herald

Thursday 16 August 2018

In which I realise the importance of plans

Of an evening not so long ago, my brother ventured to ask me what kind of wedding I'd like. "I haven't really thought about it," I lied. But he was insistent (and clearly dying for a laugh), and so my attitude soon shifted from studied blasé to impending Bridezilla.

Before long I had conceded that it would have to take place in May because that's when peonies are in bloom; that I'd like Fleetwood Mac song lyrics engraved on the napkins and that there would be a boat, on the hour, taking guests out to the secret island location.

"And the music?" he enquired.

"Well . . . " - I considered the ramifications of letting him in on this particular flight of fantasy - "Well, actually, I was sort of hoping Stevie Wonder might do it."

He stifled a giggle and stared intensely at his feet for a few moments before finally asking if I meant the tribute act.

"No - the real deal."

"And how much do you reckon he'll charge?" he asked, his cheeks swelling and chest threatening to explode with laughter.

"I don't know - I could probably get him for €150,000."

And then it dawned on me. "I haven't really given myself much time, have I? I'd want to be walking down the aisle by 33, which means I only have two years to become a millionaire!"

My brother tried his best to look sympathetic, though I'm sure he thought my Stevie Wonder concerns were the very least of my troubles.

Limits

Lately I've become aware of windows and time limits and the importance of planning ahead.

I've also become aware of all the deadlines I've missed: I can no longer have six biological children (well, unless I go out this very evening and get some). I can no longer become a professional contemporary dancer.

I am too old to enter the Rose of Tralee and the US Air Force, and while I had no intention of signing up to either, it still rankles a little that these windows have closed.

I regret that I never got to ask a waiter to bring me "the finest wine known to humanity" while I was drinking, though there's every chance I did and I just can't remember.

Goals tend to be feasible or fantastical. The former are about achieving and acquiring - career, family, et cetera; the latter about experiencing and indulging - think skydiving over the Inca Trail.

Achievable goals generally punctuate the first part of life; fantastical goals the latter. And they are helpful in that they allow us to avoid - and later justify - all the sacrifices we made along the way.

When I went to create my five-year plan recently, I took note of the things I can only achieve now. I consider it a strife-insurance policy, a plan for living life with no regrets.

Many people write bucket lists when they come to terms with their mortality, but perhaps we should be more mindful of the mortality of others.

I am lucky enough to still have a grandparent on the earthly plane and I've accepted that my time with her is limited. I hasten to add that "not spending enough time with loved ones" is among the top regrets of the dying.

As is "I wish I hadn't worked so hard". A friend of mine recently met a counsellor who told her that her client register is populated with scores of women in their early 40s who regret "wasting their fertile years" scaling the career ladder.

Sometimes it's just too late to take that sabbatical. Many will argue with this contention, but I will remind them that 16-hour bus journeys through Thailand are much more challenging when your bladder demands hourly toilet visits.

naked

I have a very shrewd friend who has delayed baby-making with her partner until she finally gets to visit the Burning Man festival next summer.

She has the foresight to know that it's near impossible to run half-naked around a desert for a week when your infant is at home with mum and dad.

Her rationale makes me wonder if I've been half-naked in enough deserts. The famous Nora Ephron quote only compounds the anxiety. "Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was 26. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don't take it off until you're 34."

And then I wonder if I've been naked enough. I have a vision that motivates me in this regard. I'm in my 50s and lying on the beach rubbing sunscreen into my husband's fat, hairy belly when, out of the water, strides a young, tanned, smooth-skinned surfer.

I look back at my husband's hairy belly and down at my billowing thighs and I ask myself: Why didn't I make love to a surfer when I could? Why didn't I make love to a Spaniard?

And why didn't Stevie Wonder play at our wedding?

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