six hundred months to live

today doing homework in the kitchen, i thought about having six months left to live. mike and his friend from WatchTower--they always come in pairs--had just been here to unsuccessfully proseletyze me, and talking to them id watched the snow, falling since morning, fall in thick tufts from the trees. going back to the reading i would be doing all day, 1970s feminist theory in anthropology, i thought about an email my dad had sent, about how they'd found a malignant spot of skin cancer behind his ear. chances are good it will be completely frozen off in the usual procedure, but he'd warned us all to get checked. the year and a half i lived in Uganda, i never wore sunscreen, and the back of my neck now itches some times, has large bumps on it. so i thought about if those bumps were cancer, if i'd waited too long to get them checked, if the cancer was even now spreading through my body. this morning i woke up and found a poem a friend had written to me on facebook about how much she valued our friendship, and recognized that i feel the same love. i imagined telling her i had six months to live, telling all my friends here, telling my family. thought then what i would be doing with my life, instead of reading this 1970s feminist anthropological theory--

probably spending more time with friends, with family, maybe editing some books i've half-written. going back to Japan, going back to Uganda, to Montana, to Nebraska, to all the places i lived and seeing the people i knew and love once more, not to say goodbye but to say thank you. i thought about taking my family with, if i could, to show them the parts of me they didn't yet know, my friends in other countries, so that all the important people in my life could meet and know each other before i die.

i wondered if i would try to make a child, if biology would take over and push me to recreate my combination of genes in harmony with some else's, maybe an ex-girlfriend still in love with me, if some of my last days of earth would paradoxically--or naturally--be spent trying to make more life.

snow on a the pile of firewood behind our kitchen was individual white blankets two inches high lining the top of rough bark, bottoms still dark brown, expressions of a life now gone, the nature of trees living and dead from which they'd been cut. three days ago my friend's two-and-a-half-year-old daughter had laid such a blanket on me, as we pretended to sleep, made painstakingly from torn squares of toilet paper. i realize how fortunate i am to not--so far as i know--have only six months to live. i probably have much more than that: ten, two hundred, five hundred... if i live to eighty, and i am twenty-nine, i have about six hundred months left to live. only six hundred. SHOULD i be making children? shouldn't i be spending more time with friends, with family, with all the people ive known and loved in life, making sure they know that i love them? should i really be sitting here reading 1970s feminist theory in anthropology?

i believe the answer to all these questions is yes, so long as what i do is guided by what i love, what i feel fulfilled in doing. i have been given and made a good life, three hundred and fifty months of it, and whether the months remaining are six or six hundred, they are gifts to be spent in gratitude. today doing homework in the kitchen i realized i have too many things to be grateful for, that my heart is still struggling to hold them all at once. even the opportunity to do this homework is one of them. smiling a quiet smile, letting this moment too into gratitude, i turn back to read.