It all started with the wailing of the ambulance.
Well, that’s when I first remember consciously thinking about it. It had been there in the back of my head for a while.
This is going to sound creepy. I don’t mean for that, but–well–there’s nothing I can do about it, so please extend me a little latitude. This may be a little self-indulging cathartic-writing, but hopefully I can get insight from you folks.
I’ve been thinking about death lately. Not in a vague, ethereal way most of us do on a regular basis, I mean in a real, in-your-face way. (And no, this has nothing to do with me offing myself or anything like that.) I’ve been contemplating it more like: someday, that’s going to be me the ambulance is rushing to. I’m going to be curled up on my kitchen floor, hand clutched to my chest, trying to get my heart beating again. (Morbid, I know, but like I said…bear with me.) It’ll be me, at the hospital as my grand kids (so young, so vibrant) come and visit me while machines and doctors keep my old creepy yellow-skined ass alive. And yes, I plan on being that creepy old man who cackles for no reason and pinches young ladies on the keaster. When you’re old, you can get away with that stuff.
We’re all going to die someday. None of us are getting out alive. And, to be honest, I’m not afraid of dying. There may or may not be an afterlife (Let’s debate that one on another day, shall we?) That’s not for me to know, so I look at it as either, I enter an afterlife, or I cease to exist. Either would be okay with me.
At some point you realize, no matter what you do from this point forward, your life is not going to drastically change. Sure, you might lose your job, become a best seller, or maybe lose a limb or something, but if nothing dramatic happens to you, (which is what I always plan for) you’re pretty much where you’re going to be when your day comes. I’m getting close to 40, so maybe this is a natural progression I’m not privy to.
Trust me, my life’s good. I honestly can’t complain. Sure, I work a lot, but I also have a good job, and good friends, and good family. I live in a nice house in a decent neighborhood, and drive a fairly new car. Overall, I have no complaints. But I also know unless something dramatic one way or the other comes into my life, I’ll be where I am when I hit 60. Not a bad life, mind you, but nothing stellar. Pretty much like the other billions of huddled masses around the globe. I forget who said, most men lead lives of quiet desperation. I think that’s a really good view of how people live.
Most people (in my opinion, of course) fall into two groups when it comes to “life”. They either want to have money-power-toys, or they want to have fulfilling relationships and friends. Sure you can have both, but if you were to ask 1000 people which they’d rather have, I bet it would fall pretty close to the middle. The thing is, I have some stuff/power/money (not a lot, mind you) and I have some really fantastic relationships, so I have achieved nearly everything in my life I have wanted to. I could die happy right now. (well, after that book gets published!)
So then I start thinking about my writing, and realize that I’d like to get some books in the bookstore. I want others to love my stories as much as I do. (And if you read them, you would love them!) But even so, I don’t predict that I would ever be a Dan Brown/Nora Roberts/James Patterson type writer. My goal would be to make a decent enough amount of money to pay off some debts (school loans–still? Yeah.) and build up a nice retirement so I can leave working before I am 65. That’s a pretty realistic goal and something I believe I can attain with enough patience, luck, and tenacity. It’s one of the few things I haven’t accomplished in life that needs to be done. But this column isn’t so much about writing as it is about life.
So, if you’re still with me, we’ve gotten to the meat! Had to get you through my weak-ass thought process so you could understand where I am now. Yeah, I do meander a bit, but damn it, I meander well.
The other day, my wife said to me: You sure have been in a really good mood lately. It’s been fun.
Let me be clear. I wasn’t in a “good mood” by conscious choice. It just happened. And I think it stems from my death-thinking. Life is truly short. We have only a few years on this mudball. We need to appreciate those in our lives who mean the most to us. We need to appreciate what he have–right now–not what we desire in the future. Sure, having goals and things you want to do and get are great! They add spice to life and something to strive for. But look around you, and be thankful for what have NOW.
And, without thinking about it, I have started entering into this place of peace. (Yes, I still write stories with lots of blood, fighting, and cussing, but that’s why it’s fiction!) This is new territory for me, and I’m not sure how long it’s going to last or if it morphs into something else, but I’m willing to go along for the ride. I’m going to start small by just being nice to those around me. And yeah, I’m usually nice, but even more so. More thoughtful, better listener, more engaged.
So you tell me, is this just a natural progression of aging, or am I ate up with dumbass?