You know how when your birthday is coming up, you tend to look back on how you spent the past year? It’s a natural thing to do. The idea is to take the lessons you’ve learned from the previous year to inform your choices for the year to come. The older I get, the more important this is. My (56th) birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks, so I figured I should get started now. Normally I just do this in my head. I don’t write things down, make lists or concrete plans. I just think about it while going for a walk, cleaning the house, working in the garden…any task that I can do on autopilot while my brain is busy with other things.
But this year I decided to do it differently. Inspired by Tim Urban’s slap-in-the-face post Your Life in Weeks, I drew a quick-and-dirty graphic of the 35 boxes that represent the 35 years I have left to live (provided I have the good fortune to make it to age 90).
It looked like this:
The box with number 56 written in it represents the year that starts on my 56th birthday. The box that says Dad will be box number 66 for me. Alzheimer’s took my dad from us when he was 66 years old, after he’d already spent several years on the slow-train to the hell of that horrific disease. If I follow the same path, I will only have a couple more boxes of relative normalcy left. I can hardly type this without breaking down thinking about how horrible it must have been for my dad to gradually realize what was happening to him, and to finally get his diagnosis. It was heartbreaking for the rest of us, but holy fuck how awful it must have been for him.
In any case, even if I dodge the most likely health bullets given my family history, I’ve only got 35 boxes left to work with. That’s not a lot of boxes. I’ve ghosted in another 10 boxes just in case I manage to follow in my grandparents’ footsteps and make it to my late 90s in relatively good mental and physical health. Note that I’m not even COUNTING ON reaching box 57, but what the fuck, I need to be optimistic and lay out a plan for the best-case scenario, and then try to implement assuming the worst case.
First up is to decide what to do with box 56. That’s pretty easy…what have I always wished I could do, but never really devoted time and energy to? There are many things, but learning to draw has to be the one I keep coming back to. So box 56 will be my “Lori learns to draw” box. You can read about that process here.