Just minutes ago, the Death Clock told me I’ve got 6 years 3 days to live. 

When I saw that forecast, I couldn’t think straight. I have my Thermos flask near me. I rubbed my eyes, poured some of its coffee into its cup and sipped the coffee to jolt my mental juices:

 I need to think clearly…

I was in Virginia’s Tuckahoe library. I had books on the table that distracted me: The Benchley Roundup, some Victorian drivel on naughty children, something on Donald J. Trump’s misadventures with the FBI.  Life’s too short to return them to the shelf. I put my 60-Litre hiking backpack on them to hide them.

The librarian gave me three sheets of paper, their backs marked with another patron’s scrawls. There was a pencil in the bin (I dislike pencils. I prefer pens, they help me reread what I wrote. Blue ink is best. Not red… The ink’s unclear… nor black it smudges. For that matter, I prefer a fine point pen. Ultra fine, not gel). But  that’s going off the point. Now, I have minus 42 minutes left to live.

So I scrawled notes:

Call bank. Cancel clients. Buy food from Aldi for 4 months so won’t need to go shopping. Return books to library. Pack up stuff and trash. Donate. Make a list to teach daughter to live at home without me.

Change the bedding…

A long long list.

It was too muddled. I was too tired. More sips of coffee and scratching my stomach, untangling the knots in my hair, nudging off my sneakers (I once read going barefoot refreshens you).

I numbered, then circled, each task.

Six years to live. What do I rea..lly REALLY want to do?

[Mind shrieks]::

I hate myself I’m a failure. I’m going to die in this godforsaken, backwoods backwards place. I’m going to die like that cute white worm I stomped on yesterday because my daughter shrieked. I tossed it into the bin. Put paper on top. The end.

I’m divorced. Friendless. A hum-hawing yo-yoing freelancer.  When I was 18, I swore I’d be another Betty Freiden with a book that would impact 124 countries for perpetuity. I’d start  a movement  – no idea on what – and would have TV crews interview all who wronged me.

My dreams changed as I grew older. Life puts you in some queer spots and you start over again, instead of groping straight.

I used the second paper for My Eulogy. Imagining your end of days is a touted method.

  1. Who’ll be eulogizing you? “Noone
  2. What will acquaintances say about you? “Oh, she published a few articles in long dissipated websites on some machines. And she wrote on    some money [digital currency] that no one could see. Mediocre writer at best.”
  3. So what’s the epitaph?How about this: “Here lies Leah Zitter Age 102, The Good Die Young”.

I clicked on Facebook (I tend to do that to distract myself) and read the latest post published by the OTD group three minutes ago. It was from a girl who came from the same type of background as I –  a closed community, no formal education.

Here’s her list of achievements:

2010: First pair of jeans, first time accessing the internet

2010: Tried Mcdonalds first time; partied excessively, wore too much makeup

2011: Retail job for $9/hr; started working on my GED

2012: Started College; got my drivers license

2014: Associates degree in Biotechnology, with Honors

2016: Completed a research project in Architecture at MIT, then spent a month or more each working or studying abroad in Turkey, India, Brazil, and Uganda. Also spent time in Kenya, Dubai, Amsterdam, and several other countries

2017: Had dinner at Peter Luger’s steakhouse; worked on a political Campaign.

2018: Recently started a new job as an Analyst for a development firm, where I get to apply theories and concepts from my college coursework that have immediate practical applications.

Thirty-two followers ooh’d and aah’d

Then one person asked: “Yeah but what have you actually achieved? ?

Uh hum?

“What did you do with your life?”

She had more experiences than I, but there were the same commonalities. We studied – we absorbed knowledge; we tried new things; we tagged MAs and Ass. and PhDs and all sorts of alphabets to our names; we trotted from one end of the world to its beginning; and added to the carbon dioxide in rooms whenever anything REALLY SERIOUS was discussed.

The point was: We stuffed ourselves with all the goodies we’d never had, so we swelled with attainments like raisins soaked in tap-water.

But what did we actually do?

Put another way: We got; what did we give? Or, we accomplished; what did we achieve?

Yeah, we spoke at seminars, yeah we conducted research, yeah we serviced CEOs and CFOs – but in which way did we add to the trellis of helpful knowledge in the world? What little bit of originality did we leave to make the world better? In which way were we world-impacting “human doings” rather than self-obsessed “human beings”?

It was this question, what did I DO, that made me grab another sheet of pockmarked paper from the tray near the copier and return to the Quiet Room for

List #2.

Time for more coffee.


I’m glad to tell you, the above is a hypothetical situation. The Death Clock misread my BMI. Somehow or other, that BMI got inserted as 73. The lesson remains….