Not to get too morbid, but we’re all going to die. Some of us sooner than expected, as this piece by Emily Maloney in The Billfold reminds us. Writing about the unexpected loss of a family member, Maloney explains why she has become a “now” person. A person who does things, rather than talks and dreams about them.
Recently, we lost a member of our extended family unexpectedly. She was there, and then she wasn’t. Now she is gone, and we are trying to figure out what to do next. We thought we had more time with her. Suddenly, inexplicably, I have become a now person. I want to do everything I need to do right away; I am not about to wait ten minutes to complete a task.
I used to walk by the garbage three or four or twelve times before thinking, hmm, I should probably take that out. No more. Now I walk past it, see what I need to do, put on my shoes, and march it out to the receptacle on the side of our apartment building. Need to buy a stamp? Off I truck to the Post Office.
Maybe it feels wrong or weird to think about mortality in this way, but there is something about losing a member of your extended family to make you think, huh, maybe I should sign up for e-billing just in case I pass away too.
Maloney goes on to say that being a “doer” helps with her grief — personal, yes, but political, circumstantial, and so on. Individuals may not be able to help stem the ravages of climate change, but they can, as she writes, mail the thing they’ve needed to mail.
“Think of it as Do 1 Thing, but every day, all the time, for the rest of your life,” she writes. “Make all your resolutions immediate. Maybe you just want to resolve to make more coffee at home. Make coffee now.”
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This sort of thinking doesn’t necessarily need to relate to a New Year’s resolution, though that time of year is almost upon us. It’s more along the lines of the “no more zero days” line of thinking: Do one thing each day, no matter how small, towards a goal or desire. Write one paragraph, do one pushup, read one page of a classic before bed. Take one step towards making the things you want to happen happen.
And more simplistically, it means to stop putting off the things you need to do and just do them already. “Make sure you have a will,” Maloney writes. “Make sure you have explained what you want to happen when you die. Is your 401(k) beneficiary your ex or your deadbeat brother? Change it now.”