I found the orange notebook when I was clearing out my desk at JET. And I threw the list away.
Now, I thought, it is the time of the present.
All my life I’ve saved money, even in periods when I’ve been very short of it. And I had categories of savings – Savings To Be Touched (for travel or big ticket items, for example) and Savings Not To Be Touched (for those events which blindside, like illness). How difficult it is to decide now I can spend all of my income, whatever it is.
All my life I've learned how to defer gratification – study for the better job, get up groggy in the dark to write novels, build an institution, slowly, slowly. Sacrifice now for later. How difficult it is to decide that now I’m not going to wait. Now is the time to do whatever I want to do, whatever I’m capable of doing. Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, I regret, will not be possible. Nor, perhaps, the world trip with the backpack.
All my life I’ve made lists. I make lists of tasks I have already done, just to see them crossed off. When I left JET, I threw away ten years of “to do” lists. I did look back at them, I confess, and I did enjoy that simple evaluation of a life – I set out to do this, and I did it. Or I sort of did it. That one, I never got to. It is true there were more ticks than crosses. Now is the time to abandon list making.
There will be a time ahead for the past, when the present is fuzzy and dull and confusing and lonely and likely painful in multiple ways, and my mind will turn to the long past. I’ll bore relatives and friends with accounts of childhood and young adulthood, you know, what Jamaica was like when. I know I have those muscles because I’m already using them. I can tell in the slight eye-rolling from young listeners; the under-the-breath response – yes Diana, you already told us that.
Much has been written about the benefits of a commitment to the present; most of which has elicited my own eye-roiling at the pop psychology that has attended that philosophy.
But in her book, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, Rebecca Solnit quotes Virginia Woolf: “The future is dark, which is on the whole, the best thing the future can be, I think.” Solnit: “Dark, she seems to be saying, as in inscrutable, not as in terrible. We often mistake the one for the other. Or we transform the future’s unknowability into something certain, the fulfillment of all our dread, the place beyond which there is no way forward. But again and again, far stranger things happen than the end of the world.”
Giving up the long game does not mean abandoning the future or relinquishing hope. It is about letting the future come to you, find us, find me here, in this moment, happily in the present, a moment which, in my case, on this morning, includes the sun on my neighbour’s bearing ackee tree. I know some of the opened ackees may fall on our side of the fence or they may not and we may or may not eat them. That is ahead. This morning all they are, everything they are, is beauty and bounty against the bluest of skies.