Friday, October 17, 2014

My Time

When I was fifteen years old, my 49-year-old father died very suddenly of a massive heart attack. His father before him had also died suddenly of a heart attack, and for years I believed that he, too, had been forty-nine.

Furthermore, I came to believe that I, as well, would die suddenly at forty-nine.

Living for years with this belief was one of the things that made me different from other people.

Of course all of us know, deep down, that our lives will end someday. But unless we are confronted with a huge loss or near loss, we don't dwell on it. We don't tend to live each day as though it could be our last.

For thirty-four years, I lived an impatient life. I was so often conscious of time ticking away, of feeling as though my supply was on the verge of running out. I was famous for incomplete projects, for sometimes being too slap-dash. "Take your time!" my mother frequently admonished me, having no idea that I wanted to choose which things actually took my time. I wanted to try everything, believing I would not have a second chance. (Of course this led to some very poor choices!)

On the eve of my fiftieth birthday, I sat for a while, alone, taking stock of what I had accomplished, not entirely convinced that I would not die during that night.

The past two-sevenths of my life have been different. Gradually I began to live without that panicky feeling, and to do things with more intentionality. I've learned to take pleasure in "taking my time" to make a dinner menu just right, to begin a quilt that I may not live long enough to complete. This has come about slowly, and there are still times when I lapse back into that "time is too short" desperation feeling.

I've become a different kind of possessive about my time, too. There was a time when I needed to try everything that came along because I might not have another opportunity. In the past six years, I've been more conscious of choosing among things that come along, knowing full well I might not have another opportunity, but confident I have made the right choice for me.

The impetus for this post came during an email with a friend where I was thinking about the complexity of R5, my current quilt-in-progress. It's not my best-written post, and it could use some editing. But it obviously comes from my core, and I'm afraid if I look at it another minute, I'll never post it.


Sandi@Piecemeal Quilts said...

Nancy, some of your best posts are the ones written from your core and I'm glad you choose to share this one. I was older when my father died suddenly at 51 and I too worried about dying young, though it didn't shape my behavior as much.

Quiltdivajulie said...

Dh's father died suddenly at 40 , his grandfather at 57 --- those events absolutely shaped his decisions, choices, and drive. Now past that outer marker (and I have passed my dad's heart attack at 57) - we, too, are different.

Your thoughts about choices being right for " us" resonates clearly here- and thank you for this post!

Barbara Anne said...

What a powerful post. I appreciate your sharing events and your feelings so clearly and am glad you can now relax into life and choose more wisely for yourself.

For the last 12 years, my bug-a-boo has been Alzheimer's since my mother had it. Time will tell about that.


FabricDiva54 said...

Nancy, so many of your posts ring true for me, but this one especially so. Thank you for sharing.

Janet O. said...

I'm glad you didn't think about it more and posted it for us to learn from your experience.
My father is currently 91, but both of his parents died when they were 57--one from a stroke and the other from a heart attack. It shaped him in the sense of a conscious effort to take good care of himself (he has outlived all of his siblings). Has made me feel like I need to follow his lead and heart health has been a focus for me. I reach that "57" milestone next month.
This is an insightful post and I thank you for sharing it with us!

OTquilter said...

Nancy, your personal is so often universal. I am almost through the age at which my father died. After my next birthday I will breath a sigh of (sort of) relief. My sailor sister wrote about this very thing on her blog here:
You and she are so right: it's about the choices available and the ones you make. Thanks, Nancy.

stitchinpenny said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
AnnieO said...

My sympathies on the loss of you dad at such a young age. It's no struggle to understand your impetus to try everything! Purposeful creativity is so satisfying, isn't it?

Karla said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karla said...

I too thought my days were numbered. The first time was while my mom was dying. Her and I were connected, I felt her pain. I would always know when she needed a pain pill or anything else for that matter. I knew for a fact when she was going to die. I was so afraid I was going to die with her. But I didn't, when she died I just felt nothing. It was odd. My whole 50 - 52 yr I was waiting for the brain cancer bomb to hit. Gratefully it didn't. Thank you for sharing a part of yourself with us. Brought me the gift of being normal! :-)

Anonymous said...

Ah, this hit home. My sister died suddenly at 49, the night before she would have turned 50. Although I am an older sister, her death at such a young age has made me very conscious of the gift of each day, every birthday. Thanks for being brave and posting this.

Gretchen said...

A powerful and personal post that has touched me more deeply than I can put in a blog comment. Thank you so much for sharing.