This is Maggie.
Maggie got doggie pneumonia last month. She's been wheezing like a little old grandma, and the vet says she's got these suckers floating around in her lungs.
She's been resting up on antibiotics, curled up in her bed, with not much appetite—pretty heartbreaking when the most food-obsessed creature I know doesn't even have the energy to go downstairs and beg. I've been sitting around with her. Doing nothing, just hanging out and thinking.
I doodled this infographic of the average LIFESPAN OF Things.
Looking at this, I had a first, very sobering that Maggie's probably lived >80% of her lifespan.
And then another thought came.. we don't REALLY know where we are on the spectrum.
For all I know, this could be the case.
So maybe she'll be mourning my passing at some point. Who knows? (BTW, I have signed off on leaving my Bitcoin and my dog to Brooke, so no need to ask if you were wondering).
I've had two reflections on this front:
- On some old ideas from this old dude:
- On a book that my 6th grade English teacher had us read.
1) Epictetus on impermanence
Epictetus was a Stoic; one of the Greek dudes who sat around and thought a lot. Tumblr-grade maxims like "We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak." Go ahead, tweet that one, I won't judge.
He wrote a handbook for life called the "Enchiridion" in 125 AD, which you can buy it for $3.99 on Barnes & Noble—which actually makes NO sense to me because how did a publisher get those rights?
I digress; There's a passage that reads:
In the case of particular things that delight you, or benefit you, or to which you have grown attached, remind yourself of what they are. [impermanent]. If it is china you like, for instance, say, “I am fond of a piece of china.” When it breaks, then you won’t be as disconcerted. When giving your wife or child a kiss, repeat to yourself, “I am kissing a mortal.”
You might call this morbidAF—I find it has brought me a lot of joy.
Everything is china.
Everything is fragile.
And just like those extra 10 minutes of snoozing when we hit that button feel oh so precious (because they are fleeting)... I'm finding an emerging sense of appreciation for all the mortality around me.
2) Tuck Everlasting and why nobody wants to be him.
Ms. Meyers read this aloud to us; an incredibly profound and deep book that touched on the concept of immortality. I'm to this day, so thankful for having her in my life.
This kid named Winne meets a boy named Tuck, who has been granted eternal life by some magical spring water. They fall into an innocent young love; before he has to flee town because of some murder drama (Yeah, I know, read the book), he gives her a vial of water to the drink someday so she can join him in his everlasting life.
She doesn't. She lived a regular life, married, had kids, and died.
I suspect she came to see Tuck's situation as a curse, not a gift.
What would we feel motivated to do, if we knew we had all the time in the world? How would we find meaning if there was no urgency to our dreams?
I know from personal experience, that it's usually the last 10% of a deadline that gets me into action.
So if that x axis was unlimited —if there were no deadlines, I really am not sure what I would do with my life.
But it's not unlimited. We don't live forever. Not me, nor my dog, nor my partner, nor my parents.
This past year, I’ve been finding myself motivated to spend my time in depth over breadth of experience.
I’ve been opting to cuddle on a couch instead of go out to a co-worker happy hour. Journal instead of binge on e-sports videos. A weekend at home instead of out of town.
Like all things, I expect this to be cyclical. When things at home stabilize, when Maggie feels a little better, when my job feels not as new, I'll probably up the stimulation.
Despite (or maybe because of) her illness, I’ve been cherishing more and more of our time together, and am reminded that:
- The most important moments in my life do not come to me through any effort or ambition
- The most precious things in my life are made even more special by their impermanence.
I'm grateful for every day I have left with Maggie, be it 5 weeks, 5 months, or 5 years.
Someday, she will not be with me anymore. But for now, I'm going to go to Safeway after work and buy her some bacon.