Best laid plans

by Terry Oliver on November 1, 2012

This time last year we were living in Paris and fulfilling a long awaited dream to spend a period of time in that impossibly beautiful city. Impossible because no city could possibly live up to the hype which surrounds any mention of Paris. Except possibly, Paris. It all seems a long time ago. So have we dreamed of returning? Non-stop.

But not this year. This year, other plans, other priorities have intervened. As seniors on the far side of seventy, we have become miserly with our remaining time. We tell each other we cannot afford to be so indulgent as to squander another year on Paris. That is for our children and grandchildren to do, with whole lifetimes stretching ahead of them.

When you reach your allotted threescore and ten, your priorities undergo a sea-change. You realise you’re on borrowed time. You begin planning backwards from the end. The only snag is you don’t know when the end is. So, for want of a better plan, I have begun developing a Five Year Plan. This strikes me as a modest workable period of time. Not too long as to encourage vagueness and procrastination – two lifelong faults to which I’m prone. And not too short so as to make planning seem a waste of precious time.

My significant other marches to the beat of a different drum. She comes from a long line of long-lived relatives and she feels more comfortable with a Ten Year Plan. Horses for courses, as they say.

Either way, the thorny problem remains – how to meaningfully fill that period of time. Do we spend it taking cruises and travelling the world? Ticking off the countries not yet seen; world heritage sites not yet visited? Too self-indulgent, we tell each other, the world economic crises being what they are. What then?

Bucket lists are another possible approach. And one I have attempted hap-hazardly. Doing some of the things I’ve always intended to do and never quite got around to. Like living in Paris for a period of time. I can tick that one off, at least. Although my partner, from her longer perspective has stuck it back on the bottom of her list.

Writing a novel was another bucket list wish that I finally accomplished when I retired. That turned out to be a five year plan in itself, as one novel turned out to be a trilogy. So should I continue and write more? Well, maybe. But not during this current five year plan, I don’t think.

Because another writing project has intervened. I’m working on a play – about euthanasia, the ‘right to die’ and dementia – suitable topics for a septuagenarian, I think. It’s a black comedy, of course. So far, I’ve finished a working version and have had some encouraging feedback from a workshop reading here in B.C. There is even the offer of a full production  by a local community theatre company next year, once I get a final draft of the script ready.

So I’m heading down to Mexico to finish it this winter. Back to San Miguel de Allende where I completed the 3rd novel of my trilogy – which just happened to be on the subject of how to live with this last stage of life – the so-called 3rd Age.

My partner will join me later to pursue her own artistic exploration of painting and drawing which she never seems to find enough time for, ex cept in San Miguel where the distractions are removed.

Maybe Mexico will be the right choice for this stage of our Five and Ten Year Plans. I hope so. Because I’m writing this on the train running down the coast of California and will be crossing the border in a couple of days to begin this new venture.

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