HELP LINE: No one lives forever, so don’t waste life

AS A RESULT of rather considerable examination and contemplation, I’ve concluded that mortality is a lousy idea.

Granted, my perspective might be somewhat dented by the fact that I’m confined to this particular planet, thus lacking a more universal, if not celestial, view, but the view from here makes this whole “mortality thing” irrevocably confining.

Not to mention, frustrating.

Well, think about it: We’re injected into the world rather unceremoniously and decidedly at the mercy of whomever is deemed responsible for our survival, if not creation, but for almost all of us, at that tender stage, we’re pretty resolutely focused on our immediate needs, which include taking stuff in, getting stuff out and sleeping.

Then, we grow.

And, while there are certainly exceptions, most of us get bigger, stronger, more resilient and, on rare occasion, just a touch smarter.

Or, at least, we learn a great deal more about the possibilities available to us on the planet.

And, then, we proceed to go screw it up.

We take incredible risks as teenagers assuming that we will live forever.

Oh, come on: You know as well as I do that most of us are mystified by the fact that we actually survived ourselves, because we know what we did and, thus, cannot account for the fact that we’re not dead.

But, what-the-heck, we’re going to live forever.

Then, we usually proceed to do too much of any number of things, and make life decisions for which we are utterly unqualified — such as who to marry, baby-making, what we think we want to be when we grow up, blah blah.

But we’re going to live forever and we’re going to always be able to do everything we can do now at the same rate and velocity, so what the heck.

Besides, we’re smarter than anyone has ever been, anyway.

Then we work, work and work and do too much of too many things (and probably too little of some others) and generally go as fast as we can from this day to that day, because our future is in the future and the future is the next weekend.

Anyway, so we go and go and make decisions and change old ones and go and go and do pretty much the same stuff over and over and go and go.

Then, something happens.

Maybe it’s a medical event, such as a stroke or a heart attack.

Or maybe it’s someone else’s medical event, or even death.

Or maybe it’s losing a pet, or a job, or a limb.

Or maybe it’s just a birthday: Our 40th or 60th or 90th, whatever.

But something comes along that suddenly slams us in the head and says: You are not going to live forever.

What? I’m not?

No, you’re not.

Then, it gets quiet.

Wait a minute, I’m just beginning to figure out what’s important and what isn’t.

What I love and what I don’t.

What I enjoy and what I don’t.

What I’m good at and what I’m not.

Who I want to be … and who I don’t.

And now I don’t have the energy or the superhuman, bunny-like stamina, or the time to do it?

That doesn’t make any sense.

See? Mortality is a lousy idea.

And almost none of us figure this out in time to make the most of it: “There never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do, once you find them …”

And Jim Croce died not long after he said that.


Now what?

Well, we could become bitter, angry and cynical, then wonder why we’re lonely.

Well, would you invite you to a party? Probably not.

Or we can become so lost in lost yesterdays that we lose today, ruminating on reminiscences and secretly resenting God.

Or any of the 10,000 other ways that we’ve invented for wasting life, which is what we were mad about in the first place. Wasting Life.

Or, I suppose, we can accept the unacceptable and try to wring every sweet drop out of this bittersweet mortality.

Every amazing, wonderful, self-fulfilling, self-indulgent and utterly decadent drop.

I wasted so much. Now, I want it all.

And I don’t have forever to do it: To be who I want to be, to do what I want to do and to love and be loved.

See? Mortality is a lousy idea.

Now — now that I know — I need the time. I need the energy. I need to replay the tape.

And I need to tell all these kids they’re wasting their lives.

Good luck with that.

No, try as we may, it will remain our secret.

The same secret that’s been no secret since the dawn of humanity.

The secret that was revealed to us over and over and over, but that we couldn’t hear.

Besides, we were going to live forever.

No, we’re not; so, now what?

What platitude shall we employ to sustain us in the face of galactic injustice?

I have absolutely no idea, but I’ll tell you this:

I am all done wasting it.


Mark Harvey is director of Clallam/Jefferson Senior Information & Assistance, which operates through the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He is also a member of the Community Advocates for Rural Elders partnership. He can be reached at 360-452-3221 (Port Angeles-Sequim), 360-385-2552 (Jefferson County) or 360-374-9496 (West End), or by emailing [email protected].

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