Early in my “vacation” I was faced with a situation that, in some respects, was a low-point in my life.
My solar power system was totally dead, its replacement paid for but waiting for delivery of a charge controller that was also paid for, but back ordered by the supplier. Without its delivery, the whole new system was on hold. I had two generators, one of which runs but is surging and blowing out electronic equipment in the house, and the other which runs for 20 minutes and dies. Both generators use inordinate amounts of gasoline and have been breaking me financially. So I had no power. No Internet. No TV. No radio. No writing (I can’t write on paper; my hands only work on the keyboard). No money. This was a first.
Yet, curiously enough, my mood has been upbeat. I can take it. I have this fantasy that I am serving a sentence with these hardships in parallel with my parricides. If they can handle it, I can too. The one thing we all have in common is that we are survivors.
The other night, however, I thought that I couldn’t take it. For only the second time since the stroke I downed two glasses of scotch, got drunk (I’m a real lightweight anymore), and fell asleep in the dark.
Then, sometime during the night, I had an “ah-hah” moment.
The thought came to me that life is a matter of choosing between life and death, and that I have been choosing death since my wife died almost 21 years ago. I chose to grieve rather than looking to the future. I invested too much money to keep her literary magazine alive longer than it should have lived. I didn’t care about the financial consequences of my decisions because I didn’t think I had much of a future. And here is the worst thing: I had developed an expectation (based upon my ancestors’ longevity) that I would not live beyond my 73rd birthday… only 7 years from now.
Now here is the thing about expectation: it is a very powerful thing. Without really knowing it, we make thousands of little decisions based on our expectation of what is going to happen. Our lives can become a matter of self-fulfilling prophesy.
I realize that my expectation that I have only 7 years to live is not enough time. I have about 2½ years to continue paying on the central tract at Estrella Vista and can only then begin to live comfortably on my monthly Social Security check afterwards. That would leave only 4½ years to build everything I want to leave to the parricides who would survive me. Obviously not realistic.
I need another vision of myself—another expectation—to hold in my head, one that supports (not undermines) my goals. A wizened, maybe toothless, old man who will live far beyond 73, and be vital up until the ancient end. A Father Perrault from James Hilton’s Lost Horizon.
I need to follow my mentor’s example: he and his wife took me aside at the American embassy in Paris and told me about a horseback ride they took on her 65th birthday on which they both pledged to live as long and well as they could, and for him to start his fifth career. He lived into his 90s and became successful and widely-loved (again), and she lived to over 100.
I can, too.
Luckily for me, I have a piece of fiction in the can which features a character ready-made for this purpose. This is a character based on what I would like to become. Whether this manuscript ever sees the light of day, the character already exists and is available for me to internalize whole-cloth. He is a character who has lived for over 120 years, a character with plenty of time.
Now maybe some readers think that this epiphany is too little too late in coming to do any good. I beg to differ. There is an old saying that we live our lives forward, but understand them in reverse. My grandfather had a plaque in his den which said “Ve Get Too Soon Oldt, und Too Late Schmart.” The timing matters not. The only thing that matters is that we eventually grow smart about our lives.
This is the whole essence of redemption.
Groove of the Day
PS: New Posting Time. In an effort to become less dependent on nighttime power generation by any means, I am moving the publication time for new posts from midnight to noon. Get used to it, you early birds!