There is a time in every man’s life when he has to reflect on what has been and gone and what will be, on how he may have wasted his time, on how he may have changed other people’s lives. I suppose that time is now.
I am not a man who thrives on rational argument; in fact quite the opposite. I have this discussion regularly with my philosophy-addicted son, who feels I am incapable of having a coherent conversation with him which lasts for more than fifteen seconds (less, probably). But he is cut from a different cloth, manages to analyse every action, every moment of life down into its most infinitesimal component. I can’t do that, nor do I think I want to. I’ll look at emotions and paint them on my canvas with broad, impressionist word strokes, and turn away. Because that’s enough for me. Let the minute implications and interpretations work themselves out in the minds of those who read and think more deeply than I do.
We celebrated my mother’s life last week, dressed in bright clothes of many colours. We laughed, and talked, and drank, and cried. She’d been without Dad for almost twenty years, and for the last five years, at least, she no longer knew who I was. I am an orphan now, a real orphan, and finally, maybe, a real grown-up. And a man closer to death than to birth. I remember reading somewhere once, a long time ago, and I don’t remember who wrote it, that we are only complete and wise and grown if we think about our own death at least three times a day. I think about it more often than that, and have done ever since my reading moved on from the Famous Five to something more exacting and complex.
So I sit here, this miserable summer’s evening already darkening and closing in around me, and contemplate the road ahead. The road behind, yes, it has been marked with some exceptional experiences and achievements, with much luck and hard work, but it’s gone, done and dusted, sand passed under my soles never to be seen or trod again. What’s to come?
There’s that old cliché, so little time and so much to do, but that’s how it feels to me each day, with ideas and errands and necessities cluttering my head, my desk and my life, and only a finite, unknown time to go. It doesn’t depress me, the thought of having only a limited number of days; it makes everything more urgent, makes everything a priority, and leaves me having to choose what I will and will not do. And some things do seem a waste of time, even though I enjoy them, and some things, on the other had, seem a necessity, a duty, even if I don’t enjoy them. There we go again – choices. It seems my leitmotif at the moment. Ideally, I’d like to do everything, be able to exist without having to resort to sleep or rest, without being drawn to sit and catch my breath, would rather just chase around the world, race around life without having to choose, and then, at any given moment, find that I’d miraculously managed to do everything without even noticing.
Back in the real world, I want to write as many books as I can, need to move on and edit A Fear of Heights and send it to my agent, and do it before the calendar summer is over. I have to get protestpoems rolling again. And I have to start writing poems again. And paint again. And teach myself, properly, how to get my stubby fingers round the F chord on the guitar, and how to play the piano properly (once we move the piano we’ve been given into this house from somewhere else). And tidy up, and do my fair share of the washing up, and not shout at anyone who’s on holiday in this household while I plod my way through a working summer. And, and , and …
Maybe this is immortality, after all, this errand-chasing life, not a reminder of mortality and transcience. Maybe. But I think I’ll keep telling myself that my days are numbered, that I still have so much to do, and most of it of value, even if only of value to me.