Carpe diem! Seize the day! It’s clear that any reminder of one’s mortality and the shortness of life is likely to prompt a desire to make the most of every day, every hour, every minute. Procrastinating is a dangerous habit – when the guarantee of a tomorrow gets weaker than ever, putting anything off would seem particularly churlish. All my ideas, ambitions and dreams loom more urgently with the reminder that we do not have forever to fulfil them.
I think it was when I went into hospital one of these days as an inpatient, though, that Mariacristina reminded me that living life to the full does not necessarily mean ‘achieving’ as many things as possible. It may have been a combination of my parents’ influence and my education that caused me automatically to think: “I’m going to have plenty of time in hospital with no commitments; how can I best use this time to get things done?” Perhaps it would have been more natural to think: “This could be a tough time; let’s wait and see how it goes and how I feel – and above all, give my body and soul the time and rest they need to recover from the aggressions they are going to face.”
Mariacristina, baffled by my order of priorities, was quick to point out the absurdity of my desire to ‘achieve’ things while in hospital. There were undoubtedly going to be bigger and more important challenges to face, without the need to put any pressure on myself to meet relatively irrelevant goals. I suppose there’s something to be said for having ideas about how to distract yourself from the potential boredom and isolation of treatment, but there’s a big difference between that and feeling you have to attain some sort of external achievements, too.
Now I’m out of hospital, almost forty days since my transplant, it’s impossible not to feel an urge to seize the day and launch out in a million different directions in pursuit of satisfaction and success in as many areas as possible. It’s probably good, though, that the restrictions imposed on me in terms of both side-effects (weariness, for example) and my medical state (weak immune system) are there to suppress my over-enthusiastic, sometimes wild ambitions.
More than that, however, I can’t help feeling that the worst way to make the most of the life we have would be to spend so much time rushing around seizing the day that you never get any time to appreciate truly the joy of what you’re doing. This struck me yesterday, while sitting in the garden with Mariacristina and our cousins Memy and Mario. It was – like today – a beautiful, sunny day, and we had just enjoyed a yummy breakfast of croissants and pains au chocolat, and I could see no way in which my life would have felt more fulfilled by rushing around achieving things.
We went to Streatham Common, threw an aerobie around (with various degrees of success), sat in the shade of a beautiful old tree, picked up an ice cream and visited the beautiful formal garden of the Rookery – and never stopped smiling.
Life cannot and will not always be like that, of course – not least because of the changeable nature of the weather in London. Carpe diem will still resound loudly, but when such moments and days come, I’ll be quick to slow life down and enjoy the great pleasures it can provide.
Seize the day – but not too tightly!