Dealing with Life’s Clutter

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In-between stints in hospital last year, there was a madness in my head about sorting out the administrative, legal, practical aspects of living, which seemingly – no, definitely – needed attention before death.

It’s the weirdest thing, sending someone a message, “hello, I’m sorry I can’t make the deadline to do that thing we agreed on, I’m dying and have to sort out some other things”.

There were plans to abort, commitments to shelve, employers to advise, thesis supervisors to inform, old and new contracts to examine, powers to confer, options to consider, prospects to explore, places to confirm (and not for the hereafter!), documents to sign, offices to resign.

These all would endure, perhaps only play out, when I was no longer able to take conscious decisions for myself, or dead. Many of them were (remain) essential aspects of dealing with mortality, others were simply driven by the emotional upheaval of the moment.

It became the worst kind of paper- and stuff-shuffling exercise. There was so much mess and clutter accumulated over 55 years of life. Still is. Some of it wasn’t even my own doing. There were obligations imposed on me by others over which I had had no control (bless your heart and your belief in my integrity, Tim, although you didn’t factor in my own weak heart!).

After having put off so much over such a long time, there was an urgency now to deal with it all.

And then there were aspects of my life that, on the surface, appeared less tangible than the administrative stuff yet were the most important of all, the relationships I had neglected consciously or unintentionally, the harms that I had caused to others, the hurts that had been wrought on me which still dogged me. These relationships needed mending and maintaining. Part of writing my story on this blog was to be able to communicate with as many people as possible simultaneously. But there are some communications which require a direct connection, it can’t be left to the ether.

Bizarrely – maybe not? – some of the time I spent lying in a hospital bed, I focused on how I wanted my loved ones to gather at a funeral or memorial service. In the preceding few years I had been to (more correctly, participated in) one too many memorial service which had simply been an organisational disaster from start to finish. I wanted to avoid that, so drew up a programme which reflected how I would have wanted to be commemorated.

Not surprisingly and as many others will attest to, I failed dismally in sorting out both the tangible and intangible life issues. Probably even the memorial service draft I wrote down would have been a bit of a disaster. Thankfully it wasn’t needed just then. I guess it wasn’t just the urgency of time constraints that threw my efforts at tidying up my life, it was the psychological wheel-spinning, perhaps even the inability due to medication to deal coherently with all the challenges I faced.

It has taken me this long to make a dent in the life messes that I accumulated over the years, beginning to shred tons of paperwork, clear desks and files, sort out unfinished business, address the relational challenges, make amends, celebrate others anew. Of course, I won’t ever be finished, none of us can be. We’ll always leave some things undone.

I realise again and again that my dictum of “one day at a time”, evident before and in the immediate recovery after my transplant, has remained true throughout this past year.

Dealing with Life’s Clutter
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4 thoughts on “Dealing with Life’s Clutter

  • 28th September 2017 at 10:26 am

    Excellent, enjoyed and understood this. ! I too had a scary time with the bug C but never got round to the sorting out and now it’s not urgent. I think that looking at your demise makes life so much easier and more interesting. Wake up calls are good, very good! Bless you for all you have shared Ray.

    • 29th September 2017 at 6:55 am

      The thing is Sheryl, we can’t ever dictate how any of us responds to this challenge, right? It’s all so deeply personal & yet universal xx

  • 18th November 2017 at 10:18 am

    Thanks Ray

    For your oft times very similar experiences. As I lie here on my hospital bed at CBMH, awaiting a possible heart transplant and probable Defibrillator op next week, my most persistent and nagging thought is that of trying to fix up broken relationships within my family. The stubborn nature of our human experience continously tugs me in the opposite direction, but my spiritual being tugs me the opposite way, the truthful and honest way. Please pray for me that my spiritual way wins the battle in the end. God bless you and keep you well and strong and filled with peace, joy & love.
    Best wishes
    Anthony Breakey (Or as my Cardiologist calls and often sings to me: “Achy Breaky Heart” :))

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