Friday, August 24, 2018

Life is Temporary

Life, it turns out, is a very temporary thing.

I received an e-mail from a neighbor. She went out in the yard to check on her husband, and found him laying dead on the lawn, behind the lawnmower - an apparent heart attack.  He was about 18 months away from retirement from the utility company.  He had it down to months, days, hours, and minutes, if you asked him.

This is yet another reminder to us as to why we retired early and why we are in Alaska right now, even if it is pissing rain from the fringes of that Hawaiian hurricane.  You have to do it now - because there likely won't be a later.  And living on "retirement island" we see a lot of our friends leave feet first, or like our neighbor, were 18 months shy of arriving.

In the Netflix comedy "Grace and Frankie" there is a line in the first episode that is priceless.  The two husbands announce they want a divorce, so they can pursue their gay relationship.  "we are ready to start the next chapter of our lives!" one says.  Grace replies, "You're 70 years old, the next chapter is awfully damn short!"

And that is the key - once you round the corner on 60, the "next chapter" is awfully short.  And I explained before how time is non-linear.  As you age, each year is a smaller and smaller percentage of your life.  When you are ten years old, a year seems like an eternity, as it represents 10% of your life, perhaps 20% of your conscious existence.  By age 50, it is 2% of your life and shrinking each year.  The years do fly by faster and faster - you are not imagining this.

Another neighbor, also in their 60's, has decided to divorce her husband.  This is so sad to me, as they both seem like nice people, and I am not sure what she hopes to find in this "next" (and last) chapter in her life.   Sadly, she is hanging around with divorced woman who is whispering into her ear that she should join the misery club as well, and dump her husband, even though their relationship (or lack thereof) seems to function just fine.   Misery loves company, and a word to all you married women out there - do NOT take relationship advice from other women, particularly from bitter, angry, divorced women, who want to drag you down to their level.   Women can be very cruel to each other - be aware of this.  (And I am sure men do this as well!).

Life is a very temporary thing.  You are born, you work to make enough money to not work anymore, and then maybe you enjoy a few years of reflection and relaxation.  Then "ding-dong!" it is death at your door.  And we all have our own messy, personalized death awaiting us.  As Woody Allen said, "I don't mind death, I just don't want to be there when it happens!"

Some have accused me of being too morbid and concentrating on death.  But as I have noted before, death gives meaning to life.  The promise of "eternal life" is a raw deal - it would suck completely.   A better deal is to live your life to the fullest, and stop worrying about petty things and stop putting off things you really want to do with the idea that you can "get to that later".

The problem we have here in the USA is that we are insulated from old age and death.  Retirees pack off to Florida and see their kids (and "the grands!") once or twice a year.  They  are old relics - fossils - hauled out at Christmas and Thanksgiving as an example to the kids of what happens to you if you don't obey the rules and foolishly grow old.

So the retired become the infirm and end up in "assisted living" which is a nice word for warehousing people - like in The Matrix, but a lot less glamorous.  And then we die and are carted off to a "funeral home" where the entire death experience is carefully insulated from the living as much as possible.  A few tears, flowers on the casket, and... back to work on Monday!   Sheesh - what a waste of a weekend, eh, what?

I am having the opposite experience, living amongst the "newly wed and nearly dead" (our island is a wedding destination, as well as pre-mortuary).  So I see this "end game" being played out again and again, with people I know.   And the only thing I have learned is to not wait for "the next chapter" but assume the book can end at any time.

And maybe living with Mr. See has brought this home.  He watched his Mother die when he was 14 years old - an experience that traumatized him to this day.  But he realized, seeing how his Mother made so many plans, and how so many plans were thwarted by well-meaning relatives who said - in the Maine way - "you don't want to do that!"   And as a result, she never did a lot of things she wanted to do in life - always assuming there would be more time past age 53.   There wasn't.   And there wasn't for my sister, either.

If you find yourself "stuck in a rut" or depressed or unhappy with life, sit down and figure out why.  Because you have a very finite time on this planet to enjoy things, and there will likely not be a "tomorrow" for you to do the things you have put aside today.  This is not to say you should do something stupid like quit your job and end up destitute, only that the time for experiences is now, because there may not be a later.