Monday, October 15, 2012

the 'life is too short' lie, and other concerns

Life is too short.

Fact. Truth. Cliche.


Life is too short to put up with your bullshit. Life is too short not to enjoy every moment of it. Life is too short for a dead-end job. Life is too short not to travel. To read. To bake, to sing, to dance, to cry at weddings, to kiss in the rain, to eat off of the "good" china, to break a few glasses.

So we tell ourselves. So we believe.

But given that logic, life is too short for anything, right? Life is too short to work a job you hate, but life is too short not to travel, so what the hell do you do? Life is too short not to live life to the fullest, get off of your couch, seeing the world, yet life is too short not to spend every waking moment doing what you love, and sometimes, what if 'what you love' is drinking hot spiked cider and watching a Fred and Ginger movie? What if it's crooning 'A Change is Gonna Come' while you roll out pie dough with your favorite apron on?

What if 'what you love to do' at work doesn't pay the bills for 'what you love to do' at home? What if you want to see Paris, London, and Rome, but your dream job pays a Kansas City, Tulsa, Schenectady salary?

What if you believe life is too short not to cherish your family—they're the only ones you've got, after all—but that same family thinks you're nothing? Life is too short to argue, but life is too short to be treated like a doormat? Life is too short not to read. To travel. To dance. To wonder, to dream, to live, to be.

Life is too short for everything I want. I want to read a library's worth of books. I want to travel the world. I want to spend my days making dishes I've never dreamed I could make, desserts I've never dreamed I could bake. I want to see every Hitchcock movie ever made. I want to cook heart, liver, tongue, and kidney. I want to learn wine—really learn wine, know all of its nuances, taste that infamous terroir. I want to dance down Bourbon Street and learn how to make udon noodles in Japan. I want everything, I want it all, I want to see and taste and know and learn everything, everything in this wide, beautiful world; and time is passing me by, and I've done nothing, and tasted nothing, and laughed at nothing, and I sit in this big world of everything and nothing and I grasp at it all and sit and stare at my empty, empty hands.

But I've been living, I realize—living every day, gasping for breath on the crowded subway; walking through the yellowed streets of Boston after dark, wrist crooked in Derrick's elbow; clutching the silver rail of the train; tasting hominy and tender-cooked greens and wild boar and the crispiest, creamiest smashed potatoes you've ever had; peeling, coring, seeding tomatoes for winter, packaging pesto, slow-simmering soups; cupping my hands around a bowl black chicken broth in Chinatown, slurping pillowy, achingly soft noodles like I've never tasted; clamoring to my feet in wild applause as the curtain goes down.

Life is too short. But life will never get any longer.  And maybe life is too short to worry about all the things I'm not doing and start focusing on the things that I am. But maybe life is too short not to worry, to dream; maybe life is too short to be complacent. And maybe—maybe, yes, maybe—I need to stop counting the hours I have left and start focusing on the hour I'm in. And maybe—as many shortcomings as I have, as many things I've failed to do—maybe this hour I'm in is pretty goddamn glorious.