A year to live: Slow reflections

Almost four years ago I began writing a sequence of blog posts on here about living as if I only had a year to go. My thinking being that one day this day will certainly arrive for all of us, but we’ll rarely know it when that day comes. So I decided to live for a year as if it were my last and write about how I felt as the year happened.

It was a reasonably popular series of posts, even gathering up its own podcast along the way. Then at the end of the year, so three years ago, I summed up what I’d found in a succinct top ten thoughts:

  1. You truly never know the day
  2. You know that stuff about the ‘Present moment?’ It’s all true.
  3. There has been a definite and seemingly permanent slowing down of the rage to succeed.
  4. I don’t have the time to ‘fix things’ – I would rather be happy than right.
  5. I am glad to be older.
  6. I am happy where I am.
  7. My camera and my writing give me great joy.
  8. Most stuff is useless or worse.
  9. Music matters deeply to me still. But not all music.
  10. All you need is love, really.

So there, and most of them I’d still pretty much agree with. Don’t worry though, it’s not my intention here to go tediously through that list, as if there’s something definitive about it, and review how it all feels now.

Instead I thought that several years on it might be interesting to sit for a while with this ‘year to live’ thought in my mind and see what thoughts, unplanned as they will be, might emerge here on this quiet Tuesday in September 2017.

Well first of all, the year to live thought is rarely far from my mind. There are of course days I forget all about it, but mostly it’s there helping me judge work opportunities, social invitations and what’s generally worth spending my time on.

So I’ve been to my last parties and won’t be saying yes to any more. In fact I don’t want to go to any more large social gatherings of any kind. Given a year to live all my social gatherings would be small and talkative, in places where the very few of us gathered there could hear each other think. Really, I’m glad to know a lot of talkative, interesting and opinionated people but I can imagine few things worse, in these dwindling days, that seeing you all at once. In ones, two, threes or at most fours we can have rich conversations well worth being a part of. Beyond that things get too loud and it doesn’t work for me.

I am quieter now than I think I’ve ever been. Happier with silence than I’d ever expected to be. My life has been very musical and most of it was lived with music on somewhere around me. Now I listen more carefully, don’t always feel like it and can’t imagine ever again walking along with headphones on. There are radio programmes that I love, like Cerys Matthews on a Sunday morning or Stuart Maconie’s Freak Zone, but often I’ll turn even them off, preferring the silence.

So quiet is a big thing as I get older. Perhaps the quietness to hear what I think? Or more accurately to remember the things I’ve already thought? Because ‘year to live’ or not I wouldn’t pretend  to have reached some zen like condition where calm reflecting happens as a permanent state. No, particularly when I think about ‘the slowing down of the rage to succeed.’

A few years ago I felt pretty happy, not to say smug, about having left all ambition behind me. I’d be committed to our collective well being in the things I’d get involved in in the future, I’d tell myself, but it wouldn’t be all about me. I didn’t ever want to be ‘the best’ at anything any more. Well that lasted until my next new thing when I immediately slipped into wanting to be the best at what that particular thing was about. Having realised my error I hope I’ve stepped back from that egotistical brink, but having an ego is difficult. Wanting to do the best you can about a situation, but having the humility to stay away from that ‘rage to succeed’ where you think you are definitely the best person to do whatever might need doing is difficult and needs resisting as quietly but firmly as you can. You in this case meaning ‘me.’

On the whole I am glad to be older though, quieter and more reflective as it turns out. But over these last four years I have started to go to more funerals. Whilst this might be expected as I’ve entered my sixties, some of those who have died are my contemporaries, my friends. People I will not be able to sit around with reflecting and remembering in our old age. Making me appreciate the time and friends left to me even more.

So many of these thoughts being about things I’d do less of or not at all given a year to live, what, then, could I do more of? Beyond going to more libraries, reading more books and spending more time with friends (in small groups) that will take some thinking about. And I thought I might do it on here?

After five years of writing this blog I’d been considering giving it up. New posts having diminished lately to pretty much canal walks and Sarah’s sea kayaking after all. But sitting here this afternoon thinking these year to live thoughts has reminded me how much I like this thinking and writing about what fascinates me. So what if I treat the whole blog as if it’s got a year to go? And write about the best things going on in Liverpool or wherever I get to? And in writing about these things maybe help them to happen or to reach more people? Without me being the best at doing this of course. That might be good.

Let’s see what happens?

Read all of the ‘A year to live’ blog posts here

 

12 thoughts on “A year to live: Slow reflections

  1. Helen Devries

    My husband was given five years to live…. If he was lucky… In 2000. He decided he would just do what gave him pleasure… reading, gardening, seeing only the people he liked.
    In the meantime we have moved to Costa Rica, are making the cultural adjustments…. and he is still alive.

    More power to your elbow…. I think that when you devote yourself to a project you start to live with and for it.

    Reply
  2. radicalrambler

    As I approach my 60s I recognise much of what you write about here. Especially the appreciation of silence. Music has always been a big part of my life, and still is, but I find myself listening to the silence more.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Thinking about music and silence. In the days since Walter Becker died my memories have not only been playing me a highly filtered Steely Dan concert of my favourite songs but also, for example, taking me back to Gillian and Mark’s flat in Canning Street in the early 1970s where they played me the first 2 Steely Dan LPs, as well as going through the group’s lyrics and reminding me of the phrases in my own life that have come from their songs. Like when Sarah gets something delivered to the house it is, and has always been called out as a ‘special delivery for Hoops McCann.’ All remembered in silence, without playing their records, as Sarah doesn’t particularly like them.

      Reply
  3. hirstsj

    Please don’t give up. I’ve read your blog for years. I feel I know something of you and Sarah (kayaking – inspiring). Your thoughts often resonate with me, and especially today’s about small social groups and parties and quiet. You are entering your most interesting phase. Stay with us!

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Thank you, and for reading the blog over the years. I’m not going to stop, though I have been thinking about it. But from now on each post will have to answer the year to live question. And I’ll be interested to see what that does.

      Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      It will Martin. The ‘would you write about this if you had a year to live’ question will no doubt clear a lot of possible subjects out of the way, leaving…well who knows what?

      Reply
  4. Francis Irving

    Where’s the gorgeous bridge in the photo at the top of the page?

    Makes me want to be there again! And I can’t quite pin down what landscape it is I’m missing.

    Reply

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