Monday, June 4, 2012

Carpe Diem and full speed ahead

Carpe Diem and full speed ahead
I was half listening to my radio. The woman’s voice said something like this: “I’m retired. Retirement isn’t the end. Retirement is another phase. I worked hard all my life. Now I can live.”
“Whoa,” I responded. “I’ve worked hard all my life too, but it would be a crying shame if I had to wait for retirement before I could live. What’s that supposed to mean?”

The past few days, every time I turn around, a reminder to live fully has popped up smack in my face. I suppose we all have a different definition of “living fully”. To me, it doesn’t mean life is all fun and games. We each experience a measure of pain and sorrow. For myself, I want to be aware of every moment, no matter what.
This week in the obituaries I read that a friend from thirty-one years ago had died. Ed was eighty-one. I know that he lived a good full life. Until I met Ed, I was a rowboat who’d lost her oars, battered about in a stormy ocean. Ed dragged me onto shore and kindly kick-started me onto on a different path. He was one of several friends who taught me practical rules for life.  I regret that I didn’t keep in touch with him. I often remember Ed with gratitude.

I was talking with a friend, both of us without a sweet anchor. We agreed that we are incurable romantics who somehow had hooked up with people who tried to erase us. I told him that, in my opinion, most of the men I meet now are already dead. They just forgot to quit breathing. They want a partner to sit with them on the barstools of life and watch the world go by, preferably on Fox. I want a different channel. I want to trek along the uncharted cow path, even if it ends in a gopher hole.

“That’s kind of how I felt last winter,” said Steve, a friend from Washington, here helping me with a couple projects that require man power. “I was sitting in my recliner with a beer in my hand. I wondered what had happened. Theresa was seriously ill and I couldn’t leave her. But I wasn’t doing anything. That man in the chair didn’t feel like he was really me.” The good news is that Theresa is better and sounds like her old bubbly self. Steve is out of his chair and active. That intermission in life might have been necessary but it was not comfortable for either of them.

After a meeting later that night Linda told me about a conversation with Bev. Bev told her, “I plan to go to Mexico with Sondra next year.”  “You can’t do that,” Linda said. “You can’t go to Mexico with Sondra. That woman is crazy. She goes all over the country by herself. She isn’t scared of anything. Sondra, you are braver than I am.” 

“I doubt that. Look, Linda, I’ve been alone a long time. I figured out that I had choices. I could sit home by myself and slowly die or I could get out there and do things. At first it was hard to pry myself out the door. Even today it is not always easy. I’d rather do things with someone else. But if I have to go alone, I go. I might not always have a good time, but at least I have an interesting time.”

“When you explain it, it makes sense, but I couldn’t do it.”

 “Linda, if something happened to Duane, you would be surprised at what you can do.” The truth is that Linda is a strong and courageous woman.
The next day Dick phoned to see if I was back home. I told him about the radio ad that triggered this whole line of thought. “I’m glad I didn’t hear that woman years ago,” he said. “I just might have climbed right down into the grave and told them to shovel on the dirt.”

I had to laugh. Dick is my hero, a man who frequently steps outside his comfort zone, a man who many years ago learned to live each day to the utmost.  
That same night Steve and I watched a silly feel-good movie, about two crazy old coots living adventures, encountering African lions and lost treasures in exotic lands, fighting Arabian sheiks and rescuing kidnapped princesses. I think the movie was telling us to believe in ourselves, to get out and do it, crazy or not, scared or not, true or not.

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

May 24, 2012

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