A question often asked is: “What if you only had five years to live?” Or the favourite of job interviewers everywhere: “Where do you see yourself in five years time?” A lot can happen in five years, a lot can happen in six months or even a week. But what if there are no options left, what if this is it? Today is your last day, no more one day I’ll learn a language, climb Mt Kilimanjaro, or do a skydive?
I was contemplating this concept a while ago as I was moping around home, feeling a bit lonely and lost. My children have grown up, I’m in a bit of a holding pattern right now and a few things haven’t turned out the way I expected and, to be honest, I was feeling sorry for myself. Earlier in the day, however, I had taken advantage of the gorgeous weather Auckland was having and taken a long walk along the foreshore near where I lived. I decided to download the photos off my iPhone but it downloaded all the images from the last few years. Over a minute I had a highspeed slideshow of the things I had done over the last few years: time with friends, concerts, sailing, dinners with my children, birthdays, the beach, and it struck me that they were images of a good life – a very good life in fact. If it all came to an end today, well I’ve had a pretty good go of it.
Sure, I’ve had plenty of ups and downs; I’ve been married and divorced, had money and been broke, lost friends and made new ones, dealt with death and loss, but also have two wonderful children and the security of an extended family that are there when it really counts. It has taken me a lifetime to learn this, but the philosophy that works best for me is to be kind to yourself and be kind to others.
We all fuck up, that is what it is to be human. The surprising is not that things can go horribly wrong, but that it doesn’t happen more often. We all get stressed, tired, worried, overwhelmed, drunk, scared and confused. And more often than not, we don’t want to admit it to others.
It’s knowing those times do pass, not beating ourselves up about it and, most importantly, not being afraid to ask for help when it gets too much. Sometimes we have to accept that we can’t do it on our own – and that sometimes the people we thought would be there for us, aren’t.
So if you are feeling a bit glum, sit down and meander through your photo albums to remind yourself that this too shall pass.