Saturday, March 14, 2009

The 7 Day Life - by Christopher

Let's assume that I will live to be 91 years old.

This will be a pretty ripe old age I think. Maybe I'll think differently when I make it to 90. But from 30, 91 seems good.

If 91 is the endpoint I can divide my lifetime into 7 distinct days. Each day comprised of thirteen years.

Monday was birth to age thirteen. A lot happened on Monday and it all happened very quickly. I went from totally vacant and defenseless to pimples and armpit hair seemingly overnight. My parents went from benign, servile giants to bitter adversaries.

Tuesday had a lot of up's and down's in the time between age 14 and 26. There were thrilling highs and crippling lows. There was danger, romance and excitement. Tuesday was all about discovery of this place and of myself.

Wednesday is hump day. From age 27 to 39 I'm traversing a big hump in the road of big responsibilities; marriage, old friendships changing, children, serious financial responsibilities, possibly the first serious health issues, parents getting older and serious work responsibilities. Wednesday won't have as much variety as Tuesday. But Wednesday's experiences will be deep, rich, and long-lasting. And ten times more challenging.

By this method of measuring my lifespan I am writing to you from 5:33 AM Wednesday morning. The sun is just barely coming up on my day. And the rest of the week is totally undiscovered country.

But from what I've seen of men who are further along in their week, Thursday looks like the day where you start to reap what you've sown (or pick what you've planted). From age 40 to 52 marriages flourish, or they crumble. Ties with offspring strengthen or weaken. Friendships expand or disappear completely. Making good decisions on Wednesday can produce a strong family, meaningful wealth, loyal relationships and respect. Making bad decisions on Wednesday can produce a shattered family and a shallow, desperate life.

Friday is still too far away for me to accurately judge. Age 53 to 65 looks a lot like Thursday to me from here. There is one clear difference though; if you've done enough quality work on Wednesday and Thursday and kept to your plan, you can leave work Friday night and never go back.

I think that how a man spends his Saturday is an accurate judge of who he wants to be. In this version of Saturday, it's the opposite: the life a man has led for the past 65 years dictates what his Saturday can be. The spectrum of possible Saturdays is wide. From age 66 to 78 people do everything from dying of hypertension heart attacks to going bungee jumping for the first time to collecting porcelain cat statues.

By Saturday a man has got the personality and habits he'll carry with him to the end. If he's got a lot of regrets about the decisions he made earlier in the week, well, we probably won't have to put up with his crap for very long. If he's ready to move forward and take on new challenges in a radically different world than the one he remembers, he's got a good chance of seeing Sunday.

Sunday is known as a day of rest in almost every modern human culture.

From age 79 to 91 a big portion of humanity lays down to rest forever. It seems to me that choosing how we die should be just as essential as choosing how we live. But that's really not the case today.

Most of us die in a hospital bed whether we want to or not. I don't know how many of you like hospitals, but I've found little there to enjoy. To me they are cold, sterile, impersonal places where tattered magazines are the only distractions and a staff of numbed automatons perform the actions they've been trained to perform on an endless parade of tragedy.

I do not want to die in a hospital. I would much rather go down in an airplane, die in a firey car crash, or drown off the coast of California. When I tell people this they invariably shudder at the very mention of these forms of death. But I shudder at the thought of slipping away in a musty room with flourescent bulbs where hundreds have slipped away before me, on sheets that have been gripped in the white knuckles of so many dying dozens, my gasping reflection in the dim eyeball of a cheap TV set mounted high on a wall the last fluttering image I see.

Give me the airplane, the car, the watery embrace of the deep. So much better than the loss of individuality intrinsic to dying in a hospital bed.

But let's get back to Wednesday.

The sun is just creeping over the horizon. There is so much in store for me today that all I can do is pray for the strength to endure and the clear vision to take the right turns at the right times.

In a very real sense I'm starting all over again, but I've also learned a lot from the mistakes of Monday and Tuesday. I'm looking at the sunrise and I'm thinking about how there are still more mistakes to be made, and I'm making the choice again to pick myself up and keep learning no matter what comes.

It's a choice I'll make all week.

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