I returned to my exciting and challenging assignment with the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and tunneling project on Monday. After a lovely break in Trinidad, CA and visit with Harriet and family, I actually enjoyed getting back into what serves as my routine as a consultant. Every Tuesday I look forward to an all morning meeting with “my engineers.” They are an assortment of brilliant tunneling experts and water infrastructure engineers. Unfortunately one of our numbers died over the holiday break. Arnold Sanchez was in his mid-40s and the picture of health. We still are not sure on the details on the cause of death (maybe flu related), but knowing would not lessen the shock. I shared this dreadful news with my friend Petrea as we walked our dogs and we both agreed that this was a good reminder that we do not know how long we have on this earth and we should live as fully as we can while we can.
This came up again when we talked about financial advice we have both been receiving–while we value saving, we also value enjoying and experiencing life now. Petrea said it best: Live now and save just enough.
I have been wondering what applications this maxim can have (other than retirement savings). Recently I have started giving myself permission to leave unfinished books I have started. In the past I would only stop reading if I was within the first 50-100 pages; anymore investment than that and I felt I had to finish. Just before Christmas I started The Bolter a biography of Idina Sackville by Frances Osborne. It was recommended, sort of, in the End of Life Book Club and I started it with some optimism. Then I found it so depressing. The amount of shame that women were made to feel at the turn of the Century was not what I wanted to be reading at the holidays. So I stopped.
It does not matter that it is highly esteemed by others; I am putting it down if I am not getting a kick out of it. Life is too short to read an unenjoyable book.
I have gone on a jag of reading about Paris (in anticipation of the Tour de France) and so was probably inevitable that I would achieve Paris reading burn-out. The Paris Wife was terrific. This prompted me to track down and read A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. Then I must have responded to an Amazon suggestion: if you ordered that book then you will like this book. Paris Was Ours is a collection of 32 essays on various experiences of Paris. I typically enjoy travel essays both from the vicarious thrill and from a technical writerly perspective. After 25 essays I cannot stand another. Paris is terrible if you are poor and live in a garrett and eat at the student cafeteria. Paris is an education. Paris is where I discovered who I really am… blah, blah, blah. After a few essays it all is much of a muchness.
Since I track what I read in my journal, I have adopted a new word to really let go of my compulsion to keep reading. I now enter “abandoned” and the date next to the title. I make a little note of why I took this drastic step and where I was in the book. Then I reward myself by picking out a new book to read from my shelf or Kindle.
Life is just too darn short, no matter how long a person’s span on this earth. Please share with me how you complete this sentence: life is too short to…