Live like you are going die?

The worst piece of advice I ever received was to live like I was dying.

The timing was bad. My father was, in fact, dying and doing it rather quickly. Cancer was tearing through his body, leaving his doctors and my mother baffled by its virulence.

I was grown, with small children of my own, keeping a stiff upper lip for all. The “live every moment as if it was your last” verbiage didn’t sink in until after his funeral, and then it engulfed me so completely that instead of grieving, I stopped being a reasonable person.

Somewhere, deep inside, I now understood I was going to die. It was a fact I’d heard before, of course, but until it happened to my dad, I guess I didn’t really believe it. Didn’t get it would happen to me.

Then, with my father no longer standing between me and eternity, every minute was precious. It wasn’t precious in a “thank-you-universe” kind of way. It was more like a for-god-sake-how-long-am-I-going-to-have-to-stand-in-this-grocery-line-while-you-pull-out-your-damn-coupons kind of way. It was a move-your-car-so-I-can-make-this-stupid-light kind of way. I had things to do and life to experience and now that I understood I didn’t have forever, I didn’t want to waste a minute of what I did have putting up with anyone’s shit.

I was miserable, and I was miserable to be around. It was no way to live.

This lasted for awhile and then I got tired of it. I mostly forgot about the fact that I was going to die, because we’re just not wired to hang on to that sort of thing. I went back to normal, wasting time and letting other people waste my time and usually not getting upset about it.

Much later, I would realize this had been by own way of grieving, and a few tears would finally come. I would find ways to celebrate my dad, and to enjoy my own life more.

I’m pulling out my passport for a trip I will take soon. I’m headed to Machu Picchu, a place I’ve always wanted to go. A closer look at my documents shows that in the past couple of years I’ve been to Portugal, Morocco, and Kenya. I imagine a customs official looking at me and asking “Did you win the lottery? Or are you dying?”

No, I haven’t won the lottery and even with budget travel I’m risking insufficient funds later in exchange for grabbing opportunities now. That’s an equation requiring balance, and I know I’m leaning to one side. I don’t intend to lean too far, but I’m okay with the imbalance.

You see, I am dying. Not any faster than anyone else, as far as I know, but I accept that my time is a limited resource.  I’ve decided to do the things I really want to do now.

During one of the last exchanges I had with my dad, he told me he wished he’d gotten more time, but he was grateful for all the moments he had. All the things he did. “It was a great life,” he declared and even as I heard him say it I thought I want to be able to say that, too.

Which is why this year I’m going to Peru, and participating in at least three other interesting things that matter to me and I’ve not made time for. Yet.

Because, of course, it isn’t about going places. It’s about having the time of your life. I realize having the time of my life is something I should have been doing all along, but it’s never too late to start. I’m thinking of what I might add in 2019.

You see, the best piece of advice I ever received was to live like I was dying.

(For more thoughts on how to use one’s time with wisdom see Spending time.)

 

 

Making a New Plan

I love planning.

I recognize that not everyone is wired this way. Some of you folks out there get the most joy out of your life when circumstances let you wake up and do whatever seems best to you at that moment. I think that is terrific, even though it doesn’t work so well for me because I just love to make lists.

c3 FINAL ecopyToday is a special day as it is the first of the month. That means that I get to make my plan for writing for the month of September. Figuring out how and when I am going to find the time to indulge in my most favorite activity brings me no end of joy. When I do this, I feel like I am somehow outwitting the gods of practicality, who rule the mundane world. They have decreed that doing my laundry and paying my bills will fill all my free hours and no time will be left for what I love.  I make my little list, looking for pockets of time I can claim as my own, and delight in the fact that THEY ARE WRONG. I’ve proven them wrong for 32 months in a row now and I intend to keep right on doing so.

This first of this particular month, however, is even better than most. I have finished my fourth novel, c3, and it will be out on Kindle by the end of the year. Each book has been a challenge to get into for its own reasons, and this one was no exception. Once I became immersed in it, though, it took over and now I am sad to leave its world. I already love its newly designed cover, once again expertly done by Jennifer Fitzgerald at motherspider.com.

I will spend September moving c3 along to my first group of beta readers, and making minor changes as they get back to me. This will be fun. I enjoy getting feedback on my stories and tweaking them to make them better.

The activity that really excites me, however, is that I will also begin research and planning for my fifth novel d4. Because c3 and d4 overlap in time, and tell the tales of two sisters having simultaneous adventures far from home, I have had the plot of d4 in the back of my mind as I finished c3. I already know that it involves subjects that fascinate me, and I can’t wait to start researching.

There is an old and frankly kind of stupid expression that goes “whatever blows your skirt up” and I probably don’t even want to know where it came from. The fact is that nothing seems to blow my skirt up more than planning to start a new book. It’s enough to make me want to dance for joy.

#SFWApro