If Not Now, When Do We Live Fully?

“Putting your own life/needs/emotions on hold can’t be healthy for you,” I told someone yesterday, and it reminds me of how often I find myself saying that.

A reader writes that she has a sexless and even touchless marriage, but can’t support herself financially so she’s staying. A male friend of mine in his sixties can’t decide whether his current relationship is right for him, so he doesn’t decide, he just goes along. A reader in his fifties will start exploring relationships after he moves. A woman says she will feel sexier after she loses weight. A couple hasn’t had sex for years but won’t see a therapist because they think they should figure it out on their own.

I often ask people of our age who have put their own happiness and passions on hold, “If not now, when?”

If you’ve read much of my blog, you know that I lost my beloved husband, Robert Rice, to cancer last August. He was an artist, a dancer, a thinker, and a teacher to all who knew him. As long as he could stand upright, he painted in his studio every day, creating amazing art, yet always striving for that elusive best painting — maybe his next. He painted some of his most magnificent work in his last two years.

“Do you feel like you’re living on borrowed time,” I asked Robert one morning as he pulled on his paint-splattered jeans and sweater.

“I AM living on borrowed time,” he told me. Then he kissed me and rushed off to tend his garden for a couple of hours before heading to the studio.

I’m making myself cry writing this, but I admired him (and admire him still) for always going towards his goals, his love for life and creativity, and his passion for love itself, even when he knew he was dying.

We all have a death sentence, we just don’t know when it is. As we age, though, we get many reminders of our mortality, some subtle (aches in new places, parts that don’t work 100% like they used to), some not subtle at all (a cancer diagnosis, a spinal or hip fracture, parts that don’t work at all).

It seems to me that we have a responsibility to ourselves and to life itself to live fully, productively, and lovingly — as long as we can.

As I reread this post, I realize that it’s a lesson I have to relearn in my own life now as I emerge from the dark place of grief and make my way back to life, work, sunshine, and joy.

Thank you, Robert, for the lessons you taught me so well.


  1. paula, 57 on July 1, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Years ago I had a friend who was in remission from cancer. She also had other health issues.

    I went with her to a Mardi Gras ball. These are almost always formal. So there we were in our formal gowns, and hers was low cut in the front, and inside the gown were all these tubes and a bag which she had to wear all the time. I thought that was wonderful. She never let anything stop her from doing what she wanted to do.

    Whenever I would mention something I wanted to do someday, her attitude was, well let's get going on that now, what are you waiting for.

    Some of us who were in our forties at the time would talk about having children, how we maybe wanted to do that, but how we didn't have the right man in our lives at the time. My friend, who was older, would say "The sperm bank is right down the street!"

    My father in law recently broke his hip and had hip replacement surgery. His recovery is going slowly, but then he's 95! Every small thing is a great event, like the day he used the walker to get to the dining room at the assisted living facility, after not being able to even stand a month earlier. This was another reminder to me how precious it is to be able to stand up and walk and dance. I rarely miss a walk in the evening with my dogs these days.

    Such wonderful people teach us all how precious every day of life is, and how we need to use it well.

  2. Anonymous on June 26, 2009 at 2:26 am

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts with us. They are so true. May you experience grace and renewed joy as you begin to move out of your grief.

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