Time’s A-Wastin’

His Facebook page is full of lighthearted posts. Funny things he felt like passing along. Videos of cats. Smiling selfies. Humorous observations. The next post is bound to pop up any minute.

I barely knew him. He was a friend of a friend. We had pleasant exchanges in the comment section. I knew I’d like him. We’d yet to meet face to face. Vague plans had been made, and had yet to be carried out.

And now he’s dead, in his 50’s. Natural causes, they say. But there’s nothing natural about dying in one’s 50’s.

It’s all so fleeting. So unexpected. One day you’re taking a selfie, and the next you’re gone.

Life is precious. Don’t waste time. Savor every moment.

Wasting Time

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Contemplating my Death

Having recently gotten married, and having comingled our assets and combined our bank accounts as one does, it was time to update our wills. In my case, this was long overdue. My old will was all about assets I no longer have and people who are no longer in my life.

Writing a will is the responsible thing to do. It takes a great deal of pressure off the loved ones you leave behind, and it helps to ensure that your wishes are carried out. No sense in causing a familial World War III when you don’t have to. You’d be amazed at how petty some people can be while picking over your leftovers.

But contemplating one’s own death is no fun. Looking the grim reaper square in the eye and acknowledging his or her inevitable visit is a bit unsettling. I greatly prefer pretending that I’ll live forever. (But then, that scenario doesn’t really sound very pleasant, either, given how often I forget to floss.)

It’s particularly squick-making to have to imagine the whole death process. Do I want to have my life artificially prolonged? No thank you. Does that include withholding nutrition? Images of me wasting away as I circle the drain. Ugh. Yeah. Withhold nutrition unless I ask for it. But that’s a really hard thing to say to future me.

And what to do with the body I’m vacating? Good lord, but there are so many options these days. It’s like shopping for shoes. Except you’re disposing of the shoes. In a really upsetting way. And you’re trying not to freak out your relatives in the process.

There’s a lot to think about while making that choice. I mean, I’ll be beyond caring. But I’ve kind of grown attached to this body. I want it treated with respect. But I also don’t want it to take up space, or get pumped full of completely unnecessary and toxic formaldehyde, or cause undue expense.

I always thought I’d go with cremation, but then I learned what a huge carbon footprint that process places on the planet. So now I’ve decided on aquamation. That’s a new process. Your soft bits get dissolved, and only your bones remain, which are reduced to “ashes”. From an environmental standpoint it’s a much gentler exit from this planet. As this website explains, “Unlike cremation, there are no emissions with  aquamation. It uses about 1/8th the energy. If cremation were a diesel truck, aquamation is a Prius.” If I have to be a vehicle, I suppose I want to be a Prius. (How very Seattle of me.)

But can you imagine the details and descriptions I had to wade through to arrive at that choice? I mean… ugh. Nothing quite like picturing yourself getting disposed of like meat that is past its expiration date.

The next step is writing a personal letter explaining who I’d like to receive which of my tchotchkes. I’m struggling with this. How do you adequately convey how much someone has meant to you with a thing? It just doesn’t quite cut it.

But in the end, that’s all that will be left of me, save the memories. And that makes me want to create as many of those as I possibly can. So now that I’ve mapped out my journey into Death Land (and dragged you along for the ride), it’s time to get on with the business of living.

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The Accelerated Life Plan

I’ve had this dream more than once. It’s really odd, as dreams usually are. But I always wake up thinking that it makes a certain amount of sense, and I kind of wish it were true.

In the dream, I’m about to be born, and I’m asked if I’d prefer the standard, or the accelerated life plan. Naturally, I want details before I commit. I mean, that’s a heck of a question to be hit with before you’ve even taken your first breath.

It turns out that the accelerated life plan allows you to get all the nasty biological functions out of the way up front, so that you can focus on actually living your life. For example, you spend an entire day sneezing all of your sneezes, and then you never ever have to sneeze again. Granted, that day wouldn’t be much fun, but think of the weight that would be lifted off your shoulders afterward!

Having had the hiccups for a full 24 hours once, I can verify that Hiccup Day would be excruciatingly painful toward the end, but what a relief to get that over with. Acne Day wouldn’t be pretty, so it would probably be best to do that in isolation. Headache Day might become rather controversial, because that could be construed as cruel and unusual punishment. I would dread Cold and Flu Day, but I could handle it, knowing that 24 hours later I’d be fine. I would just whine a lot.

Yeah, I’d probably sign up for the accelerated life plan. It would be nice to be able to stand up and face the icky stuff of life and get past it. I like the certainty of it all. “That’s me, done,” as a friend of mine likes to say.

From there on out, it would be smooth sailing, until, of course, the inevitable Death Day. I doubt many people recover from that one. If they do, what happens the next day? That’s the question.

sneeze

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Avoiding Hell

After several late night visits from bats inside my house, my house, I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t live like that. Bats flying around my head at 3 a.m., landing on my pillow, barricading myself in my bedroom and being afraid to get up and go to the bathroom… It just got to be too much. I refuse to be a prisoner in my own home.

Don’t get me wrong. I like bats. They’re great for the environment. I just don’t want to be roommates with them. Especially if they’re not paying rent, and refuse to conform with my sleep cycle.

Despite the fortune I spent on contractors last year in an effort to solve this problem, these furry little rats with wings had taken up residence again, just as they probably have been doing for years on end. So it was time to serve them their eviction notice.

Thank goodness I’ve got someone who loves me enough to have my back, because I couldn’t have done this alone. We spent hours up on my roof, reinforcing the blockages I had imposed last year, and adding more. We put rigid walls of hardware cloth around all six of my mushroom cap vents.

I was hoping that hearing all that activity, and realizing that the sun was setting, the bats would take advantage of the thing we were saving for last: Their batty little front door, also known as the poorly done flashing around my chimney, and the badly constructed flue to my fireplace. (Two thumbs DOWN to Riasat Ali, also known as Al, of Arcon Chimney, for his shoddy workmanship and deceptive quote.)

But no. Instead of leaving the premises, they simply stayed in the attic and chittered and squeaked until we were finally forced to block them in, where they’d most likely starve and die. We couldn’t work in the pitch black on a pitched roof after they left. So block them in we did.

But it was killing me. Hearing them scream. Knowing they’d suffer. I couldn’t stand it.

So as we finished up, I closed my dog Quagmire into the back yard. Then I went into the house and turned off all the lights. I then left the front door wide open, and opened the inside access panel to the attic. Then I went outside and watched them fly out my front door, one by one.

It made me shudder, thinking of them streaming through my living room like that. But at least they’d live to eat mosquitoes another day. And I wouldn’t bear the guilt of having them suffer a slow and painful death. That’s got to count for something, right?

After leaving my house exposed to nature until 2 a.m., I reluctantly poked my head into the attic with a flashlight, and all was quiet. I heaved a sigh of relief. No hellfire for me. Not that night, anyway.

Later, I heard a bat hit my bedroom window. From the outside, for a change. The next day I told my boyfriend it was probably a bat protesting his eviction. He had a different theory. He thought it was a bat thanking me for saving its life.

Yeah. I can live with that spin.

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Shaping Your Life

Until very recently, I thought of my life as being linear. Birth, growth, death… aren’t we all on that inevitable path? But that makes life sound way too much like a treadmill. (All you’d have to do is look at me once and you’d know that I hate treadmills.)

Now I think of life as being three dimensional. That allows room for a lot more options. It more accurately reflects the diversity of the thousands of lives being lived on this planet. We each shape our lives. We are architects. We are sculptors.

We can be smooth and calm and uniform. We can be rigid and boxy and rough. We can zig and zag and branch off in wild directions. We can embrace. We can repel. We can circle back upon ourselves, or we can shoot forward like an arrow. We can take inspiration from others, or we can set out on our own. We can be steady and solid, or we can wobble unpredictably.

Don’t restrict yourself to a linear life, unless that’s what you truly want in your heart of hearts. Create something beautiful. Only allow others to influence that creation if you can look upon them and see the beauty within. (And don’t forget to thank those who help you shape your life in a positive way.)

When all is said and done, your life will be what you make of it. So make it special.

geometric

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The Ingredients of Happiness

It always comes as quite a shock when someone famous commits suicide. Hearing on the radio that Anthony Bourdain chose to take his own life nearly caused me to swerve off the road. This is someone I’ve envied. He got to travel. He had crazy experiences and met fascinating people. He won countless awards. No doubt he also made a boatload of money.

This was someone who was successful, rich, and had an exciting life. Three things many of us strive for, and yet, now he’s gone. On the surface, you’d think that his was a life worth living. But to make this permanent choice, he must have been in a great deal of emotional pain. He must have been suffering. Surrounded by all of us, who admired him, he must have been all alone. Of course, this is pure speculation on my part. I doubt any of us will ever know the full story.

The only thing I can know for sure is that I am happier than Anthony Bourdain was. I would never have guessed this a week ago. But there’s incontrovertible evidence of this now. I’m still here.

So, what constitutes happiness? One thing is for sure: it isn’t money. I know that’s a cliché, but clichés become clichés for a reason.

I know someone who is a millionaire, but he’s also a divorced, estranged father and a raging alcoholic. He’s one of the most miserable people I have ever met. Money does nothing to solve your problems when all is said and done. Most of us know this, and yet so many of us still seem obsessed with filthy lucre. It’s such a waste of time.

As far as I can tell, the two things you need to be happy are connections and purpose. Humans are social animals. They need community. The more you surround yourself with people you love who love you back, the happier you will be. And having a purpose, such as a job you love, or a goal to strive for, or even a hobby, makes life worthwhile. If you have none of those things, I encourage you to become a volunteer. Helping others is the noblest of purposes.

Don’t get me wrong. None of us can be happy all the time. People who are happy all the time are mentally ill. It’s how we cope with the rough patches that truly defines us. But there’s a lot that you can do to make your life satisfying overall.

If you are contemplating suicide or know someone who is, I strongly encourage you to seek help. Here in the US, a great resource is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Their number is 1-800-273-8255. Please, just do that one last thing before taking any steps that, once done, can never be undone. Surely you owe yourself that much.

Anthony Bourdain, I hope you have found the peace you apparently could not find in this life. I wish you had made a different choice.

Anthony Bourdain

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Mean World Syndrome

People alive today have access to more news and entertainment than any human being in the history of the planet. If anything major happens in the world, we are all able to find out about it almost instantly. We’ve come a long way from the days when a hurricane could hit Long Island without any advanced warning for its residents. Surely that’s to our benefit, right?

Yes and no. We also have more access to misinformation and exaggeration, and our ability to think critically does not seem to be keeping apace. That means that many of us believe that the world is more dangerous than it actually is. This is called mean world syndrome, and it’s a serious problem.

If you don’t believe that your attitudes are shaped by the media, then you haven’t been paying attention. Without its influence, there’s no way that someone so deranged and unqualified could be in the White House. Without it, none of us would feel the need to keep up with the Kardashians. (For what it’s worth, I’ve never felt that need. But then, I don’t have a TV in my house, either.)

If it’s any comfort at all, according to this Public Radio International article, the world is a much safer pace than it used to be. War deaths have dramatically decreased. We just hear about them more often. We all work fewer hours each week. There is less poverty and homicide, and more democracy than ever before.

And this article from Psychology Today also states that violence against women and children has decreased worldwide. We are more likely to die of old age than in a hail of bullets.

And, lest we forget, the average life expectancy for the residents of this planet is now up in the 70’s, as opposed to age 48 back in 1950. That’s pretty remarkable, don’t you think? So stop what you’re doing, look about you, and breathe. It’s going to be okay. Odds are pretty good that you won’t encounter any lions or tigers or bears. Oh, my.

dorothy

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