I have always rationalized that I enjoy life because I have nothing much to complain about not. I haven’t any special talent for managing the ups and downs of life. Indeed I rather hold fast to the theme that life is good even though I am certain that an impartial on-looker might not be quite so charitable. This morning for example I received a long-distance telephone call from my neurologist’s office advising me that his review of my recent MRI discloses a degenerative disc. I can’t say that I was either alarmed or perturbed by the intelligence. After all I’ve been living with this progressive ailment for years now. In fact I indicated that it is probably just something I will have to live with forever (although I may think differently once I receive his full written report). Until then however I have resigned myself to accepting that dilapidation and aging go hand-in-hand. That certainly seems to be the universal empirical conclusion so I don’t see why I should be an exception.
This sad little anecdote may be illustrative of the approach I have taken to everything in my life. Quite frankly when I look back upon the last six decades or so I can’t say I’ve ever considered anything in my life especially disappointing. I have certainly ruminated from time to time upon what might have been different if I had made other decisions at certain crossroads but mostly such contemplation is summarily dismissed as the absurdity of idle conjecture that it is. That in itself illustrates a further characteristic; namely, that I have never dwelt to any extent upon the “What if?” factor. The truth is that I am just too caught up in the present and all that it offers to narrow my view of the world by trying to accommodate a larger perspective. I am not suggesting for a moment that such restricted thinking is Counsel of Perfection; it’s just the way it has been. I certainly know others who are far more calculating about their future than I have been. Perhaps it is both my bane and my fortune to respond only to the urgency of the moment.
I should perhaps clarify that this so-called predilection to “live in the moment” is not to be construed as a barrier to alteration. Obviously part of the result of immediacy is to react imperatively and sometimes that means abandoning a project. Indeed it requires little reflection for me to recall more than one instance in which I have abruptly turned from my present course of action to adopt another as enthusiastically. It would be tiresome to trot out the details. The point is simply that the paramountcy of enjoying life needn’t imply irreversibility or myopia of any description.
Years ago I received a rebuff from a chap whom I considered a friend. I had written to him expressing my despondency upon having moved to Halifax (to study law) from Toronto (where I had been in undergraduate university). He didn’t give me anything in the nature of sympathy. Instead he quoted a poem by J. P. Caffafey the gist of which is essentially, “There ain’t no ship to take you away from yourself”. Those were harsh words for me at the time of my personal loneliness. While I certainly grew to love Halifax and its people, the sentiment of that poem lingered. Those blunt words have become a reminder that, as was later expounded in the same poem, “You travel the suburbs of your own mind” (an equally sobering comment I think you’ll agree). Funny how something as inconsequential as a poem can become a standard of conduct for a lifetime. I have as a result since ascribed to the theory that it is up to me to make what I will of life, not exactly a novel admission but a compelling one.
Sometimes having too many options is a disagreeable plight. While I wouldn’t say that the world is my oyster I nonetheless feel that there isn’t much prohibiting me from doing what I want. If one allows oneself to become mystified by the limitless possibilities of life it can be a confusing landscape. I prefer instead to adopt the most comfortable solution which currently presents itself. This may sound transparently empty-headed but I mean to embrace a combination of instinct, status, opportunity, reality and convenience. Synthesizing all those features requires more effort than may be readily apparent. When canvassing all the possibilities one must keep in mind that business about traveling the suburbs of your own mind. That bit of cold water doesn’t so much dilute the exploration of life as distill it. There may of course be room for temperate toe-dipping. There is no mandate which is either complete or perfect.
No doubt my model of living has changed many times over the years but I certainly can’t point to any particular incident. On the one hand no leopard will change its spots; but on the other hand life is fluid. Some people I have known have suffered irreversible tragedy. Had I been subjected to the same misfortune I suspect I would be less than positive. But until that happens I haven’t any excuse for remaining upbeat. Perhaps the day will come when “it is my turn”. But no one including me will preoccupy themselves with foreboding. Nor do I imagine I will begin to sprout wings and fly.