Why the sense of urgency? The numbers don’t lie

cropped-nightsky2.jpgI turned 58 a week ago. Amid all the birthday cheer on Facebook was a post from a childhood friend, sharing that his mom had died that very morning.

That sad news reinforced what I wrote the next day to thank everyone — I have much to be grateful for, yet there is a relentless sense of urgency to live the rest of my years in a deliberate, meaningful way.

One of my friends, a wonderful writer in his mid-50s, messaged me and wanted me to dig deeper, to explain what I meant. I’ve been drafting a response. Here’s part of it:

On the drive to pay respects to my friend’s mom, I thought back to the last time I had been at that funeral home, when my former basketball and football coach died. I thought it had been two, maybe three years ago. I looked up his obit the next day and it said he died six years ago, but there’s no way . . .

The route to the funeral home took me past the gas station where I worked in high school. Gas was 37 cents a gallon, and I made $2 an hour as a pump jockey — a 40-hour week netted $64.22 after taxes. The calendar says that was 40 years ago, but there’s no way . . .

Seeing my childhood friend and his brothers was a bit surreal, especially at their mom’s calling hours. But I took comfort in telling them — and their dad — the great memories I had of hanging out at their house as a kid. The calendar says that was 45 years ago, but there’s no way . . .

I’m not in denial, really. I know how to add, and the numbers don’t lie.

I figure I have 10 years, 20 if I’m lucky, to accomplish all I’d like to. Each year goes by faster than the one before.

The urgency, the need to live deliberately, gnaws at me every day.

It’s tempting to sell off most of my possessions and head west to make a go of it — as a freelance writer/editor, as an advocate for the homeless, as a mentor, as an aging distance runner, as a . . . I don’t know.

Maybe there’s something I haven’t yet discovered or considered.

But the window is closing. Slowly, yes, but it is closing.

Soon after my mom went into a nursing home in 2002, I looked around one day at all the residents and thought, “Is this it? Is this all there is?”

That’s not the last chapter I want to write, not how I want this story to end.


  1. My mother lives in an assisted living complex Jim, and I too look around some days and wonder, is this all there is? Is this it?

    and I vow, No way.

    I am a couple of years older than you — I believe I have limitless time before me as long as I live each day with intention, creating with every action, word, breath, the more I seek to create in the world — love, harmony, joy.

    and in the process, live a little, live it up, dance in the rain, run in the mud puddles and leap fearlessly off every cliff.

    It’s a work in progress…. I think it’s working. 🙂

    thanks for the inspiration, and kick in the pants this morning. Gotta go leap into my day, looking for explode minefields (and mindfields) all along my way, as the late Ray Bradbury suggested.


    1. Louise, I love your attitude! Thank you and I’m glad you are living life to the fullest. It’s work sometimes, but well worth it!


  2. Happy Birthday. I am 56 and have also been thinking about how many years I may still left, 10, 20, or 30? It does make one appreciate things more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Amy. I agree, appreciation is the key. Even the little things. Or maybe, especially the little things.


  3. I’ve always admired and been a little jealous of people who, at a young age, knew what the wanted to do their lives and then had the discipline and focus to accomplish that goal. I somewhat have that now but, as you eloquently put, time is running out.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have been having these thoughts for some time Jim. I work in a world where I am constantly questioning myself and what I’m doing because I see others and know one day….there is an end. And I don’t want my end to catch me not doing things I have been putting off doing until….


  5. I’ve been having similar conversations with my sister recently. And my dear friend Agnes reached 89 yesterday and is conscious more than any of us of the time that is left. So what is the next chapter of your story to be?


  6. I do know what you mean – I sometimes feel as though I am running out of time to do all the things I’d like to do. I don’t expect that I will manage to read all the books in my house even. But maybe it’s not just all that we fit in to our lives but who we become?


      1. Thanks for your always thought provoking writing. You make me take stock and think – but in a gentle, positive way 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. When I was 18 and somewhat of a party girl, I remember thinking that the New Year that brings in the year 2000 would be the party of all parties. Then I calculated that I would be 36 going on 37 and lamented that I would be too old to enjoy it, if I even lived that long.

    Now at 52, I still feel vibrant and energetic but I’ve wondered how long that will last – how many good years I have left.

    Good thoughts in this post Jim, maybe the answer is to stop living in the future and enjoy the now, one day at a time and grab those great opportunities with both hands as they present themselves. ❤
    Diana xo
    p.s. Do help the homeless. Do freelance writing. 🙂


      1. I try to embrace that concept Jim! I thought I was old at 40 and now 40 seems so young to me. So why not think 50 something is young while I’m here instead of when I’m 60 something 😉 right?

        Liked by 1 person

  8. “relentless sense of urgency to live the rest of my years in a deliberate, meaningful way” <- exactly, Jim! The strangest thing is that I'm surrounded by folks (not my loved ones, mind you) who have no sense of urgency and are confused and befuddled by my intensity to make up for lost time! If you come west, you have a friend in Phoenix. My best guess is that you will bloom wherever you are! Great, great thoughts here ❤


    1. Thank you, Angie, that’s very nice of you. Maybe the urgency comes after 50. I’m not sure when it started to creep into my psyche, but it probably was about that time.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. You try to do something right every day, my friend. Thanks for the example. It’s been a privilege to have shared a lot of the holy cow’s of life with you the 32 years here in Syracuse. Yes, way, even though it seems like just yesterday when we were climbing poles and celebrating births and the same editors were giving us similar angsts …

    An ode to you today at my place, too. http://markbialczak.com/2015/05/29/riding-across-this-great-big-land-for-a-worldly-cause/


  10. Jim: I’ve always felt it takes a brave man to be able to look back for any extended period of time and not choke on some toxic combination of regret and mortality. That’s why, when I do look back, I do so briefly and with my emotions fully girded. Because the alternative is just too much to take on. That’s also why, like you, I focus all my energies on not only what lies ahead, but the finite amount of time I’ve got to enjoy it. Very nice essay. Thanks.


    1. Thanks, MC. You made me think of Satchel Paige’s “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you” advice. (If indeed he really said that). Forgiveness is a big part of moving and looking ahead, I think. Forgiving ourselves perhaps more than forgiving others. I’m not sure if it’s bravery in my case, but maybe so. Honesty, at least. And trepidation. But we aren’t given a choice, so onward we go. Maybe Browning applies: what is a man whose reach does not exceed his grasp (paraphrased). Thanks for your insightful comments. I’d say the bravery tag applies to you, certainly. Not the absence of fear, but the fight to make it manageable. Cheers.


  11. I hear ya, Jimmy boy. So, now what? That’s the tough question, isn’t it? What do I need to change and how do I do it? Baby steps I guess but it’s scary to walk in the dark. I just lost my last uncle; I’ve got one aunt left, and she’s 85. Now we’re supposed to be the older, wiser generation. They probably struggled and questioned too. They just didn’t do it in front of the kids. An uncle dies, a good friend winds up in the hospital seriously ill, a nephew gets cancer. Each one a slap in the face, calling me to attend. PAY ATTENTION! Gurus, Zen priests and life teachers of every stripe shout it at the deaf, over and over. I hear it, faintly, then forget. The days, weeks, months, years slip away almost unnoticed, until the next SLAP! So, what’s it gonna be? How do you make it count, from now on? Talk amongst yourselves, and get back to us. Light a match, if you find one. You never know, it might throw enough light to let someone else take a step. A thousand points of light, and maybe we all see a little better, feel a little braver, walk toward change. Courage. The cowardly lion found it looking out for his friends. Dan Rather said it and we all laughed, because he was a pompous ass. But he was right, too. It takes courage, every day. OK, I’ll stop. But the conversation shouldn’t. Thanks Jim, for starting it. Thanks, all, for carrying it on. Let’s all get together for a beer (or a Coke if you’re off the sauce) and see if we can’t help each other get somewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds good, Jim, thanks for checking in. I’ve been known to hang out on M Street if you’re in that neighborhood! We can solve at least a few of our problems, if not the world’s…


  12. First of all, I wish I could keep the hands of time from turning too fast, Jim. I am going to be 60 later this year! Yikes!
    Second, happy belated birthday.
    Third, and most importantly, I love the way you are going to keep on going savoring every moment, living ‘deliberately.’ This is a fine draft and I would just keep the sense of urgency. But, you may live to 100, who knows? I hope so, if it is in a good and healthy way. I wish to live in a good and healthy way but if my health fails, I will hope to die and find some place afterwards to enjoy! Smiles, Robin


    1. Thanks, Robin, and happy birthday in advance to you! I kind of like the notion of 60 being the new 40, 50 being the new 30, etc. that’s my kind of math. Enjoy!


  13. Jim you express it so well, I turned fifty this year and a friend sent me an invitation to a school reunion link on Facebook. I was shocked to hear of all the people in my year that just aren’t here anymore. I feel that sense of urgency too, I feel I may have left my second act a little too late. But you know what? I will try my best to live out the rest of my days following my dreams. We should always have hopes that we can achieve what ever we want. Better to be busy making dreams happen, even if our days are numbered. Our days have always been numbered, since the day we were born. Loved this piece, hope you write more.


    1. Kath, I love your attitude. As long as we have something to be passionate about and sink our energy into, we’re better off. And by the way, 50 seems really young to me now…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I guess we can take on the mindset like my eighty year old Mum, she says she does not feel like she is eighty and that is how she deals with most challenges. With a smile and a positive outlook on life that anything is possible.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. I know exactly what you mean. I realized that I’m back in the mode of “what do I want to be when I grow up?”, except it’s more of “what do I want to be before I’m too old to do it?” You seem pretty focused – I bet you’ll figure it out.


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