The time of my life

Posted on March 15th, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

I have been trying to work out how to have the time of my life. It has been on our minds lately. This is partly fuelled by preparing for high-dose in a month’s time, and watching Bucket List the other day.

The high-dose chemo and stem cell transplant process usually has good results, and there is no real reason to be worried about the process itself, other than it is uncomfortable. But this month we have had to start thinking about planning for the future and how we want to spend our time in a way that is meaningful.

There is actually quite a difference in how we decide to spend our time depending on what timeframe we look at. Two years, 5 years, 10 years and 25 years all have different outcomes of how we would decide to spend this time. Because we don’t know the time frame, it can cause quite a dilemma. In this way, we are really no different to anyone else. None of us know what time we have to play with. Some of you reading this may be gone before I am. It is just that I have been given a head start with an early warning system being tripped. Lucky, huh.

I do know this though, if I have got a really short time, I want to spend it with people. I could sacrifice learning new skills for the sake of hanging out with people- purely and simply. If I have 10 years though, I want to be learning new things and not landing in a pit of atrophy. Of course, I still want to be spending time with people, but there would be attention to purposeful combining the focus. Given 25 years, this outlook would change again.

There is more to write on having a family, but it has been going through our minds quite a lot recently too with contemplating different time frames. The hardest of questions we have had to ponder is do we start a family in such uncertain times. My condition could easily shift within 9 months, so an affirmative decision could be carried out in different circumstances than those during which the decision was made. Ultimately, the best legacy I could put my efforts into would be to raise a child for as long as I could, as best I could. Being a good husband and father would be the foci most worthy of my time. I know that the former is essential, but the latter needs a decision. Obviously faith will play a huge part in this call, and also information about my prognosis. At this stage however, it is unknown. Like I say, much more to write on this. Later.

Vocation is another area needing thought. The shorter the timeframe, the more I want to work with people and develop my skills in making positive change. I love my work at the moment being a Silversmith and an Educator. In the long term, I see the continuation of the silversmith work as important in understanding my heritage. I am now fourth generation in this trade, and it is important to me now to understand what is an important part of my identity. I have silver and gold running through my veins. It would be nice to understand that more, but with gold prices the way they are at the moment, I am happy to stick with the silver.

Education is essential for effective change – essential. So I don’t want to leave this aspect of my vocation. As much as teaching in school has left me disillusioned for the time being, interacting with and educating upcoming generations will always be a wise use of my time. So it is something I will always want to pursue. I have sometimes known the education profession to be detrimental to lifestyle and wellbeing, and if I were to remain in those circumstances it would not be worth my time, nor my students’. In all the other aspects I have utilised education, it would be a great use of my time. When the body can cope with it, and the teaching environment is right, teaching is fantastic. I have been more than privileged to work with the students, teachers and parents that I have been able to work with over the years.

Mixing these two areas of vocation with the other areas I am passionate about requires a great deal of decision making and prioritising. Day to day, I need to decide how to spend the time while balancing this with the need to rest when my body needs it. It can be frustrating. It seems that the most intense time of tension is when my body can’t do much, but my mind is racing with ideas and motivation. The body usually needs to win, for health’s sake. The other aspect of this situation is that if I have limited time, I don’t want to spend it crashing on a couch for a few days. I want to force my body to do something constructive. Anything.

My ‘Bucket List’ (or wish list of things you want to do before ‘kicking the bucket’) is fluid at the moment because I don’t know what timeframe I am working with. Should it matter? I don’t know. Logistically it makes a difference. Philosophically, it may not. Still working through it. I know some of you are reading this and you are at a pointier end to this issue than I. I would be grateful for your thoughts.

I would have thought that by facing such issues as I have been facing, I would have changed my thoughts and behaviours to be as good as I can be, as gracious as I can be, and as angelic as I can be. Not the case. The sad fact is that chemo doesn’t get rid of the moral cancer that inhabits us all. The echoes of being a tainted human are still strong in me. The living a life that honours my wife, family, friends and bystanders is now in more tension than ever as it battles with the desires of what I want to get out of a life that is limited by time. It is like the episode of The Goodies (apologies to my US friends- you can YouTube The Goodies a bit) when they know when the world is going to end and their lives go into chaos. I feel like that in these days sometimes.

Everything considered, it is a fine place to be. If we all had to consider how we spent our time wisely with the consideration that our time may be limited, it can open up an urgency and a refining of ideas that surely beats the hell out of living without a known purpose or at least a real sense that our time here carting these shells of flesh around is finite.

So writing a list of things to do in this lifetime has been on our minds. In saying this, I hope that I can look back in 25 years time with my kids and be thankful that I considered these things in retrospect, knowing that we were dealing with these issues as the issues that were foremost in our minds at this stage of our lives. It could have been worse. I could have been awakened to these issues when I was 89 and the opportunities for deciding how I spent my time would be limited to what board game they let me play at the nursing home or what numbers to choose for Bingo each week. What a painful privilege I have. What a painful privilege we all have.

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