Is it just my imagination, or do the years pass more quickly as I age, each faster than the one before? It seems that I just looked around and it was year 2000, when the new millennium and the overblown fears of a Y2K disaster morphed into the real nightmare of 9-11, and then the rest of the ‘00s followed along, with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, George W. Bush’s smirking face and his general trashing of our government and our economy, my high hopes for Barack Obama, many of which haven’t come to pass.
By the time I figured out what to call the ‘00s, (aughts), they were gone along with my forties. 2010 gave way to ’11, ’12 and ’13 before I could gain my footing in this new decade, and now—almost halfway through—I turn toward my late fifties and “late middle age,” which sounds ominous, dark with foreboding.
When I was a young man in the 1980s and ‘90s, time passed slowly; I often felt I had too much time, rather than too little. Time was a commodity that seemed infinite, but I didn’t know how to spend it, as if I held a gold card but couldn’t find anything to buy.
Now time is precious, as I’m aware I have less of it, and I want to ring out all the juice I can. I usually celebrate New Year’s—the passing of the old year and the birth of the new—by going to Easton Mountain, a retreat center for gay men in Upstate New York. This year, I decided to do something different, partly because I fear becoming too comfortable in my routines/stuck in old habits as I grow older. Instead I decided to hang loose and see what might come.
One of my oldest friends, who has been a key part of my life for 30 years—despite the physical distance between his home in Jacksonville, Florida and mine in Boston—is currently going through treatment for cancer, and dealing with the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Though M has a strong support system, including his husband of 25 years, I wanted to be there, to celebrate the holidays and my friend’s fierce commitment to getting well, and to support him in any way I could.
But three weeks ago, my 16-year-old cat, Santosh, got sick while I was in Cleveland, visiting my elderly mother. I found myself coordinating a trip to the vet’s, and conferring with my cat-sitter and the doctor via phone. As I prepared to head down to Jax on Christmas Eve, it became apparent that my cat was not stable, and needed to have full-time care.
I rushed to find a quick fix to Santosh’s problems, so that I could follow through on my holiday plans to visit M. But Santosh was still shaky—and ‘one day at a time’ seemed to be my mantra, the only way I could manage each day.
Finally, I had to admit that I was unwilling to leave my sick cat with a stranger, or to go and just ‘roll the dice,’ assuming she would be OK. I told my friend (with not a small measure of guilt), that I’d have to postpone the trip, but would reschedule when Santosh is better.
After visiting my 85 year-old mother, caring for my cat, and checking in on my friend, I realized that my goals for the upcoming year are quite modest. Mostly, I’m hoping to hang on to what I’ve got—my Mom, who is old but doing relatively well, my friend, who has a long road to travel but is getting stronger, and my cat—who seems to literally have nine lives.
Beyond the basics—hoping for the continued presence of these sentient beings in my life—I’m still wishing to expand my own life. Maybe this will be the year I finally find a boyfriend. Maybe I will finish my second book, a draft of which has been gathering dust on a shelf for the past half decade.
Regardless, I know that life will often not go according to my plans. So, instead of New Year’s resolutions, I’m simply going into the year focused on appreciating what I have, and (trying to) live in the moment.
Judah Leblang is a writer, teacher, and storyteller in Boston. For information on his courses and performances go to www.judahleblang.com
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