Time is a Four-Letter Word

May 24, 2021

The last few weeks have caused a jumble of emotions for me. I am still trying to sort things out and understand why things happen the way they do. And I doubt I will ever know, because knowing why is not in my wheelhouse. I am, after all, a mere mortal. The unfolding of events and the impact they have on my friends, loved ones, acquaintances and people I don’t know have hit home for me in a palpable way. The “stuff” that’s occurred has been a kick in the proverbial teeth and has given me pause about so many things. First, let me tell you about my friend, Patrick. He died last week. He was handsome, sensitive, kind, selfless, and brooding, despite his friendly, smiling demeanor. He was only 32. And he was an addict. He had been successful at being clean for several years and was working hard at staying that way. For some reason, he and I connected and he saw me as a mother figure. We shared some pretty heavy conversations and I hope during the relatively short time I knew him (he was one of the first people I met when I moved south two years ago) that I added something to his life. All I know is that when I heard the news of his passing, I was devastated and unrealistically wished that somehow I could have done something to prevent his tragic choice on the last day of his worldly life.  For now I can just look at old texts and photos and smile. I am glad Patrick was in my life. His life mattered. It mattered to me and I will never forget him. Unfortunately, my gene pool and that of my husband is filled with people, living and deceased, who are possessed of addictive personalities and many have struggled with substance abuse. I pray every day that those who continue to fight their demons can find the strength and resolve to win the battle, to wake up every morning and know that “TODAY I am going to win.”

I have heard from other friends and family who have lost loved ones in the last month and I have extended my sympathies or condolences or whatever words of comfort that feel so incredibly inadequate in easing the pain of loss. It’s really all we have, but it’s a gesture and these gestures actually mean a lot. I know because I have experienced it first-hand. I urge anyone who is hesitating – DON’T. Life is just so damn precious.  A friend found out the hard way that she and poison ivy are mortal enemies. She is finally rounding the bend of a severe reaction, just after having major electrical damage to her home after a storm. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger eh? All I could do, as a friend, was offer assistance, if needed, and frequent encouragement. I hope it helped. For me, my challenges the last month pale by comparison: four-figure car repairs, three-figure veterinarian bill and another estimated close to four-figure veterinary procedure, and then my dentist tells me with that concerned look, which I am convinced is taught in dental and medical schools, that I need to see a periodontist. (Maybe it’s time to master the art of gumming my food.) As I reflected on these happenings, never bemoaning the fact that I chose to spend my career in the non-profit world, but still doing the math and I wondered at least a little, what might have been had I enjoyed a more lucrative field during my peak earning years.

One thing that my friend, Patrick, used to say to me when I would put on the mom hat and chastise him for being an idiot over some stupid behavior, was the much-used cliché, “You only live once.” Despite his untimely death, I know he was on to something. And while I have been thinking a lot about my life since I turned 70 last year, lately I have really been honing in on it. What do I want to do with what’s left of my allotted time? LIFE. It’s a simple four-letter word that speaks volumes and it covers so many things. It’s not about how big your bank account is or how many pairs of shoes you have or what your zip code is. It’s about your existence. LIFE. It’s about how you choose to spend your TIME, a finite grouping of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years. It’s how you choose to live and spend that time. Will you be a solitary soul or will you seek out a kindred spirit? Will you marry? Stay single? Will you have a family? What will you do that gives you joy?

For me, it’s all about time. I don’t want to waste any more time. If I had a bottomless bank account, I would travel the world, with my high school friend, Joanne, as my guide. She is my hero. But since I don’t, I plan to make it a point to take at least a few trips a year. My girls cruise is already booked and my feelers are out for another trip in the not so distant future. I cannot sit at home and waste my time. I am not a television person – unless I need to fall asleep. I plan to continue seeking out new projects with my Rotary Club. Helping in my community gives me a sense of satisfaction. What I won’t do anymore is stress over things which I cannot control. I find that when I worry about stupid shit, it really affects me physically as well as emotionally and when people in my life do the same, it puts me in a bad mood. Think about it. In the overall scheme of things, does it really matter if there’s a place for everything and everything in its place? Do you HAVE to have the latest fashion and designer purses? Doesn’t the $8.00 bottle of shampoo do the same job as the $30.00? Be honest. Will you be remembered for that fancy car you drove or more for the fact that you took the time to pick up the phone and call someone who might need a kind word?  I am purging “stuff” out of my life. I have enough clothes, shoes, purses, jewelry, household gadgets, artwork, etc. It is such a feeling of freedom to relieve myself of all the crap that doesn’t mean as much to me as it used to. And it frees me up to spend my time on me and the people I care about, especially my grandchildren who are growing up before my eyes.

Which brings me to the physical me. I look in the mirror every day. I see a 70-year-old woman who isn’t grotesque by most standards, but in all honesty, I can acknowledge that time hasn’t been kind in some areas of my physical being. There are obvious indications that gravity has reared its ugly head. I have bags under my eyes and bags over my eyes that I suspect any day will overtake my eyelids and drop down to my cheeks. My ass is the size of Rhode Island. My granddaughter loves to jiggle my upper arms. My massive heaving bosoms are kept aloft by virtue of well-made bras with seemingly indestructible underwires. Sorry for the visual. All I can tell you is that if said underwires suddenly failed and my “girls” were to become unfurled, chances are they could take out a small child. My stomach is beyond help. No number of sit-ups will flatten this gelatinous mass of flaccid flesh. My fourteen chins are here to stay. Would I ever consider plastic surgery to erase what time has wrought? In a word, no. I recently downloaded Justine Bateman’s book, “Face – One Square Foot of Skin.” She lays bare the hypocrisy in Hollywood and the unnerving pressure women “in the industry” experience on a daily basis to fool Mother Nature by regularly going under the knife. I personally could not do it. Altering my face to the point that the skin is so tight that it’s unrecognizable is some scary shit in my opinion. If it makes you happy by all means go for it. Bateman makes the case for just embracing the natural aging process. And she has faced much criticism and bullying for doing just that, with some cruel comments about how “awful” she looks. People can be so unkind. And the obsession with weight is out of hand. I don’t want my granddaughters worried about numbers on a scale. You would be surprised at how much they and other kids their age pick up when they overhear adult conversation. The self-deprecating comments about one’s weight—it makes an impression and sometimes a lifelong obsession. Instead of subtracting time, I am looking to add time to my life. I try not to eat bread or sugar, mainly because they make me feel sluggish, not because I want to weigh a certain number. As for plastic surgery, I wouldn’t object to maybe a little microdermabrasion or a chemical peel now and then. But, there will be no cutting and tugging and lifting anything on this old girl’s visage. Take it or leave it. I’m proud of where this face has been. Plus, I don’t want to waste time. I want to use my TIME well. I want to LIVE my LIFE.

To my friends and loved ones who have experienced loss these last several weeks, I am sorry. To my friends and loved ones dealing with misfortune or illness, I am thinking of you. All these things are a reminder that time stops for no one. They are a reminder that none of us can predict the future. They are a not so gentle prompt that NOW is the TIME to LIVE your LIFE. So, I for one am getting rid of the things in my life that are unnecessarily tying me down and keeping me from utilizing MY TIME to its fullest potential. This may or may not include people too. I am weary at being the person on the giving end often not being reciprocated. Not a complaint, just an observation. Perhaps it’s time for me to divest myself of folks who don’t make time for me. I know on whom I can depend and whom I can’t. It’s OK. Just saying it is therapeutic. TIME’s a wasting. I need to LIVE my LIFE. Because as proven by my friend, Patrick, whose life ended at age 32, there is just never enough time. You only live once.

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