Not so much looking down as across..

Monday, July 5, 2010

7,300 days and counting.

I will be 59 later this month. I reckon I have a further 7,300 days left (20 years) give or take 7,300 days. Theoretically I could be dead tomorrow or indeed even, less likely, I might live to be one hundred. Statisticians will try and cheer me up and tell me the average man who gets to 59 has a life expectancy of perhaps a further 28 years – so theoretically I should live to 87... But I am not the average man. Soon I will be taking more pills every day than there are candles to blow out on my birthday cake.

I have always taken an interest in planning. When studying for exams – and I did lots of them –– I always made a schedule. However in practice I rarely followed the plan. But at least I knew the schedule was there. I knew exactly what I was not studying and when I was not studying it.

When in business I loved to make lists – perhaps of up to thirty things to do in a day. I loved putting a line through them as they were accomplished. So I wonder, why not make a plan of what to do with the remaining 7,300 days? Surely I must have people to meet, places to visit and books to write? The man without a plan is like the unwise virgin in the Bible who facing perhaps her last 100 days decides she will at last write that book and take that world tour.... As a good friend of mine would regularly say – failing to plan is planning to fail.

Dear reader, if you are under 50 there is no point in reading further. Indeed apologies, there was probably little point in reading as far as here. Sorry about that. Because up to the age of fifty the world is inexhaustible. Full stop. Theoretically at least we feel we could have another five children and marry a further four partners. Health is not something we worry about, it is something we use and abuse. Like air or water. Just to test our immortality we will spend an entire week drinking Bordeaux or climbing the Alps or both. Under fifty, health is something we take for granted. A little like oil – there will always be more.

But after fifty you turn the corner on the great race track of life and to your amazement you see the finishing line in the distance – perhaps not in the immediate distance – but there it is, sure enough. It is similar to climbing a mountain, up and up we go, always straining, always higher, our sight firmly on the summit. We arrive at the top – it’s called our forties. The view is fantastic, the air is pure but the only way is…. down, the only vista is…. below.

I have enjoyed my fifties even more than my forties. I have enjoyed the gentler path down from the summit. I have been examining the flowers and smelling the roses and the coffee on the way down. On the way up I just walked past and on top of the flowers unaware. In a sense I treated many people a little like flowers. People I hardly noticed on the way up have become more familiar and more important on the way down.

If there is no life after life, as is my increasing conviction, then it is all the more important to enjoy sensibly the 7,300 days left. Rather than being sad at only 7,300 days left, I daily celebrate that there are as many as 7,300 left. Quality becomes far more important than quantity and size no longer matters. Very often less is more.

Death is the only human certainty. As my mother puts it so well, she is not afraid of death, she is just afraid of dying, as in, the circumstances of her dying. Not many people make it to 90, and not many of the people who get to 90 are in great health. Medicine has done a great job in keeping more of us alive a lot longer. The downside is that we are living longer than perhaps the manufacturer had in mind. Cars built for 100,000 miles are now regularly clocking 200,000 and not all the parts are working.

Society is facing huge issues regarding aging, health and death. By and large society is simply refusing to address them. For sure the State can no longer be expected to look after every sick, deprived and old person. Families will have to relearn the age old tradition of caring. Families will become less atomic. The family will have to find a rocking chair and clay pipe for 'the old fellow' (me) and just stick me in the corner beside the turf fire. We will probably see many elderly people head to warmer climes to pass the winter more comfortably and less expensively.

So I better sit down later today and make that list
Books to read
Blogs to write
Places to Travel
People to meet
Charities to support
7,300 things to do before I die...
Suggestions on a postcard...


  1. I started to feel my mortality at 30. Very traumatic turning 30. I put this down to my mother having died young.

    Nowadays they say, 50 is the new 40!

    Good luck with your list. This put me in mind of that movie, "The Bucket List." Have you seen it?

  2. Hi Ann,
    Despite all my complaining I truly believe we live in marvellous, fortunate and blessed times. During my secondary school years - 1963/9 on average one student a year lost his father to heart disease including two of my three closest friends. Now we have the knowledge and the medicine. 50 is the new 30....

  3. The Bucket List is a brilliant suggestion Ann. Having Wikied it, it will be number 1 on my list to see! Thanks!