Posted by: wrmcnutt | November 10, 2009

Carpe Diem

I’m trying to learn to live more in the moment.  All my life I’ve been taught to save money, plan for the future, and avoid risk.

It can all change in an instant.  My most recent brush with mortality was a couple of years ago, and not that dramatic.  I was at a medieval re-enactment.  Walking alone across the battlefield at night, in the dark, I stepped in a hole. I thought I had broken my ankle.  It turned out to just be a sprain, but all of a sudden, I couldn’t walk.  That meant I wouldn’t be able to tear down our camp in the morning. I wouldn’t be able to load it in our vehicle. But I had a more pressing problem – how was I going to get BACK TO CAMP.  I ended up crawling on my hands a knees for about a half a mile.  In an instant, I had gone from a competent, capable adult, to a near invalid.  I could, carefully, stand.

Thank God I have some good friends. They showed up and helped my poor wife break down and pack my, large, complicated, heavy medieval tent and equipment, and get it loaded into my vehicle. I’m all better now.  Just a sprain, with no lasting effects.  But a stroke, heart attack, mugging, or auto-accident could have far worse consequences.  And that would leave me with Pyramids not seen, Oceans not swam in, Ladies not kissed, and rapids not shot.

Anyone who even vaguely comes around here will know that my Dad’s health is catastrophically poor.  Right now his goal is to work up enough strength to be able to walk from his bed, to the bathroom and to the kitchen.  His short term goals are to be able to do the daily tasks that will allow him to live at home.  Right now he cannot cook, he cannot clean, and he cannot bathe himself.  When I was a boy, dad talked of wanting a boat.  Unlike me, he wanted a powerboat. He wanted something to ski behind, fish off of, and maybe take offshore a little ways.  Nothing big.  Nothing fancy.  Just a deep v  hull and an inboard motor.  Maybe 100 HP.  And then there was that cabin in the mountains.  He inherited an acre of Bount County at the foot of a beautiful mountain ridge thirty or forty years ago.  When he was a kid, there was a cabin on that land, and he spent his summers up there.  It was a pretty classic southern boyhood. Exploring the woods, climbing the ridge, swimming in the swimming hole . . .  But the cabin was torn down in his young adult years, with the idea that a new one would go up the next year.  Then his aunt, the owner, died.  And the land lies vacant to this day.  He never did get around to building that cabin.  There was always something more important for him to be working on.  There were always too many bills to pay.

And now he’s old and busted.  A big achievement for him is walking from his bed twenty five feet to the nurse’s station and back.  And that’s with two people supporting him and using a walker.  And that’s where we all end, eventually.

Another thing that I somehow absorbed on my way to what we will whimsically name “adulthood,” I somehow absorbed a message of waiting until some goal was reached before doing anything.  I have put things off “until I graduate from college.”   Then there was “until we get married.”  Then I put things off “until I got a better job.”  After that it was “once we get out of debt.”  And, most recently, “after my Dad gets well.”  The thing is, you’re never done. There’s always another goal to reach, another life hurdle to overcome.  How do you know when your ship has come in?  At some point, you have to start enjoying life.

And yet, you can’t not plan for retirement.  If I blow all my savings now, I might get unlucky and live to be 100, with no resources, and nothing but my memories.  The idea of sharing a single room with a stranger and arguing over the TV with him during my final years does not appeal.

Trying to work out a balance between living your dreams and planning for the future is hard.

Sometimes this whole “adult” thing is a gyp.

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  1. yup. its a balancing act. trouble is that we are all hopelessly imbalanced in someway or another.

  2. […] a cabin-topped boat.  Recent events in my father’s life have opened my eyes to the need to seize the day, and sail now, because life is shorter than we think, and can change in a […]

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