Dearest Rachel –
I don’t know when I first heard it; probably from someone leaving a bad movie at a theater.
“Well, that’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back.”
It seems the sort of thing I could get away with saying at the moment. Sure, I have travel insurance, and that’ll cover the cost of the cruise I didn’t take, as well as the hotel stay that I did and never intended nor expected to. But as much as everybody insists that ‘time is money,’ how do you put a price on time lost?
It’s not like there’s any amount you can pay in order to tack such ‘wasted’ time onto your life and get some kind of a rebate. And even if it were possible, where (or perhaps more accurately, when) would you put it? At the end, when your energy has been sapped, and there’s basically no life left in you? In the middle, where you’d never recognize that it was even added on?
And with that being said, what constitutes ‘wasted’ time in the first place? After all, I’ve said so many times this week about how what is normal and boring for one person is intriguing and fascinating to another. Might that not be the case here as well? Certainly, I’ve gotten a lot more traffic from these tales of my misadventures (and my thoughts throughout my subsequent incarceration) with Covid in a foreign country. It’s the sort of thing that apparently interests some people, even as I have little to do in the time I’m given but to write to you about this and that.
Maybe it’s a touch of schadenfreude for the reader, although hopefully not a point-and-laugh type as much as ‘wow, I’m glad I’m not in his shoes; maybe I can learn something from his experience just in case it happens to me in the future, God forbid.’ Interesting to think that the concept of schadenfreude might come in various flavors and tones like that; guess it wasn’t enough to borrow the concept from the Germans, now we need to break the attitude down to an even more granular level.
I suppose that if my situation could serve as a cautionary tale, or a form of instruction, then it might be worth my time to redeem someone else’s. Sometimes, what is lost by one is gained by another; of course, I’ll never know about the upside of the trade-off, but the possibility that it might exist is enough to satisfy me for now. And if it’s all in my imagination, well… at least I can make myself feel better about a situation in which I really had neither say in nor control over.
Of course, this all leaves out the fact that I’m writing all this, talking about how I’ve had to waste my time, when you never had this much time to waste in the first place. From the very moment we met, I had twenty-five months on you, for all the difference it made. After all, we experienced so many things for the first time together; what difference did my extra two years on you really make?
It was assumed, of course, that one day, you would make up that difference in time, and then some. You came from incredibly long-lived genes; you would easily see 90, although you might not know it by then. As for me, I was a wildcard, with no family history to look up (it probably could have been done, but it rarely seemed worth the while); who knew how long I’d last? In any event, as a guy, and an older one than you, I was expected to leave you behind someday to carry on without me.
But that’s not what happened. And every day that goes by is another day that I’ve outlived you. I keep piling up days, more of them than you’ll ever have.
Yes, I know you’ve just started in on your tour of eternity, and that some day I’ll join you there. And what’s our time on earth in comparison? But you only got so much time in this realm, and now that yours is over, everything I see and do is just that little bit more extra beyond what you had. Even the ‘wasted’ time is more than you had (and I know you enjoyed ‘wasting’ time, too, even if those entries I’ve been reprinting on Sundays give the impression that you felt a bit guilty about it when you did), so I find myself trying to figure out how not to let it completely go to waste. It’s a difficult balancing act.
The two of us would often quote John Lennon (at least, I think he’s the one who said it): “Time you enjoyed wasting is never wasted time.” Of course, in that case, the last week or so was truly wasted time, in my book. But I don’t remember too many times that you weren’t enjoying yourself; perhaps you could’ve made lemonade even out of this situation in a way that I couldn’t.
I’m sure you could’ve done so much with all this extra time that I seem to have. But that’s not how He chose to hand out time to each of us. Some of us get more than others, and it’s up to us to make the best of what we’re given. I know I’m a biased observer, but I think you did I got a darn good job with what you got.
I just wish you’d gotten more, and that I could be there for you during that time.