Waiting to Die

My whole life feels like one big waiting game. I could not wait to get done with High School. I could not wait to get married. I could not wait to buy a house. I could not wait to eat my dessert. I am always waiting for something in life and it is not good. We all tend to do this to some degree because we are uniquely gifted with the understanding of the “future” tense. No other animal is consciously waiting for some future event – they are always responding to stimulus in a programmed manner. The ultimate example of the waiting game is that guaranteed end point – death. I am scared that I will eventually run out of exciting things to wait for and ultimately begin to wait for my last breath. It sounds macabre but isn’t that what a lot of elderly people are doing at this very moment. There are nursing homes around the world full of people that have one last future plan. I don’t want to rush through life anymore and try to speed up what is already a fast-tracked existence.

On any given day, I am waiting for a myriad of future events. In the middle of the night I wake up waiting for my alarm. In the morning I wait for lunch time. In the afternoon I wait for the end of the work day to get done. In the evening I wait to eat dinner. While lying in bed I wait for my favorite TV show. While I close my eyes to sleep I wait for my dreams. When I’m waiting for the aforementioned events, I am waiting for even more things in the distant future: blog posts to write, books to read, plans to be made, sex to be had, money to be saved, and chores to be completed. During my waking hours, I probably spend 75% of the time thinking about things in the future or things that are unrelated to the present. Even when I am doing something fun, I catch myself waiting for it to be over so I can move onto the next activity.

When I was in college, I was in a huge rush to get done and start my life. I could not wait to never have to write a stupid paper or turn in an assignment again (ironic now that I blog). I did everything I could to graduate early and now I look back with deep regrets. I missed out on seeing my friends whom I rarely ever see now. There was nothing for me at the end of the process – all I had was that habit of waiting for the next step. Are we all destined to wait out our lives until we’re dead in the ground? I am realistic and know waiting will always play a role in my life. How could I ever plan for the future without daydreams? How could I ever better myself without future goals? I will never stop looking forward but I need to find a way to balance my gaze more towards the present. What is the best way to be mindful? The number one way to get out of the waiting game is to notice the details. Your brain is almost always on autopilot and can function pretty well with minimal concentration. Whenever you take your brain out of its autopilot you begin to concentrate and focus on the here and now. My top two ways of doing this is by focusing on my breath and focusing on specific details. For example, my mind was wandering while writing this blog so I focused on my breath for a couple of inhales. Almost immediately, I began concentrating on the task at hand and was completely present. If you find yourself in the waiting game focus on something extremely particular. I love looking at the sunrise or the stars when I let Max out to take a crap. Focus on one thing and just analyze it for a couple of seconds. You will be present and your thoughts will stay in that state for quite some time thereafter.

I know this is all stuff that people have heard before but I personally always need reminding. Practice being present and stop waiting for the next step. Life is a river that you float down; every bend is unique, some bends are bad, some bends are good, but you can only stay at each for a certain time – once you pass one it is gone forever.

The Forgotten Elderly

The morals of a society can be best qualified by the treatment of its weakest members. Who are the weakest members of a society? The disabled? The minorities? The poor? The elderly? My grandmother just turned 92 today and is currently residing in an assisted-living home. She has seen so much in the last 9 decades and has lived a very full life: scraping during the Great Depression, reading newspapers of Hitler’s blitzkrieg,  hearing reports of JFK being assassinated, birthing 4 children, and so much in between. Unfortunately, her health is quite precarious and she needs 24 hour care. Thankfully, she has a great family that visits her regularly and brings her copious amounts of tasty treats. The sad reality is that my Grandma is the exception rather then the rule when it comes to visitations. Most of the residents sit in their chairs all day with no visitors week in and week out. They have no advocates. They have limited conversations. They have no hope. They have almost nothing left. Contrast this with the youthful vigor (relatively speaking) making up the rest of the population. Most people are spending time at work, socializing, doing recreation, and wasting time sitting on their butt. Most people have the priorities of pleasure and getting more money to maintain pleasures. I am one of these people and I want to change this about myself.

I want to spend more time with the elderly. I believe that we all have a duty to share our time with those who are most vulnerable. I feel strongly about this because I never want to be a lonely old man waiting to die in a nursing home. Loneliness to that degree is one of the scariest things to think about because I have to share thoughts, laughs, and emotions with people on a daily basis. A paradox exists today; we are more social and connected then ever but more isolated then ever. Kids grow up using social media and it is not uncommon to see whole families at dinner glued to their respective phones. This isolation extends to the elderly and I think we need to look hard at how we prioritize our time. Could we replace one hour of time spent on the internet with spending time with an elderly individual? Could we take our kid to a nursing home for 1 hour instead of the umpteenth soccer practice? Could we watch one less rerun of Friends and go talk with a lonely person? I think we all can and should. America was built by these elderly individuals and they deserve the respect of our time and love. I personally want to play my guitar for the nursing home residents and talk to them about their personal histories. Let’s better our society by bettering those most vulnerable. Taking care of the elderly will send positive ripple effects throughout all generations-increasing our understanding of love, respect, and life’s blessings.