Spent Sunday of Memorial Day weekend with Paula and Bill.
Always a great time; we get along and we do it comfortably. The beauty of family.
Our conversations are always free flowing and wide ranging, we laugh a lot, debate a lot; no one is afraid to say anything to anyone else.
We get to the end of the night, sitting around the kitchen table, talking about life. I don't remember how we got there but at one point I said that if I died right now my epitaph would have to be "He pissed his life away".
It is a line that has been rattling around my head for years, and I believe it is appropriate.
Paula immediately and passionately went on the attack, asking "What the hell are you talking about? You have a beautiful family" and stuff like that.
This is the response I most often get when I talk epitaph and I understand where it is coming from.
I do have a beautiful family. Carol, Keith & Emily, Craig & Karen, my brother Ed - I cannot believe how lucky I am to call these people family. They are extraordinary and they bring me immense happiness.
My extended family - Paula and Bill, Cori, the Testa clan, the Sargent clan - they all mean a great deal to me and I do not take them for granted.
But when you come right down to it, you only have yourself.
I worship my sons, but the time I get to spend with them is minimal compared to the time I spend living my life. I cannot define my entire life by the limited moments I spend with them.
I love Carol deeply and cannot imagine life without her; she is the absolute definition of partner. But she despises her job and carries that unhappiness home with her every night. I, as you well know, am unhappy with myself and that truth hangs heavy.
So as much as we mean to each other, we cannot give each other perfect peace of mind.
That can only come with a satisfied sense of self.
I made the comment at Paula and Bill's that "I am too smart to be living the way I do, that with my intelligence I should have earned a lot more money in my lifetime, that our life should have been easier and our retirement secure".
The obvious irony there is that I am obviously not too smart to live this way. The truth is in the living.
Paula then said something along the lines of "you need to accept that this is your life and stop torturing yourself."
BOOM. That comment has been rattling around my head ever since.
This has been the essential conflict of semi-retirement. I believe I need to use the extra time to change my life, to shape my life more in the image I have in my head. As a result I have not enjoyed semi-retirement as much as I should have. I see every day off as an opportunity and a challenge to me to do what I have to do to be reborn as The Real Joe Testa.
Of course I fail almost every time.
I have wondered over and over again if I am just pissing in the wind. Thinking that maybe I should just sit back and enjoy this extra time by indulging in the things that I love and letting the chips fall where they may.
Accepting that this is my life.
But reality is a bitch, baby. I know that Carol and I are only going to get older and more frail, and that we don't have enough money to live in dignity. And I will not become a burden to my sons. No fucking way.
So who the hell knows what is right?
Paula's comment twisted my guts up a little tighter. I know I am lucky to be in the position I am in, to have three or four days off a week to enjoy. And we are getting by, although it is at the expense of Carol working full time at a job that she hates, which is something else to consider.
But from a selfish perspective, maybe I should just lighten up and dig the moment. Stop torturing myself with worry and anxiety. I am getting older and time has become precious. Other people survive, why shouldn't Carol and I?
I don't know if I am capable of that shift in thinking. It kind of feels like giving up.
But it also feels like a simple key to happiness.
No small thing.