Saturday, March 9, 2013

When Did Forever Become Temporary?


At what point in our lives do things that seem to be forever become temporary?  In youth, we feel like our lives will go on forever but as we age we see the end.

Growing up I thought I would find the girl of my dreams and we’d be married forever.  I did. It ended.  Did it again; ended again.  And now a third time.  When I bought my first house I assumed I would live there till I died.  Sold it eighteen months later and moved halfway across the country for a job because the job I thought I’d have forever had ended.

We are supposed to live for today but plan for tomorrow.  Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.  But there is always tomorrow.  Unless there isn’t.  Listen to the lyrics of Tim McGraw’s song “Live Like You Were Dying.”  What does one character in the song tell the other upon learning he had cancer?  He went skydiving.  Rode a rodeo bull for two seconds.  Found the time to go fishing with a loved one.  Did all the things he’d been putting off.  Lived like there was no tomorrow.  Lives like he was dying.

Morgan Freeman is narrating a TV show that’s on in the next room as I’m writing this.  He is talking about time.  What is time really?  Funny that one of my favorite quotes about time and life is spoken by Morgan Freeman’s character Red in the movie Shawshank Redemption … ‘get busy living or get busy dying.”

During various periods of my life I tried to do everything.  I was busy living.  I’d cram all the activity I could into a day, week, month.  Yet I always felt there were years ahead of me in which I could get stuff done that I didn’t have time for today, this week or this month.  My life would last forever.

Now, on a cold but sunny morning I find myself alone, having ended my third forever marriage, in an apartment, having sold my fourth forever house, in Maryland because my plan to live forever in Texas decades ago didn’t work out.  I am writing about time on the day we set our clocks ahead one hour for Daylight Saving Time, which means that today is an hour shorter than yesterday.  What an odd concept!

My mental picture of time is linear.  I see years as miles and life as a ride on a highway over a mountain, similar to driving west on I-70 out of Frederick, Maryland over Braddock Mountain or driving west on that twisting section of I-40 heading into Asheville, North Carolina.  For much of those drives, many miles/years are behind me and the road ahead is clear.  I can’t quite see what’s ahead but it feels like the road goes on forever.  Now, however, I’m crossing the ridge.  There is a valley ahead. On the literal drives in my example I smirk and think the words “it’s all downhill from here.”  And I ask “where is my exit?”  On some days, like today, I have the same similar questions about my life … “Is it all downhill from here?” and “Where is my exit?” 

When you drive up the face of a mountain you can’t see over the top.  When you reach the ridge, you can see an end.  The road is forever, the drive is temporary.

I write often about my desire to live a hundred years.  I’m a little past halfway there, which could mean that all the life, all the experiences, all the joy, sorrow and knowledge up to this point is only half and that I still have that much ahead of me.  It is a little disconcerting to see exit signs and a little scary to not know which is mine. 

A better road example might be US 40 into Hagerstown or US 55 into Asheville.  They cross the same mountains as their parallel Interstate counterparts but both end at stop lights a little beyond their respective ridges.  During the first half of our journeys we don’t usually see exits or red lights; our roads go on forever.   
At mid-life we start to see how temporary the journey is.

I am a man who wants answers but all I have is questions.  This might be typical for mid-life or it might just be another annoying personality trait of boomers.  Either way, writing this today has led me to a few answers and a few more potential ones. 

When do things that seem to be forever become temporary?  For me, it was around my 50th birthday.

What is time really?  Miles on a road trip.

Is it all downhill from here?  Hell no!  Although the speed is a little slower.

Which exit is mine?  That is where my analogy will change.  I already got off the Interstate and onto the local road.  Every red light eventually turns green, right?  No exits, just a few speed bumps.  What I might do for the rest of my journey is stop at every intersection, drink in every bar, eat in every restaurant, kiss every girl, take every picture, read every book, watch every movie, sing every song.

What I will do in the next few minutes is publish this post, take a shower, then take a walk and soak in this sunny day.  I won’t go skydiving or bull riding.  I might go fishing.  I’ll get busy living. 

Maybe temporary is the new forever.

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