Two days ago, Prince died, at the age of 57. It was a real shock, maybe because it seemed to come out of nowhere. 57? Seriously? I bet he thought he still had time. I bet he was working on something new. I bet he wasn’t finished…
I had a friend named Pat who died about five years ago. He wasn’t famous like Prince but he was larger than life, regardless. I met him when I was in a dark place in my life, and things very easily could have gotten much, much darker. Pat opened a window for me, let some light in, and he made me feel like there might be a way forward after all, and there was. He had a gift for that. Maybe it was an Irish thing, C’mon buddy, let me help ye up dere, wipe dat blood off yer face, let’s get outa dis fookin’ place…
He didn’t really have the accent, but it sounds better that way.
Anyhow, Pat was on the threshold of retirement, he’d bought his house up in Cape Cod, he was gonna move up there and his kids and grandkids were gonna visit him in the summers. Four winters ago he went out to look at the snow a storm had dumped on the sidewalk in front of his house in Jersey, he wasn’t even shoveling, but that’s where they found him. When they waked him, so many people came that you couldn’t find a parking spot in the whole damn town. But I bet he thought he had time…
There’s an exercise popular with motivational speakers, life coaches, tv gurus, script writers and other assorted charlatans, but its popularity shouldn’t diminish its value. Suppose you knew you were gonna die in, say, five days time. What would you do with those five days?
Why aren’t you doing any of that shit now? Is it because you think you have time?
I get it. Poetry isn’t gonna pay the rent. Singing in a nightclub won’t feed your kids, and so on. I have another friend, Jimmy, back when I signed my first book contract he shook my hand and God blessed me, he was unreservedly happy for me. Jimmy worked for the MTA, he was a subway mechanic, he had been there for thirty years, and I know for a fact that he hated every bloody day of it. But Jimmy had obligations, among them a special needs child, and it was a good job. Jimmy took one for the team.
A big one.
But there ought to be time for singing, and for poems, and for those other things you feel like you really need to do, things that you’ll get to, some day when you have time.
There’s this book, so far it only exists in my imagination, and I’m a little bit afraid to write it. I feel it, though, I feel like I really need to do it, but I keep putting it off. I wouldn’t have to sacrifice that much to get it done, I don’t think, spend less time on tv and the internet and other such imitations of life, but it would be work, and it might sting, a little bit. I keep telling myself I’ll get it done someday, but like the Zen masters have been trying to tell us for over a thousand years now, there isn’t any such thing as someday, there’s only now.
What are you waiting for?