Crisis to clarity

The Cast Stone

REALISATION ‘I’m currently 53, so I have almost 27 years left, if I conform to the norm’.

The Cast Sone
Michael Gallagher

The average life expectancy for Irish males is 80.5 years. Of course, that’s only a statistic and I fervently hope to exist long past that, but let’s go with 80.5 as a marker for the purposes of this column.
I’m currently 53, so I have almost 27 years left, if I conform to the norm. Therefore, I’m at least two-thirds of the way towards the final bell. Of course, I’d rather not think about life in such a structured manner. Anyone in my circle is aware that structure doesn’t really feature in my existence so, age and the passing of years has never bothered me – until now.
Of course I have heard about the dreaded mid-life crisis – the time in a man’s life when he harks back to his youth, dyes his hair, pumps iron, buys a sports car, gets his teeth whitened and other areas enhanced. I most certainly could do with work in all these areas and more – but it never bothered me until now.
Why now? My mid-life crisis should have occurred at 40 or 41 if it arrived halfway along my journey from cot to plot. My midlife crisis should have occurred when I had four decades left – not now when the sands of time are beginning to dribble out a little too quickly. I’m obviously not going to breathe until I’m 106, therefore the half-way line of my life has come and gone.
So – whatever I’m experiencing now has nothing to do with mid-life. It is actually a two-thirds-life crisis, which is much worse.
I have just 27 years to write the books, to see New Zealand, Malaysia, Alaska, Argentina, Boston, El Salvador, Brazil, Iran and many other places; less than three decades to find a moment when I can sit in the midst of loved ones on a beach on the other side of the world as the sun goes down and realise what happiness really is; only 324 months to see Sam Maguire glinting in the light of an Erris morning after a night of raucous celebrations; just 27 more Christmases, 27 more birthdays, 27 more All-Irelands, 27 anniversaries – 27, 27, 27.
Why has all this popped into my head now?
Recently, I spent a little time in Poland and Ukraine gathering stories of people – collecting tales of beauty and barbarity, love and loathing. I travelled there for the stories I would find. I came back with something completely different.
I came home with a realisation that much of what I worked towards – much of what I wanted from life was not actually what I needed from life at all. Previous to my trips I projected towards owning another house, driving a better car, going out on the town every so often, thinking about pensions, praying Celtic would win the league, dreaming of Mayo winning Sam and so on.
Today, Celtic have won the league, Mayo will win Sam (some day) and everything else is irrelevant. If the pension goes awry, if the car is ordinary, if I don’t mortgage myself to the hilt for another piece of property – does it matter? No!
Why stress about vehicles, money or walls? They will matter little in 27 years when it’s the day of the eulogy, the hoisting of the box onto the shoulders, the walk behind the hearse and the planting in the clay. Whoever attends those set-pieces will then go and have a few beers, a handful of sandwiches and lie about what a nice fella I was.
I understand this will occur and have no problem with this. If anyone wants me to edit the eulogy I’m available. But joking aside, I want that eulogy to tell the story of a guy who went to Ukraine and came back with a new lease of life – a guy who threw caution to the wind and stopped waiting for things to happen – a guy who threw a few things in a bag and went to see the world.
I know I sound like a fool – like a dreamer who has lost the run of himself. Nothing could be further from the truth. I may have 27 years left, I may not, but as long as I’m on this rock I will live the life I should live. On the day of the eulogy I won’t have a cent left, the girls will have to pay for the box and the beer and the sandwiches – but they’ll know their father lived.