“I’m less interested in why we’re here. I’m wholly devoted to while we’re here.” —Erika Harris
I am in my backyard sneaking a cigarette. I am NOT a smoker, but, lately, I will bum one, light it up and suck it in deeply. It is cold tonight, only days after this week’s snowstorm which left ten inches of white stuff above our rocky grounds. Jaxon is running around me, paw-deep in the hardened ice, excited that I am outside with him while he plays. It is after 1am and I have been home for less than a couple minutes, enough time to put my purse down and coax my pet out of my housemate’s room and drag him to the yard to help mask my dirty, smoky secret. The cold bears down on me after a few drags and I start to feel the tingle in my fingertips and the flare-up from my toes. I inhale some more, looking up at the sky. It is clouded white and the silhouette of the bare tree branches are black beside it. Suddenly, I feel alive.
This morning, a friend called me to see if I would be interested in going out to see WAR. His lady-friend had to work at the last minute and, of course, he thought of me. It was perfect timing, I told him. I was feeling really low, staving off depression and suffering from cabin fever. I needed to dance. He did too: His father recently stopped chemo and has maybe a few weeks. I gasped. It’s okay—tonight, we will dance, he assured me.
And we did! Lonnie Jordan and his crew got into it and by the end, I swore I would order myself a harmonica from Amazon.com! The concert ended promptly at ten and we decided to get a beer and some burgers before we called it a night. We got back to our side of town and stopped at a neighborhood tavern near his dad’s house—a place they all frequented as a family. It was busy, but there were two seats at the bar waiting for us. We talked about the concert, his lady-friend, my recent love and the highs and lows of our lives over the last ten years we’ve known each other. And then I asked about his father. Having lost my granny less than two years ago, I still feel the ache of her absence. He had been spending a significant amount of time with his dad since his diagnosis a couple of years ago, and I know there would be no guilt about that, but I wanted to know that my friend was okay.
Yes, yes—I’m fine, he says. Listen, my dad’s so brave. You know, they say people sometimes have so many regrets when facing death. But my dad, in all his years, he says he only has one: that he waited to have kids when he did and now he won’t be around to see his granddaughters marry.
I stared at him. My heart heavy—for my friend and his father, of course, but also for myself. How many regrets would I have if, at this moment or even years from now, I was looking at my imminent inexistence?
Somewhere between exiting his car at my door and the last couple of puffs on the cancer stick, I thought of what could be my top five regrets should the curtain close on me before these things are accomplished. Even at the risk of being a bit morbid, I would like to share this short list. So, with no further ado, here it is:
5. Never carrying and birthing a baby. I have a plan to adopt within the next couple of years if I have no partner to create a child with, but I have always wanted to have life growing inside of me and I feel like I would be forever unfulfilled if I am unable to experience that.
4. Never having owned a house. These days, I truly believe that I am a city girl. However, I do have a strong desire for a country home where I can write and spend summers on a swing porch reading and sipping lemonade. My dream has always been to build a little cabin on our land in Somerville, Tennessee near our little summer house that was once my great-grandmother’s home.
3. Never having published a book. Although I am currently working on my first novel and a memoir that I envision as a short story, I think all writers suffer from anxiety that something will happen to their computer and backup and all of their writing and longsuffering will be lost somewhere in cyberspace, no matter how many drives it’s saved on.
2. Having a strained and somewhat non-communicative relationship with my younger sister. My brother recently confronted me about how little my sister and I interact with each other and I was so embarrassed that our lack of engagement with each other was so obvious. We live on opposite coasts, she is married with a family, I am busy with my ambitions— none of these reasons justify why we haven’t spoken on the phone with each other in over a year and haven’t seen each other in more than two. I should be more proactive—I have this conversation with myself daily.
1. Not loving who I want to love and to the best of my ability. I was recently in the relationship of a lifetime with someone I thought the world would not approve of. It ended just as I was coming to terms with the fact that I only get this one life and I should spend it with who I want. At once, I realized that I wasn’t living for my parents, for my friends, or for those who I love in other countries—I am living this life for me.
There is a great quote from the movie, Braveheart, which says:
“Every man dies; [but] not every man really lives.”
Make no mistake about this blog post, I have no plans of dying anytime soon. I do believe, however, that in thinking about death, we are inspired to live our best lives.