitely stay, but I need to make some of the wrenching decisions, instead of leaving them all to the kids.
- I have too much stuff, and it’s time to get lighten the load. Our stuff really does own us. And I have way too much of it. This is a continual source of tension here–vacant is restful to me and stressful to Ferrett. We both make compromises, and we mostly make it work. But I’m going through my stuff and paring down. I did this a couple years ago, and we are still much better organized. But it’s a constant war against atrophy.
- I’m allowed to walk away from the news for a while. One of the best ways to get depressed these days is to read the news. Even better? Read the comments sections of articles. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, the bile and vitriol is unhealthy, but it’s also a train wreck that’s hard to ignore. I get to turn away. My participation isn’t going to change the dialogue, and my absence for a day or two won’t change the course of history.
- I have to fight against content isolationism. I love my house. I love my sewing room. I love reading and quilting, and can happily stay in the house for days and days. We used to have people over a lot, and we don’t these days. We used to go visit a lot, and that’s slowed down, too. Any one day is fine, but too many of them and some day I will be lonely and sad. So I must remember to fight inertia and get my butt out the door.
- I have so much to be grateful for. I love my husband. I love my job. I love my house. My kids are amazing. My extended family is fabulous. My friends are the best. I’m white and financially secure and have a safety net. That’s a lot to be grateful for. It’s easy to become cynical these days, and fearful as well. Everything can look very dark. But there is light, too. And it’s beautiful.
- I’m going to pay attention. All of us have a limited number of days, evenings, weekends. I’m more aware of that fact now. It’s super easy to lose entire weekends to staring at the TV or a computer monitor. Sometimes that’s fun and intentional–a movie marathon, for example. A lot of times, it’s, once again, inertia. I can choose to watch ten episodes of “Say Yes to the Dress” and another seven of “Tiny House Nation,” but I want to make it a choice. Would I rather be sewing? Reading? Am I content, or just bored? The dog would appreciate a walk; wouldn’t that be better time spent? I’m going to check in on myself.
- Ultimately, I don’t matter. And that’s okay. I will leave very little mark on the world–a few people will remember me fondly while they live; someone might stumble across my journal now and again. But I’m going to be one of the masses of anonymous people who lived their lives and left no mark. I’m comfortable with that. It means I get to choose my level of happy, choose my own adventure, if you will. And I like the adventure I’m on.
All in all, it’s not a bad way to start the final third of my life.