Who are these people who believe that life is short? Life is a long ass time. Name one other activity that you might do that could be categorized as short, if it lasted as long as an average lifespan does. Think about it.
“Mom, I’m going out to ride my bike.”
“When will you be home?”
“Uh, in about 72 years.”
“Take a sweater.”
And you’d never hear this conversation, for that matter:
“Honey, my parents are coming for a quick visit.”
“For how long?”
“Maybe a year or two.”
“I’m going for a bike ride.”
A movie is short. A red light is short. A marriage is sometimes even short, and in many cases, not short enough. But life? Life is not short, unless it ends prematurely. That is, before you’ve had a chance to burn your diary. A normal lifespan of between 65 and 80 years is not a short amount of time, except when you’re sitting on life’s bench, watching it be played without you. And don’t try to tell me “length is relative.” People who think length is relative ought to get out more. Short is short, long is long, and size does matter.
My point is that there is plenty of time to do plenty of things. In fact, life is so long, there is even enough time to balance out the bad times with good times. Today sucks? Don’t look now, but it’s almost tomorrow. Week from hell getting you down? Next week’s coming, baby. Having a bad month? Flip the page on the calendar. See the big box with the number one in it? Have a better month starting on that day. Has your year been a total bummer? Get ready, because more than likely, you’re about to get—wait for it—a brand new year!
Shitty childhood? Don’t look now…but you get adulthood! Unpack those bags and be a grown up!
I’m not suggesting that life can be undone. I’m merely pointing out that for virtually any increment of time, there is still enough time for a do-over. Until, of course, we get to The End. That’s when you’re either looking back and saying, “What? But I didn’t….and I forgot….and I was afraid to….” Or, you’re marveling at the epic nature of your 50, 60, 70 or 80 years with your mouth hanging open, wondering, “Wow. I did a lot of shit!”
There’s a management technique, often used in manufacturing, among many other industries and disciplines, known as Kaizen. It’s the practice of examining one’s processes and systems and making continuous improvements, or “good change” at all levels of an organization. It works for individuals, too. Be on the lookout for the energy and productivity dams clogging up your world. As my kids say, “Build a bridge and get over it.” Note: Some bridges are a wooden plank thrown down between two creek banks. Others take engineering, sweat and toil. What didn’t work today? Last month? This year? Kaizen it right out of existence, baby. But you have to be willing to look. Continously.
Back to the concept of time, and how we perceive it. In addition to not subscribing to the “Life is short” theory, I’m also not plugging into the “my kids are growing up so fast” mindset. They’re growing up, period. I did, you did, and now they get to. Be present in each moment (wine optional) and you’ll be surprised at how long they seem to last. I am, however, bracing for the day my kids leave by reminding myself of all the fun I’ll have while they’re out in the world having all the fun they can have. My fun will be a little different than theirs, because I’ve already had the kind of fun they’ll be having, and it made me tired. My fun will be napping, and reading, and eating without interruption, and traveling at a moment’s notice, like I did when I was 20. Jumping into the car and just going. I’ll clean something, and it will stay that way until I decide it’s time to mess it up with my own stuff.
When my son was nine, I felt a startling sadness as I realized that my time with him was half over. It kind of freaked me out. The feeling lingered, like a pesky, bony-fingered tapping on my shoulder. Now, at 15, my first born child is just a few years away from not living under the same roof as me. I am slowly releasing that thought, that feeling that it’s almost over. If I didn’t, I’d go crazy. Crazy doesn’t work for me. Neither does sadness as a long term proposition (more than a few hours) over things that I cannot controI. So I’m gradually subbing in other thoughts and shifting the way I perceive our eventual parting as roommates—as the person who gets to be the last voice he hears at the end of the surrealistically long days of adolescence.
I get three more years with him. I get four to five more years with my daughter and step-daughters. I cannot think of anything else I’d want to do for that long. Not even this:
“Honey, I’m going to make love to you.”
“For how long?”
“Want to go to happy hour?”
“Sure. What time does it end?”
See what I mean? Life is a really long time.
Photos Courtesy Of Lisa Lucke
A version of this essay originally appeared at Surreal Housewife of Amador County