Some optimist* once said something about life being nasty, brutish, and short. These days, it’s easy to believe that. Just the daily ridiculousness coming out of Washington DC with no one seemingly able to set things right is enough to make the most apolitical citizen have fits. Fanatics blow up other people, destroy other human lives to satisfy some principle or desire I can’t even begin to connect with. More personally and locally, all around us it feels like illness, strife, and struggle constantly worm their way into the lives of people we love, leaving us to just sit helplessly by and offer prayers, good vibrations, or grim-knuckled grips on our half-empty bottles of Vicodin in response. Sometimes, it is all so damn much.
It’s not that I’m a pessimist, by the way. Far from it. And there’s no “but” coming here dammit!
I’m all for doing whatever we can to change any of these things—vote, donate, support medical research, sling a rotten egg or two—but what about when it comes to taking care of ourselves? I’m pretty self-focused so that’s usually the question that crops up at the end of any existential crisis or life purpose interrogation of mine. It’s a real question though. You can’t take care of the world, or people you care about, if your own reserves (internal, financial, and otherwise) are at zero. As an artist who’s long struggled, an only child who’s only used to thinking of self, and as a cancer survivor, I’ve found respite in the time worn but still true aphorism “Carpe diem.” Or as the Bible and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. said: “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Somewhat paraphrased, obvs.
This way of living offers up a chance to be bad—or very good—knowing that we are all breath on the wind. Temporary. Potentially a psychopath’s wet dream, but let’s focus on the positive here. Tell the person you’re crushing on how you feel. Take that trip you always promised yourself you would. Actually start checking off things on your so-called “bucket list.” Drink the bottle of wine you’ve been saving for an appropriately special occasion.
Sometimes it’s not the most practical method of living, but it can be very comforting knowing you’ll have fewer regrets at the end. Take and share and give and love and gobble up every delicious piece of opportunity that presents itself because at the end of the day, it might be the end of your days. Ugh… Now it sounds like my glass is half full. Or shattered beyond repair.
It’s not though, I try to drink from it daily. Even when I end up working from eight in the morning to seven in the evening at my favorite coffee shop (Dancing Goats in Decatur, if you want to pop by and say ‘hi’), I make time for even the smallest of joys. My latest obsession is coffee with cayenne pepper, almond milk, and honey. Divine.
To me, carpe diem doesn’t necessarily mean jumping into the all-girl orgy at your local lez bar (although if that’s what you want, do you). It can mean something as simple as taking time for yourself when the rest of the world is clamoring for your attention. Eating street food in Thailand. It can be writing the novel that’s been living in your heart all these years. Carpe diem can be such a little thing, which in turn can mean everything.
*Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan
**Fiona writes about love, life, and smut all over the place. Check out her books at http://www.FionaZedde.com. Her latest novella, The Power of Mercy, with Yvla Publishing is available for pre-order now.**