In the past couple of months, three people I knew have passed away
Not close friends, but people I knew as neighbours, who I saw from time to time at the shops and on the bus. We would exchange pleasantries, ask about the children and then it could be months before we saw each other again.
One I knew as our children had gone to the same primary school. The last time I saw her was on the bus, and it was clear by her appearance that she was not well. She told me that she had cancer, and I remember thinking, what would I want some one to say to me? I knew it wasn’t ‘oh I am so sorry’ and I recall asking about the treatment, and she just talked to me, almost as if it was a relief to her to tell someone, that wasn’t her family or a close friend, about how shitty the treatment was and how crap she felt most of the time.
We put on a brave face for our nearest and dearest, and sometimes we don’t want to be brave. And this was her chance to tell someone how she really felt. I am glad I had the chance to have that chat with her. I hope she got something from it. And I am terribly sad that she died and that her children have lost their mother.
The second person had been diagnosed with cancer over 20 years ago. Her children grew up with a mom who always had cancer. An academic, she was still publishing papers while she continued with her treatment, brought up 3 children and then the cancer won. Another family with a person taken from them, too soon.
And then yesterday I heard that a neighbour had died. He wasn’t ill to my knowledge. His death was unexpected and sudden.
So why am I writing about this? Because they were far too young to die. Around the same age that I am. It has made me feel terribly sad and scared.
No one knows when
And it has also made me acutely aware that none of us know when we will die. Yet we put things off, save for retirement and say ‘someday I will travel, get a boat, a camper van, go skydiving, buy a house in Greece or Spain’. We all have a someday in us.
And meanwhile many of us stay on the Work, Watch, Spend Treadmill, saving for retirement when we can go and do the things we enjoy.
What do we really need?
You may have heard the story about the fisherman and the businessman, a version of it is here on the Be More With Less Blog. It is a story that I use to remind myself that most of us have already got what we need, and instead of chasing happiness we need to recognise that we have enough and don’t need more. The fisherman catches enough to feed him and his family, and then can enjoy the time on the beach. Why would he want to build up a fleet of boats and wait till his retirement to enjoy the beach?
What most of us are doing
Saving for our retirement and dreaming of a different life. My Grandad said that when he retired he would buy a cottage by the sea.
He never did. For a few years he went to Uphill near Weston-Super-Mare in a caravan, and looked out of the window at the sea and sand. T
hen he got ill and was dependent on oxygen and lay on the sofa staring out at the cul-de-sac, taking off the oxygen mask to have a cigarette. He could have retired earlier, sold his house and got a cottage by the sea. Why didn’t he? Because it was outside his comfort zone. It would have meant using savings. That he never got to spend or enjoy. 40 plus years of working and saving and never got to spend that time on the beach.
My mother also spent the last 20 years of her life looking at property in Turkey, Greece, Lanzarote and Thailand, so that she could have her place in the sun. Did she ever buy one? Of course not. It was always something she would do someday, that dangerous word.
Looking through the window
And then she got ill and spent the last 6 months of her life dependent on oxygen. Staring out at her cul-de-sac. And regretting that she turned down the chance to go to Kerala with her sister in law.
My aunt, always the one who bundled us into cars, Land Rovers and whatever other vehicle was at her disposal to go for drives out to go pond dipping, or for walks over the Clent Hills, who let us make dens in her garden and tree houses, died with regrets. She organised extended family to holidays to Wales, staying in caravans or big houses. Often there would be 20 of us, aged from 60 to 6, friends would tag along, as we had such fun on these holidays on the beach, flying kites and making giant sand castles.
She too spent her last months dependent on oxygen, lying on a hospital bed, in her kitchen, with a portapotty next to the kitchen sink. Her regret, she told me the day before she passed away, was not seeing more of the world.
‘I spent too much time looking after other people and not enough time doing things for me’.
She couldn’t see it at the time, and we had a fabulous Enid Blyton childhood for which I am grateful, but she could never let go and live her life. It was always going to be something she did, someday.
I have been putting it off for too long now
Me, I have been looking at campervans for 20 years now. 5 years ago I inherited enough money to buy one, and talked myself out of it. The money went on other things. The house, more stuff, clothes. I checked myself just in time and booked a trip around the world before I spent it all on more crap I didn’t need. And have spent the last three and a bit years suffering with farsickness. And saying someday I will go around the world again.
Not for much longer. An opportunity came up to house sit again in Melbourne and I said yes almost straight away. And while I am really looking forward to it, despite the fact that it will be winter, I know that this will not be enough. Three people who were around the same ages of me and my husband, have died. Saving for their retirement. I don’t want to save for mine any more, I want to enjoy my time, now, not in 5 or 10 years time.
I am inspired by many people, bloggers who travel, and friends who don’t. I read a post by Y Travel about the reaction that some people have to their lifestyle, travelling with children. Are you living your life for this? It resonated with me as it was all about living for the now, not for someday. And screw the pension.
Leap off that treadmill
Two friends in their 50’s have chosen to step off the treadmill and leave teaching, a job they used to love and now don’t, to do something else. One is very happily growing vegetables and herbs and cooking lovely meals for family and friends. He looks 10 years younger since he left teaching, The other has just a few weeks to go till he finishes and will no doubt look 10 years younger in a couple of months time. I suspect there will be a lot of veggie growing and bread baking in that house too.
So what is your someday? Make it today, because someday, that’s a dangerous word, it is really a code for never.
Since publishing this in June 2015 (it is now October 2015) we have heard of 2 other people who have also passed away.
The five weeks in Australia in June and July made me and my husband realise that we wanted to travel more. Within a month of our return the house was on the market and it sold in 24 hours.
Travel plans are being made. I don’t do someday.