Friday, May 7, 2010

nothing but time...

Six months.

Does six months seem like a long time?
Or just a small drop in the bucket?
I suppose it all depends on who is checking. At that particular time.

Six months for a kid waiting for summer vacation seems like a lifetime. Waiting for your income tax refund check can seem like forever when you're eyeing a new patio furniture set that you shouldn't really buy. But for others? Maybe time moves much too swiftly.

In conversation the other day I learned that a friends uncle by marriage has pancreatic cancer. Still a young man by today’s standards, the doctors have informed him that he only has 6 months to live. Most of those six months he will probably not be in robust health.

It made me pause to wonder, ‘What would I do if I were told I only had 6 months to live?

If I had an unending supply of money perhaps I’d take on that list of unfulfilled dreams and check them off, one by one, until my time ran out. But unlike Jack Nicholson in The Bucket List, I do not have a unlimited supply at my disposal. I don’t have that Black American Express card that I dream about. You know the one. It has no spending limit and the bill never comes? That one. And my money tree in the backyard seems to have shriveled and isn’t looking to grow a new root system anytime soon.

So what does one do?

That weight loss program I’ve embarked upon would seem rather futile. I seen people get into shape and lose weight to look perfect for their wedding day, but for your own funeral? Nah. Bring me another crème brulee instead.

And what about my golf game? No need to lower the handicap further. I highly doubt I’ll be playing where ever it is my soul ends up after my death.

I would still like the opportunity to hike to Machu Pichu in Peru before I die. Perhaps that trip might bring me the peace and serenity that I seek. After sitting in the clouds amongst the ruins, I could probably let go. Of everything. Perhaps I’d pass whilst there. I would physically be closer to heaven. Maybe because of my close proximity to the heavens they might let me in those pearly gates? “C’mon in Nancy. No need sending you back down.“ Peter would say, jingling the keys.

Or would I sink into depression and drown my sorrow of my ill fated pull of the lifeline straw? Open a line of credit at the local tavern and spend my days like Bukowski writing down my remorse over my impending doom.

I don’t really know. I’m not sure what I would do. Fight? Give up and resign?

I’d like to think that being of a positive nature that I’d fight back. But I can’t be positive that I would.

I’m always amazed when watching I Shouldn’t Be Alive on television. The strength that many of these people find within themselves leaves me speachless. They tenously hold on by a thread to life in certain situations that by all regards seems a hopeless cause. But they do. And they live to tell about it.

I wonder what might happen if I were caught in a canyon for days. Could cut my own arm off slowly with a pocket knife in order to make it out of their predicament after 3 days? I highly doubt I could.

I ponder if a shark just ate my leg while diving that I could garner the strength to fight back by punching it until it swam away? And then go on to be fitted for cyber legs and run marathons? There is definitely no way.

I asked a couple of my close friends what they would do. Melissa, always upbeat, said that there were some places that she’d want to return to. To basically say ‘Goodbye’ to people that who mean the most to her. The family in France and the people in Thailand with whom she lived while she was in the Peace Corp. She did say that if she had the energy that she’d make the trek to Machu Pichu with me if there were time. Always thinking of others, that gal.

Damian said he’d finally write that book. To leave something of himself behind. The book would allow him to have peace. For himself and for hopefully for those reading his words. That it might perhaps shed an understanding of peace, his peace, as guidance for others. I'd like a copy of that. It'd give me something to hold on to. Signed, of course.

And one said they’d find a way to get medicinal marijuana, dig out the old albums and live like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix in a blissful Purple Haze until the end came.

There was a movie shown at the Cleveland Film Festival called Timer. A digital clock is implanted into your wrist that counts down the seconds until you meet your one true love. That could be rather distracting and become all consuming. But what if the watch told you the time of your death? Would you live the rest of your life with reckless abandon because you know that your time isn’t up? Yet.

I’ve got timepieces that don’t keep quite the right time. Gorgeous wrist art, but they do lose seconds. Which turn into minutes. Which turns into hours if you don’t keep track. So who’s to say that the timer on your wrist couldn’t be wrong as well?

I’d probably get one of the faulty ones. Somewhere in the universe is some sort of bias when it comes to 'all things Nancy'. I went to a meeting where someone said, ‘God won’t lead you to it if you can’t get through it.’ Well yippity-do-da. I’m so glad that He feels that I’m capable. But c’mon now. How about letting someone else get through it for a change?

I bought a pair of shoes on eBay. The seller packed them wrong; sent them in a bag, not a box. So they have creases in the leather on the front due to the handling at the post office. Easily avoided. But I let it go. It wasn’t that big of a deal. I DID let her know so she wouldn’t disappoint future eBay buyers. It was an obvious oversight due to her newness to the eBay community.

I had my house painted. They did a great job. Or so I thought. When I put the screens in this spring I found that they hadn't scrapped away the excess from the window panes up on the third floor. It wasn’t obvious from street level and I didn't know that they missed it. Solution? I could call them back and bitch, but instead of confrontation I just threw up a ladder and scrapped it off myself. No biggie.

I bought a Jeep. So far I’ve had to have it serviced for the DVD player, the catalytic converter and the drive train. All under warranty but they don’t supply loaners when service is being done. Something I got used to when I owned a Land Rover. The dealership is close to the house, so I just walked home and shopped close to home the next day or so. Why complain. I just looked at it as leaving a little less carbon footprint on Mother Earth for a couple of days. The weather was nice, so I put away the pretty shoes, pulled out the comfy ones and just hoofed it.

That’s the way I am.
I’m rather complacent. Or too understanding.

I had a tenant let me know about a couple of things at the property that he felt could be improved upon. He’d been renting the house for three years. “Nancy, when your electrician replaced the electrical boxes, I think he messed up with some of the breakers. You should have him look at it. Some breakers will switch if you have a hair dryer and the TV running and others won’t switch at all.”

First thought? Uh, Jeff. Why didn’t you tell me then? That was two years ago!

He continued with, “You’re a nice lady. Sometimes you should get mad. People are going to take advantage of you.”

Interesting comment.
One for food for thought.

Me? Get mad? Get angry?

Nah. It takes too much energy. And creates wrinkles on my forehead.
I don’t want to be one of those women that look like they are constantly mad and bitter that I see in the grocery.

So I take a deep breath.
And I take a look at my landscaping.

How IS that money tree coming along…

It better grow faster. I need the funding for Machu Pichu.
And if it doesn’t mature by then….I might get mad.

But at least my timer seems to be working. I’ve at least a few years left.



  1. They say here on Earth, "No one gets out alive". So I spose we all have a timer of one sort or the other.

    I like your statement "That’s the way I am.
    I’m rather complacent. Or too understanding." I wrote a blog about that. Thats my persomality as well. It bites you in the butt sometimes but in the end you are still nice and understanding. I'd rather be remembered that way than thank goodness he's finally gone.

    I have thought pretty often about this before. What would I do? I would work. I still have the family to support till that time. Fortunally I love what I do so it aint a bad gig. My timer was made by the cable company. I have between this time and this time. Nothing like being non-commital. LOL

  2. Ooh! This is a perfect post for a quote that I found in Salman Rushdie's book recently: we all owe death a life. How's that? I like to think about it like that... OWING death a LIFE...

    And about getting mad, Nancy - it's not worth it. There are too many mad people out there as it is. ;o)

  3. I'm always interested in how they estimate the "you've got 6 months". There's just too many stories where it varies hugely either way of that time frame. The psychology for the patient is such a huge factor in not only how the time remaining is lived but also how long that time actually is, that I question the validity of telling a person such a concrete number. What's the purpose? Should it change your attitude towards the illness? Certain types of cancer definitely warrant the person who has it to get their affairs in order, but should it make you change the way you life or what you do?

    The interaction of body & mind are a huge area in medicine that few dare to investigate as it's a mine field full of highly individual parameters. Scientists hate variety from an analysis perspective as it inhibits acurate prediction, which to me means that a doctor who tells me I've got 6 months to live is probably more often wrong than right...

    Either way, cancer SUCKS!

  4. I find that when life has seemed to kick me in the face I have reactions that I would never expect of myself. I think the thing is that no one would really know how or what they would do if handed a death sentence of sorts. It is hard to ponder what your reaction might be because we think we know ourselves so well. And yet, when the unexpected happens (and it always does) we seem to act differently than we ever could imagine. This has happened to me. I have decided I don't want to think about what I would do with only six months left to live. I am grateful I live under a shadow of denial where I think no matter what happens to me I am invincible and safe and protected. It makes getting through the day easier for me. Great thought provoking post!

  5. Things that make you say Hmmmmmmm,

    It's hard to say what I would do given that time frame, first I'd have to question the Doc and see where he actually got that number then move on to prove him wrong.

    We all have our timers running so to say, our life will end right on time the only factor that may change will be determined by what you are doing when the timer runs out, sitting in a chair or running down the street end result will be the same although the manner quite different.

    Our job is to not worry about the timer running out and to live life in the most productive manner we can, sitting and worrying about when it will end will only cause you to have lost it all when it does end.

  6. I tend to get angry and feel hurt, or wronged, but I'm learning what a waste of energy that is, and lately I've tried just letting things go. It's easier said than done, but when it's done, wow do I feel better.

    Last night was opening night of a show I designed. A former staff member came to see the show (one who left on bad terms) and as soon as she saw me, insulted my work. It was REALLY hard not to let it ruin my night because I knew she was insulting me intentionally and in an effort to hurt me because she was angry about how we parted ways nearly a year ago. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that her rudeness comes from something inside her that is hurting and lashing out at me is her way of feeling better about herself. I think the old adage is true- you catch more flies with honey. Even if her rudeness hurts me and makes me want to strike back, I've learned that if I just let it go, I haven't engaged and put myself in a position to say or do something to hurt someone else in retaliation. And what good would it have done me to engage her after the insult? I may have even had to endure worse, but by smiling and saying, "Good to see you," and then walking away, I can genuinely look back on that situation and feel good about how I reacted. SO much easier said than done, though. :)

  7. You know, Nancy...I get angry about some things, but I usually feel it as hurt feelings. But the situations you described? I can't say for certain I'd let them go or raise hell. I guess it depends if Aunt Flo is planning a visit or not.

  8. @Simply Suthern- And I liked YOUR comment...I too would rather be missed than have people glad I'm gone. That made me chuckle. Thanks!

    @Julie Buz- I never understood that quote either. Although I suppose it sounds rather high brow or something. Maybe I'm just too much a logical thinker. :-)

    @Eric - I couldn't agree more. ON the cancer AND how they come up with their timelines. On one hand, being a consumate planner, I'd like to have a timeline to go by. But I think I'd rather be oblivious to any date concerning my end. Thanks, once again, for your comment. :-)

    @DrSoosie- I most agree. I've had reactions in some situations that have surprised me. I too live in under that protective umbrella, or bubble in my case...that keeps me protected. Mentally at leasst. :-)

    @Jimmy- It sounds as if you'd be one to punch the shark! Or maybe the doctor? :-)
    Thanks for your comment! I like to prove people wrong as well.

    @Renee- That's absolutely horrible about your past co-worker. And you did the honorable thing. I'm not surprised that you would show such grace and composure. But it still hurts, at least a little. You don't deserve that. I'm sure your show was FABULOUS! Just like you. :-)

    @JenJen- Ahhhh the ol' Aunt Flo. I kindof WANT her to visit. Just so I can READ about it!!! (I'm so bad) Your twitter picture yesterday made me crave a marguarita ALL night. Hope you had fun! :-)

    Thanks you guys for your comments!


  9. The only thing that really makes me angry is people taking advantage of other people. There's a lot of that going around these days; therefore, I'm always angry.

  10. If I had 6 months to live....I would quit work and spend as much time as possible with those I love. I would write my daughters and granson each a letter. Probably do a video to my family.

  11. I can't do without the forehead wrinkles...I'll just take the crap and avoid confrontation as long as I can. When my FIL was diagnosed with lung cancer he was given 2 weeks to 2 months to live. He immediately got all of his business in order which took a couple of weeks and he only lived 2 months. Very sad.

  12. I was so close to going to Machu Pichu when we lived in South America. But ended up missing out because I was pregnant. My sister went and she still talks about how magical it was. I think you better send me a cutting of your money tree...

  13. Wow, let's not go there. Live long and happy, Nancy. Indigo

  14. The truth is none of us are guaranteed six more months or even one more day. That beautiful beach you've been saying you'll return to one day may be covered in oil next week. Civil war may break out in the country you meant to visit. If something is important enough that it's on your list to do before you die, do it NOW.

  15. Bucket list (great movie btw)... should be kept short and realistic at all times :)

  16. Yes indeed, you and I are a lot alike. There's no point in getting offended at life's little quirks. Simply accept what is, because getting angry about it is not going to make it any better, or affect the outcome at all.

    I think you would have a very rich, full, loving six months. Which would turn into twelve months, or twenty-four. Live every moment, love every moment.

  17. Who say's "you should get angry" ? I think that's weird... we shouldn't just GET angry in order to GET respect. How about getting respect by being kind and loving, and treating people as you want to be treated. AND embracing life and the people you've been blessed to share it with- as if you may not have it/them in 6 months. We should live that way, with a sense of urgency, a timer, you really just never know what tomorrow will bring.
    AND! We also should dress as we please, and not waste our days in flower printed ruffles and frilly red and orange and yellow and green and uuuuhhhhh! I'm so sorry for you.

  18. I just returned from a fabulous but low-cost trip driving through the mountains and northern coast of california. I think I'd do something like that for a bit if I were up to it. and then spend my time painting, writing, quilting and loving on my family. and trying to stay positive. I get mad at times, but I refuse to be bitter or carry a grudge. That is no way to live. (and i'm hoping that might protect me just a teensy bit from the dreaded cancer...i know, no guarantees.) I think your get along, go along attitude will get you through a lot!

  19. BEAUTIFUL. Just like you.

    (PS thanks for the shout out on here!)


  20. My Nan said to make a list of things I'd do if I was told I only had a little while to live....and then go do them :) Wise lady my Nan. My mum calls that the "hit by a bus" clause. She reckons that when doing your household budget you apply it so you aren't constantly saving for tomorrow, but spoil yourself a bit today in case you are hit by a bus before tomorrow.

  21. I wonder about this kind of stuff too. I want to say my will to live is strong, because my will to live while living is pretty damned hefty. But truth be told, my will to live while dying might not be so hot.

    I hate that about myself, and want to change it the more I see other people living out their last days to the fullest.

  22. You handle yourself so well....and sometimes the easiest way to react is not react. You could teach us all a few lessons.

    But shoes mailed in a bag? Odd. LOL.

  23. As always, a beautifully written, deeply thoughtful entry...

    I cringed at the premise - but there is a reality and one needs to meet it head on.

    I can only iterate what some of your commenters have already said... if it's your big dream - Do it. Do it NOW. (I've seen those words somewhere)

    I traveled far more of the planet than many - and on each of my travels - the one thing that always - ALWAYS stood out - was the older couple (or older widow without her lifelong companion) struggling up the stairs to keep up with the tour due to infirmity due to age... and when home, its common to hear someone lament, we saved all our lives for this trip, but so-and-so died before we could go...

    ...and its not just "travel" dreams - this applies to ALL your biggest, boldest dreams...

    P.s., I'll get my passport renewed - I've always wanted to go to Machu Pichu... :)

  24. Excellent post, as always. Most people who read it (including myself) think, "Well, this isn't going to happen to me. I'll never get cancer or be in some horrible accident." The thing is, no one ever plans on it. It just hits out of the blue.

    As far as the anger thing, I'm with you. Getting angry takes a lot of effort, and most situations aren't worth it. I hate confrontation, even if I'm in the right.


Do it. Do it NOW!