This last week I have been on practically every transport known to man well, apart from a bike, a tram, a boat, a donkey …..ok so not EVERY form of transport but quite an adequate array.
My six-day visit to Hampshire and London ended up involving at least 28 hours of public transport and waiting around at airports which was quite considerable when you consider that I have only travelled from France to England and back again.
So, having spent entire days (or at least eleven hours punctuated with lots of waiting and hanging around) making journeys, travelling from home to the UK and then back again not to mention the journeys in between, I found myself remarking to my husband, “That’s another day of our lives gone that we won’t be getting back” after which it unexpectedly struck me, the very real and meaningful starkness of this comment, not merely a throwaway quip to be spoken when something was boring, arduous or a perceived waste of time but genuinely and literally one day less of our lives.
Don’t get me wrong, it was undeniably lovely to catch up with family and friends and the endless hours spent on almost every conceivable method of transport was unquestionably worthwhile but the abrupt realisation of being a day or a week lighter of my life quota was a very sobering thought.
We have all used the expression “That’s X hours of my life I won’t be getting back” when having been sat in a long, boring and seemingly rather futile meeting, having watched a film that turned out to be utter shite or when facing a delay where there is little else to do but sit and wait but very rarely does the genuine significance of the expression itself ever truly penetrate the cerebral cortex.
How much time do I, or any of us actually have left?
If you are to think of it in terms of actual days it might be less than ten thousand. It might even be significantly less than that for who really knows what is around the corner.
Suddenly one single day seems very important indeed and when I think of the endless days I have squandered, days that have simply idled by with absolutely nothing to show for them, I suddenly feel rather wasteful, guilty or just downright foolish.
A normal day for me is about 12 hours long and by that, I don’t mean working for 12 hours, I mean getting up at 9 am and going to bed at 9 pm.
Days or weeks where my husband is away working and I remain at home are barely distinguishable from each other, in many cases, they are literally spent waiting for him to return, an almost half-life if you will.
When I think back to the last few weeks where I have been contemptuously wishing away the whole of January and mentally writing off the many weeks until my next holiday on the beautiful coasts of Spain, I shudder to speculate what that might correlate to in terms of proportion or percentage of my remaining lifetime. Could it be a whole 1%?
I have often reprimanded my husband for sounding so melancholy when talking of our remaining years left on this earth. Having both lost our fathers long before you would imagine was their due time, it can repeatedly have the effect of making you much more thoughtful, albeit somewhat more pragmatic about your own eventual demise.
Perhaps I was already subconsciously thinking about this before I made my journey. Instead of watching a film or reading a book on my plane journey over, I spent most of my time looking out of the window at the ever-changing blanket of cloud, the sun periodically coming into view. Some of the views were indescribably majestic, though sadly the pictures I took over the wing of our Ryanair craft did not adequately do them justice nonetheless, I witnessed them and committed them to my memory for life is so much more than a well-snapped picture worthy of uploading to Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram.
If indeed there is a place called heaven then surely a journey in a plane at the right time of day is the closest any of us will get to imagining it during our mortal lifetime, beyond that, one can only hope that a supernatural or spiritual journey awaits us all when the time comes.
Perhaps the next few days spent with family and friends, that rattled by at such a pace, made me even more aware and more appreciative of the ever passing time. Before I knew it, it was time to say goodbye to my loved ones and despite that I am in frequent contact by phone or messages to them it cannot adequately replace spending real quality time with them.
I can’t say for sure whether it was this growing thought forming in my mind or the fact that I could not successfully sign into the National Express Wifi that made me spend my entire journey on the coach from London Victoria bound for Stansted airport looking out of the window instead of mindlessly scrolling through a virtual world on my phone.
I am pleased that I did because whilst everyone else around me had their noses buried in their phones, I saw the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben shrouded in scaffolding, the Thames, the London Eye, The Shard, Tower Bridge. I saw statues and gardens that I have never seen before. I looked at the extravagant and intricate architectural details on the buildings above the modern street level shop frontages, I read the street names and wondered at how they came to be and even when we had long departed central London and were on a boring stretch of motorway, en route to Stansted via Heathrow airport, I tried to keep focussed on the world around me, rather than the ever attention seeking virtual world that is being created every day on our devices.
Upon being reunited with my husband at our tiny little airport in Limoges, I focussed not on how long and tiring the day had been but how worthwhile it had all been to bring me back to him.
I can’t count the number of times I have said to other people “Life is not a dress rehearsal” and made various references to living life to the full. I’m sure we all have but sometimes it just becomes more poignant or more relatable than at others.
So as a rather belated New Year resolution, I have decided that I rather owe it to myself to try and make each day count, even if only in some small way, whether it be to try something new or to do something a little more meaningful other than to spend the days in an endless cycle of constantly whiling away the long hours out of sheer boredom either glued to my laptop or obsessing about the mundane.
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough”
and whether it be Confucius or Mae West who is to be quoted as the source of this particular nugget of wisdom, I think we can all agree that never a truer word was spoken.
The Virtual Recluse
NB: I first talked about the subject of time and made similar utterances in the second half of my post of 25th November 2017: https://thevirtualrecluse.com/uncategorized/so-this-week-my-lovely-mum-turned-sixty-five-glorious-years-of-age-though-of-course-she-wont-be-heavily-publicising-that-fact-thats-my-job-muh-ha-ha/#more-433