I’ll preface this letter by telling you that I think I’ve only recently had my eyes forced wide open. I’ve learned what I should’ve picked on decades ago: that life is about risk, taking chances and at least, being brave enough to occasionally glimpse over that scary, scary edge.
As you know, I also turned 50 earlier this year and I’ve come to the sad conclusion that I’ve spent my great deal of my life in a safe vacuum, unwilling to do anything that might affect my health, well being and longevity.
But all I did was compromise my happiness.
I reflect back on my life, as I’m sure you’ve done most of this year, and I didn’t think I had any significant regrets, but I do. I was frightened, for reasons that I can’t even fathom now. As a result, I retreated from life, which means I took few chances. I read every self help book; believed every news report about the evils of eggs, saccharin, beef, red M&M’s, alcohol consumption and smoking. I’ve given up so much and that’s what predicated this letter to you. Well that plus, realization and a recent visit to a new doctor.
After the first check up when the test results came back, he called me back into his office. I asked him how I was doing medically. He told that I was fine “for someone of my age”. As the family knows, I’ve tried to live the healthiest life possible, but even so, his response alarmed me.
So, I asked him, “I’m not sure what that means. I consider myself to be a very careful, very healthy 50-year-old I’ve tried to live by the book, so what do you think, Doc? Will I live to the age of 80 and beyond, maybe?”
The doctor just looked at me and cocked his head. “Well, answer a few questions for me. Do you drink alcohol of any kind to any degree? What about drugs? Do you eat red meat, Bar-B-Q beef and pork with all the trimmings and endure periods of stress and insomnia?”
“I do none of those things. I sleep fairly well, too!”
He squinted his eyes. “Do you work out? Race cars? Do you gamble, bowl, watch sports, play pool, have evenings out with the guys?”
“Oh no, no! I exercise in moderation only. I don’t want to risk injury. Gambling is a vice I want to live without, thank you and sports is nothing but relatively civilized savagery”.
He asked, “No lifting weights, crunches?”
“Never. Plus I rarely socialize. My life and how I choose to live it is my best friend. I watch educational TV and documentaries and ONLY listen to classical music and the occasional opera. Candide and La Boheme are my favorites. And I’d never risk life and limb by driving fast. In fact, I obey all speed limits. I’m proud to admit that I drive the crazy streets of Houston conservatively in my American-made sedans. Had them all my life.”
He continued on with this questioning. “Do you like being in the sun, sailing, playing golf, swim, tennis, jogging, cycling or hiking? What about yard work?
“I do none of those things. I’m extremely fastidious. I hate getting dirty. As I’ve told you, I live life very safely. I don’t tempt fate. Unprotected exposure to natural sunlight is a carcinogen, not to mention a premature agent of aging!”
He then asked, “What about sex, in your marriage bed or that in the extramarital world?”
“Oh no!” I answered him. I’m for the most part celibate these days. ”
He looked puzzled and removed his glasses. “Really? All you’ve told me is true?”
I proudly responded “Yes!! So lastly, do you think I’m going to live long enough to reach 80…even longer?”
He shook his head. “With the way you’ve lived your life, why would you even give a shit?”
That didn’t actually happen, LK. That was an e-mail sent to me, but it seemed quite fitting considering all that’s happening in your life these days.
Reading that joke convinced me that I’ve probably never actually lived my life. I merely existed in it. I merely experienced whatever came my way. I never sought anything. Life happened and fear of something I’m not even sure of forced me to live under a rock and, I suppose, a bunch of lies….namely those which I told myself.
I don’t want you to wake up 30-years from now and wonder if you’ve done enough, read enough, loved enough, been loved enough, helped others enough and laughed enough. I don’t want you to die without ever having seen Barcelona or the Turks and Caicos islands. I want you live your life and take chances. It’s completely worth the risk. Live your life in Technicolor, Laurie. It’s like that damn candy commercial, Laurie: that one that urges young consumers to feel the rainbow.
You’ve got a lot of life ahead of you. In many ways, the best part of your life has yet to unfold. And why not? At any given time, there are supernatural forces at play that giveth or taketh away. When one of these forces are in your midst, you’ve got to grab it and go. Anticipate all the wonders that are being laid out before you right now. This is what you’ve waited for. Right here, right now. In many ways, this year of your life will be a gift to you. You’ve earned it. It may take a while to believe it, but you’ll eventually regard it as such. There will be newsness in the old and a repeat of happiness that you thought you’d never encounter. Everything old is new again this year. Cherish the memories, both old and new.
As for this chronological age? Well, it’s true, you’ve never been this old before; but you’ll never be as young as you are right now. So create the memory bouquet. Vow to climb Kilimanjaro. Go on safari. See Brazil. Eat snails in Vienna and make every damn effort to love and stare deeply at least one more time into those blue eyes that touched your soul all those years ago. Before you die, see that beauty and refamiliarize yourself with what pure love is one last time.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must end this tome and make plans for this evening. I’m taking a mutual friend of ours out for a romantic dinner and dancing. I’m thinking steaks and a terrific Pignot… maybe a bottle or two. Then, I’m calling the municipal airport to inquire about skydiving lessons for this Saturday morning . Hopefully, I can secure a lesson at that time. If I can, I plan on driving well above the speed limit to get there faster, while listening to rock music on the radio and eating peanut M&M’s.
I hope they melt in my hand.
So, move forward my dear and don’t look back. Have no regrets either, Laurie; they’ll age you before your years. Carpe anos, darlin’!! Have fun. And please, learn to let love in.
I know I’ve learned how to do this and as a result, I can tell you unequivocally that I love you like my china pattern, baby girl!
Always have; always will.
See? That wasn’t so hard!!!