Thursday, March 11, 2010

How long have I got?

When I was revising for my third year final exams at university I got depressed and then anxious and then desperate about time running out - so much to do - fewer and fewer days, hours, minutes to do it. In the end I was so preoccupied by the shortness of time I was unable to spend the dwindling amount left usefully preparing for the test which was looming. A Harley Street psychiatrist, Anne Darquier, more recently a subject in a book "Bad Faith" by Carmen Callil but then doing a stint as a student counsellor, helped restore me to working order.

I find myself today in a similar state. This time it's death that's the problem. Not that I have a date, nor a suspicion that it's near. Frankly I'm surprised to be still around in my sixty-seventh year, and my decline is neither obvious nor swift. But I am aware of it. The end-time. I can't go on for ever. It's going to happen. I just don't know when.

And, as with my student revision, it's beginning to get in the way of doing ordinary things in ordinary time. The scarcity of time is making it harder and harder to make best use of the diminishing amount at my disposal.

I used to pick up and sometimes buy a book thinking I'd either read it now or save it or keep it for future reference. But it's the future reference, or lack of it, that's squeezing life out of the present. So I don't buy the book or start to read it. And I'm so much less likely to start anything, do anything, go anywhere for the first time.

At best it's a warm feeling. I feel that what I have left is time to revisit books and places, renew old acquaintances and friendships, see and hear again familiar sights and sounds, appreciate once more and perhaps more deeply the people and things I have found most worthwhile in my long short span.

But at worst it can be enervating, emasculating, a vicious spiral of incapacity in which what remains of the day implodes and all that is left is night.

Hurry up Matron! Time for my medication.

1 comment:

Saintly Ramblings said...

In a way you've mirrored some of my own thoughts as retirement looms - still 7 years away, but I have to start making preparations if I'm to find somewhere to live then.
The infinite days of youth slowly give way to a consideration of the finite, but it's a process that many in this day and age ignore, and the results of this I see time and again in the funerals I take. Total unpreparedness for what must come to us all.
It's not morbid to think this way. In fact it heightens the enjoyment of all that takes place each day, and in some ways the preparing is quite enjoyable.

(When the nurse has given you your pills, send her this way!)