Time. It's something I think a lot about now. You might think my focus would be on how much I have left, and that's true to an extent, but it's more complex than that. Time is a complex thing. Physicists are only now beginning to realize just how complex it really is in the quantum world. And while I guess we live in a universe guided by quantum mechanics, it is our perception of time that is most important.
I can almost see time, not as a I might see a clock, but more as a river or stream. I can look back at all that I have done, all that I've seen, all that I've experienced. And I can look forward at a seemingly infinite multitude of what may be. Only in my case, there's a stop sign or a steep drop-off somewhere up ahead. So I see a number of possibilities to fill my time remaining (things I can do) and a number of hazy things that I could potentially experience (over which I may have no control).
I do spend a fair bit of time looking backwards. I think this is a normal part of the "eyes-open" dying experience. Assessing the quality of my time on earth; weighing that against what or how I could contribute (make a difference) in the time remaining. But some of it is voyeuristic in a nice sort of way - looking back on good memories; remembering special times; thinking about what I would have done different if I'd only known; assessing whether I've lived a good life; and feeling regret for things I didn't do or didn't do right. Many people who have supposedly died and come back describe a period of reflection on their lives. I guess I'm just getting a head start on that.
But I probably spend more effort looking forward, because that is where my freight train sits, idling on the track, waiting to chug head long into me. It is also the open book upon which I can write my legacy or finally define (or perhaps refine is a better word) who I am or at least who I want to be remembered as. You can play this any way you want to. Some people choose to just ignore it (denial) and live their lives as normal as they can, accounting for any phsyical or mental limitations that their disease may bring upon them. So Joe the funny guy who maybe drinks a bit too much is still funny (maybe with a few more morbid jokes thrown in) and perhaps drings a bit too, too much, for which no one blames him. I would never deign to give an opinion on the efficacy or "wastefulness" of this approach one way or another. Others (hopefully few) just fall apart and do waste their remaining time. I believe this choice is a waste because I feel strongly that all of us should use our remaining time to better ourselves (in a spiritual sense) and help make this world a better place (as opposed to all the alternate universes supposedly out there).
I don't know exactly how much time I have. I know what my doctor told me but I know that they are not accurate because we are all different. But I read somewhere that, on average, these estimates tend to be too optimistic, so that's not good. Right now, I go by how I feel. My body is deteriorating at a noticeable rate and, while I can't extrapolate a specific time frame, I feel comfortable saying that I will make my daughter's wedding, but there's about a 50/50 chance of making the next new year's eve. Not very scientific but something real and something I feel comfortable amending depending on how I feel from week to week.
So time gives me a sense of urgency. Urgency to get things done. I have plans to execute to ensure that my affairs are neat and tidy, my family is well looked after, that they have friends to provide them support and help with the tough decisions ahead. I want to make those decisions easy and I want to leave things behind - things that are part of my legacy and things that are personal for my family. Lots to do. So little time.
But if I really think about time and what it has meant to me over the nine plus years since I was diagnosed, I see a lot of additional dimensions.
There is the time I have spent at the hospital and in doctor's offices, mostly waiting, but also talking, having treatments, following up. The time I missed from work while I was doing these things. More specifically, the time I spent in operating rooms and recovering from surgery, in particle accelerators having radiations treatments, in Chemo Daycare having poison pumped into me. Time spent in countless X-ray, CT Scan and MRI machines. The happy times that were overshadowed by the sad times. The time I missed doing other things, better things. The time I will miss with my wife and family when I'm gone. The time I will miss with friends, talking about happy, inconsequential things - relaxing. The time I spend outside on the water, soaking up the sun and the warmth. I could go on and on (until I run out of time!)
And lets look at time as a measurement. I've lived a long time (58 years). I have a short time to live (?). There's not enough time in the day to do what I want to do. I spend too much time sleeping, although that can't be helped. I love to spend as much of my waking time as I can with Dianne, my soul mate, the part of me that I will be leaving behind. I cherish every moment I have known her. I haven't spent enough quality time with my daughter Caralia, of whom I am so proud. I need to spend more time with her. The time I've missed with my son and the time he's missed being with his father. The time I spent with him when he was little to get him the help he needed to make it through the school system (which he did and which I am very proud of him for doing)and learning to look after himself. I hate spending too much time between blog posts. I have too much to say. I hate spending so much time in bed, although I have to. The summer isn't long enough and the winter is too long. I don't want to die so soon, but I will.
Henry David Thoreau wrote, in "Walden", one of my favorite quotes:
Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.
I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is.
It's thin current slides away, but eternity remains.