Of late, I have found myself musing over my mortality. Last night, I started calculating the years left in my life in terms of the number of cats I might possess (in truth, I am less certain that I possess my feline companions than the alternate option).
I am 33 (and almost a half).
I share a home with several felines. In order of age, eldest first and youngest last, they are:
Smokey (Grey Tabby of slight design)
Gender Ambiguous Age 9
Fingolfin (aka Bruiser, Siamese Himalayan of stout stature)
Born summer-ish 2008, adopted September 2008
Male Age 6
Arwen (aka Stella, Grey Russian Blue Tabby of rotund stature)
Born summer-ish 2008
Found at gas station in Skagit Valley
Adopted December 2008
Female Age 6
Puck (Maine Coon of fluffy design).
Born summerish 2009
Adopted fall 2009
Male Age 5
Let’s say that the Skagit cats all live another 10 years, give or take. That will put me at 43-44 years of age. If I adopt another two cats (because let’s face it, four is just too much), each creature will likely live another 16 years.
Now, I am 60. What does 60 look and feel like? Will I want a cat? Will I want the freedomt to travel?
I could potentially get two more rounds of cats, possibly three if I am very long-lived and able.
Anyway, as I sat in the passenger seat doing the math, I could see my entire future before me. Did I have time to get an orange cat? What about a black cat to replace my beloved Izzy, whom I had given up to a family in Alaska before fleeing the state?
I love Russian Blue and Calico, too. There were so many choices and so many beings in need of safe haven and love.
It was clear that I needed to live a long life and also that I should probably try to relax a little bit.
I can remember my dad telling me about his desire to read as many books as possible before time ran out. Periodically, I think about all of the time I am wasting by not spending several hours a day dedicated to reading.
Am I just frittering away my precious time on this earth?
I don’t think I am, but there are so many hours in each day. Sometimes, I feel that I should be accomplishing much more with each passing hour.
Additionally, I must admit that I am a bit terrified of growing old. All of my joints and muscles ache, and I am still in the early 30s realm of my current decade.
And so I sit musing over mortality on a Monday morning.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this one life we are given; or if you believe in another realm beyond, reincarnation, or something entirely different.
9 thoughts on “Cat Lives”
Reincarnation, other realms, etc… too many topics. Let’s focus on the age thing.
Mortality to me means “who knows when you pass into whatever?”… So we make the most of the time we have, as best as we can with current limitations. Or at least, we should. It’s what I have been focusing on with 100% of my energy.
You know me better than most. You know my opinion on this, and you know how I have previously lamented time “wasted.” Do you remember what you said to me in response every time I complained about this?
“None of that time was wasted, it has led you to who you are right now.”
So be that person – “free in the moment”, if you will – and go do stuff. ❤
Thanks for the reminder, Jamie. Good call! I think these moments of reflection are helpful because they remind me of how precious each day is and to honor myself and the the other beings with whom I share this wild universe. ❤
This could get long.
Cats and dogs
When the Powerball Lottery gets over $200 million I ignore the ethical problems surrounding it and buy a ticket. $200 million is enough, after giving back half in taxes, to set up some pretty good organizations or fund a bunch of already great organizations. Animal shelters would be a big one for me; I could help all the pets without having to own all the pets.
On aching joints
Yoga. I find that as the years add up it takes more exercise to keep everything feeling okay. I think this is mostly because sitting at a keyboard all day is so awful and it takes more and more to offset that damage each year. Yoga really helped the one year I was committed to it. I need to get back into it. But of course there’s so little time.
On finding time
A nice twist that comes with getting older is finding one needs less sleep. I do many things that others consider pointless. But they make me happy, so I keep doing them. I would be a better guitar player if I gave up all of my other “pointless” activities. I would have read more meaningful books this year if I’d avoided reading the beach-read thrillers I kept finding myself unable to put down. There are good films I didn’t watch this year while I indulged in my MTV’s The Challenge guilty pleasure. There are good wines still in the bottle because I drank yet another identical IPA instead.
Obviously, every choice to do one thing is also a choice to not do something else. Balancing those choices in a way that doesn’t lead to deathbed regrets is the challenge. I don’t feel guilty about my video game indulgences anymore, because when my brain needs that type of meditation that’s what I need at that moment. I feed it and then move onto the next thing. The same with blowing through 400 pages of a formulaic thriller. Or a completely indefensible reality show. They all serve to cleanse the mental pallet prior to the next engagement. They also add happiness to my life, despite their questionable taste, cultural relevance, or age-appropriateness, and that’s a good thing.
My father-in-law, and I still think of him that way since he died before the divorce, once said: “Growing old takes courage.” I don’t recall if that was before or after he got cancer, it was definitely after a recent doctor’s visit. When I was younger I always figured it was easier being old. No job to worry about. Kids already raised. Most of life’s surprises and tragedies behind you. Easier.
But the confrontations with one’s morality occur more often as we age. I’m only 45 and already I’m attending more funerals than weddings. My peers die on an average of about one every 6 months. I won’t deceive myself that it’s just been a bad couple of years.
But deception is what most of us do when it comes to death. We ignore, we deny, we retreat. We pretend it can’t happen to us. I suspect that ties into the notion that if we are using our time wisely this will somehow confer onto us more time. That an afternoon spent listening to Mozart sonatas is somehow more valuable than an afternoon spent listening to Katy Perry (Heatheny aside – did you know she’s singing at the Super Bowl Halftime? When I first heard that news yesterday my first thought was “Is Justin Timberlake involved? Justin Timberlake needs to be involved!” I’m a bad person. Except when you consider that a naked breast really shouldn’t send a country happy to drone strike weddings into an outraged chorus of “think of the children!” Breasts>bombs. But I digress). Or an afternoon spent reading comic books is somehow less valuable than an afternoon at the MFA.
All of it is important and none of it is important. That’s the paradox of our consciousness. On a personal level, everything matters. On a generational level it starts to blur. My father is adopted, who knows how the decisions his grandfather made impacted or didn’t impact that outcome. On a historic level it’s irrelevant. On a planetary level even more so. On a universal level nothing any of us do or any of us have ever done matters and will likely go unnoticed outside our little ball of blue.
And yet, at that scale, one begins to see how much what we do on a personal level really does matter. From Alan Moore’s The Watchmen, more influential to me and my thoughts on the life we are given than the two dozen years of Christianity that I walked away from:
John: “Thermodynamic miracles… events with odds against so astronomical they’re effectively impossible, like oxygen spontaneously becoming gold. I long to observe such a thing. And yet, in each human coupling, a thousand million sperm vie for a single egg. Multiply those odds by countless generations, against the odds of your ancestors being alive; meeting; siring this precise son; that exact daughter… Until your mother loves a man she has every reason to hate, and of that union, of the thousand million children competing for fertilization, it was you, only you, that emerged. To distill so specific a form from that chaos of improbability, like turning air to gold… that is the crowning unlikelihood. The thermodynamic miracle.”
Laurie: “But…if me, my birth, if that’s a thermodynamic miracle… I mean, you could say that about anybody in the world!”
John: “Yes. Anybody in the world. ..But the world is so full of people, so crowded with these miracles that they become commonplace and we forget… I forget. We gaze continually at the world and it grows dull in our perceptions. Yet seen from the another’s vantage point. As if new, it may still take our breath away. Come…dry your eyes. For you are life, rarer than a quark and unpredictable beyond the dreams of Heisenberg; the clay in which the forces that shape all things leave their fingerprints most clearly. Dry your eyes… and let’s go home.”
Everything matters and nothing matters, with a balance point in between that those who came before us and those who will come after us have always searched for, labeling it carpe diem or living in the moment or YOLO. Depending on the perspective, everything you do is either frittering or world changing. The relaxation I get from my mindless pursuit this evening is the fuel for tomorrow’s creative outpouring. The cultural backwater on TV that makes me laugh tonight provides the patience I need when parenting tomorrow. The life-changing trip to Europe confirms that any time spent with my friends is more enjoyable than seeing Roman ruins in person. One night at the opera is enough for a lifetime. A $400 bottle of whiskey isn’t significantly better than a $40 bottle of bourbon.
Our navigation of our lives is influenced as much by those things we love as those things we detest. We steer towards one and away from the other. I believe we do this unconsciously most of the time, out of instinct for what we actually need at a given moment, instead of what we are told we need at a given moment. We awake from those restorative times to find, once again, face to face with the expectations of ourselves and others. For me, it’s always with Franklin’s quote in mind: “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.” That’s when we begin to worry that perhaps we wasted that hour, that afternoon, that day, that weekend. We admonish ourselves that we should have accomplished more with that time.
Aging for me has made it easier to be kind to myself. To acknowledge that no day is wasted, to accept that I did what I needed or wanted to do that day. It has made it easier to identify which expectations I am passionate about and which ones belong to other people and are not my concern. As my time slowly dwindles it becomes easier to identify where to spend that nonrenewable resource and shift my activities accordingly. Instead of blaming myself for doing one thing instead of another “more important” thing, I now ask if the second thing is really important to me given how much time I’m spending avoiding it; the absence of data is still data, just not the data one expected.
One comment… I am in no way in denial of the end of my own life. In many ways, I feel like I am on borrowed time as I can point to 5+ events in my early life that could have easily led to me not being here anymore.
I honestly do not think about having limited time left – I do however fixate on that time being time of quality, and keeping the tools I need to have on hand to lead a quality life; Courage to do the things I’ve always wanted to, Kindness and Affection to share with folks in my sphere of influence, and Love to share with those who are close to me.
As far as time spent, as long as it helps me grow / provides comfort / laughter / big feelings, I honestly do not see how I can spend the time any more positively. Admittedly, someone to share life with would be a very nice “usage” of time… but it has to be a special person and one that I can trust. Time will tell if that is meant to be.
I would suggest that maybe we should not give any power to “how much time is left”. If I die tomorrow, I’m ok with it. I think I’ve left a positive mark. Assuming I’m ok tomorrow, I will continue to try and leave a positive mark.
If it weren’t for near-death experiences most men would never mature. So much science points to frontal-temporal development in the early 20s, when I suspect the realization of men’s non-indestructibility comes from just one “that was too close” moment. I still remember mine quite clearly.
I’m not sure there’s a way to defang death. Just by being focused on spending our time on quality things we give power to the notion of how much time is left. It’s an acknowledgement that life is not limitless. Even if we are not consciously thinking of it, our choices reflect our awareness.
Being happy upon waking up to a new day is an acknowledgement of dodging death, whether we’re aware of it or not. That doesn’t make everyone as morbid as Harry Burns – “Oh, really? When I buy a new book, I read the last page first. That way, in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends. That, my friend, is a dark side.” – but living, in all it’s myriad and subtle ways, is inexorably linked to dying.
And we’re only just brushing up against the differences between awareness and acceptance.
Just for quoting “When Harry Met Sally” makes my life even more worth living, Jim!
I don’t think I’ve watched that yet this year. I’ll have to put it on when I’m setting up the decorations on Friday!
Reasons to go on living 😉 I highly recommend “Home for the Holidays,” which is a tradition for my family to watch on Thanksgiving!
Love Home for the Holidays. The first time my ex and I watched that I commented that RDJ was drugged out of his mind in one scene. She said that was a terrible thing to say and couldn’t be true.
End of movie, off to IMDB trivia: “Robert Downey Jr. publicly admitted to using heroin during the making of this film. Jodie Foster wrote him a letter praising his work but warning him that he could not keep doing this on other films.”
It’s like watching a movie within a movie knowing this.
I just ordered When Harry Met Sally because I can’t stream it off Netflix.