I’ve just travelled to Edinburgh to find that the conference I was due to attend is not happening. With disruptions to rail travel forecast this afternoon, due to the strong winds that are buffeting the train as I type, I am travelling back home. So. From leaving the house to getting back in a total of 5 hours wasted. What else could I have done with that time? What do we do with the time we have? How long do we wait before doing what we really want to do?
In the 1970’s the world was racked by the fear of nuclear war. It was the time of the cold war and the arms race had escalated to a point of mutually assured destruction. Despite the impossibility of survival, public information films showed us all how to make a nuclear shelter in the living room, by removing all the doors and hiding beneath them. Really. Read When The Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs if you are too young to remember the films and the fear.
Anyway, a popular pastime in those strange days was to muse over what you would do in the four minutes you would have between receiving the warning that Russia had launched the bomb and being blown to bits by it’s arrival. Mostly the choices were predictable and frivolous, having sex and/or getting drunk on vintage champagne being the most obvious. In fairness, though, what can you actually do in 4 minutes?
What about if you had a day?
We are all familiar, I’m sure, with the saying “live every day as if it’s your last”, but how practical is that? You’d have never have any clean clothes or food in the fridge! In real life we have to plan ahead, to work on the assumption that we will wake up next morning. But how would you choose to fill 24hours if you truly knew that they would be your last? With loved-ones? Skydiving? Bungee jumping?
What about a 7 days?
What if you were given a week to live?A trip to a part of the world that you haven’t visited but have always wanted to see? A whistle-stop tour to say goodbye to friends and relatives? Or a week spent putting your affairs in order so that your kids don’t have to fork out for funeral costs?
How about a month?
An extended holiday? Spending all the money you’d put aside for a rainy day? Writing that novel?
And what if you had 6 months? A year? 5 years?
Let me phrase the question slightly differently. How long would it be for the time you knew you had left to you to mean that you would make no changes to your daily routine, that you would just carry on as normal. Say you knew you were going to live for 50 years would you change anything now? After all, you’d have plenty of time to do the things you “really” want to do tomorrow, or next week, or next year, or when the kids leave home, or when you retire….. you get the message.
We do have to PLAN as if we are going to live for the full 3 score years and 10 but we should LIVE in the moment. An ex-partner used to drive me crazy by asking what I really wanted to do. I’d invariably say “travel around Europe in my campervan” to which he would reply, “no you don’t. If you really wanted to do it you would be doing it.” It used to drive me into a rage as I always had a reason, a very good reason naturally, why I couldn’t do it right away. But, and I hope he never reads this blog, I fear he might be right. We all put things off – do things that aren’t important to us at the expense of those things that are.
So, what’s stopping you doing the things that you really want to do?